Figure 18. - The berth deck, looking from forward aft.
in comparison to the activity of the Challenger, as well
as to the cruises made by Louis and Alexander Agassiz in U.S.
Coast Survey ships and various contemporary expeditions in European
waters, Table 1 demonstrates that the U.S. Fish Commission undertook
a sustained program over a period of 17 years featuring more than
2,000 dredging stations concentrated in the northwest Atlantic.
During the 1870’s, those investigations focused on the coastal
shelf of New England. When the Fish Hawk became available
in 1880, that ship investigated mid-water depth especially along
the Gulf Stream Slope. The role of the Albatross after 1883 was
to extend the Commission’s survey into Atlantic abyssal
waters in depths that approached 3,000 fathoms.
It should not be forgotten that the Albatross’s
748 biological dredging stations were in addition to the 1,088
hydrographic stations established by the ship between 1883 and
the fall of 1887. Unlike her biological work, however, the ship’s
hydrographic activity was concentrated in waters south of Cape
Hatteras (Smith, 1889; Hedgpeth, 1945:16–17).
The U.S. Fish Commission statistics in Table 1 support the validity
of an 1891 assertion by the Johns Hopkins University biologist
William Keith Brooks(17).
That scientist—a former student of Alexander Agassiz, a
designated specialist for some of HMS Challenger’s
collections, and the mentor of several prominent members of a
new generation of American biologists—claimed that the Fish
Commission’s survey represented the first governmental effort
anywhere in the world “to undertake the exhaustive scientific
exploration of the ocean.” Further, Brooks asserted, the
Commission’s “lead has been followed by most of the
maritime nations of Europe.” He added that “most of
the machinery and apparatus which these foreign countries have
employed has been modeled after that which has been devised and
used by our Fish Commission” (U.S. Congress, 1891:544–545).
Figure 19. - The Woods Hole station of the U.S. Fish Commission,
ca. 1886. At left is the Albatross, center is
the laboratory building, and the residence is on the right.
In summary, the Albatross’s work was the deep-sea
component of the Fish Commission’s historic survey of the
northwest Atlantic between 1871 and 1887 that so impressed Professor
Brooks. The ship’s early years in the Atlantic demonstrated
the major importance of the Albatross and should remind us of
the U.S. Fish Commission’s overall contributions to the
annals of marine science during the era when it was directed by
Spencer Fullerton Baird.