Looking back many years after this event, Linton (1915:745–746)
waxed poetic by suggesting that the surrounding darkness of that
evening symbolized the profound ignorance of oceanic fauna that
the light of science was seeking to dispel. Linton acknowledged
that the net held only a relatively few forms. But, the naturalists
present were profoundly impressed by the novelty of each species
brought on board.
During this cruise the Albatross also established her
deepest dredging station in the Atlantic phase of her career.
The ship’s record of 2,949 fathoms was set on 2 October
1883, several hundred miles off the Mid Atlantic coast in lat.
37°1222N, long. 69°392W. (Smith, 1889:936).
Figure 12b. - Lower laboratory, looking
from forward aft.
In 1883, the senior scientist at the Commission’s summer
laboratory in Woods Hole continued to be Addison Verrill. Other
investigators included Verrill’s brother-in-law Sydney I.
Smith, a specialist in crustaceans and Verrill’s fellow
professor at Yale. Richard Rathbun, the chief curator for marine
invertebrates at the National Museum, assisted Verrill in directing
the Fish Commission’s laboratory. The Fish Commission’s
embryologist, John Ryder, and Theodore Gill, a Washington-based
ichthyologist, also were on hand. The permanent naturalist on
board the Albatross was James E. Benedict. During the
ship’s research cruises, he typically was joined by other
younger men including Edwin Linton, Sanderson Smith, Peter Parker,
and Willard Nye.
The more senior members of the scientific corps tended to stay
ashore at the Fish Commission’s laboratory instead of going
to sea with Albatross. But the specimens on which they
based their work were collected by that ship and other Fish Commission
vessels. Master sets of these governmental collections were destined
for the Smithsonian’s National Museum after being scientifically
worked up by their assigned investigators. In addition, hundreds
of duplicates were donated to American schools and museums in
order to promote the study of marine biology, or they were traded
with other museums(7)
for desired scientific materials (Hedgpeth, 1945:16–17;
The ship’s association with Woods Hole was a consequence
of Baird’s decision in 1881 to locate his permanent field
laboratory at that location. There were several reasons for Baird’s
choice. A base in southern New England was desirable because of
its proximity to major fishing grounds. Baird also chose Woods
Hole due to its relatively deep Great Harbor anchorage, the purity
of the water in the Vineyard Sound–Buzzards Bay region,
and the diversity of the fauna and flora that scientists could
collect from the immediate region (Allard, 1978:329–338).
The Fish Commission’s development of the Woods Hole station
demonstrated once again Baird’s ability to persuade Congress
to fund major scientific initiatives. Overcoming the low priority
that the Secretary of War assigned to the harbor improvements
associated with his project, Baird obtained a March 1882 appropriation
of $52,000 for the construction of piers, breakwaters, and other
civil works needed for the Fish Commission’s ships and for
the operation of its hatchery and research programs. Between 1883
and 1885 he received additional appropriated funds in the amount
of $65,000 earmarked for the construction of two buildings at
Woods Hole. One contained biological and chemical laboratories
and a fish hatchery, while the other structure was the residence
and mess for his scientific corps (Fig. 19). Before these facilities
were completed in 1884–85, the Fish Commission operated
from a converted U.S. Lighthouse Board building on the shore of
Woods Hole’s Little Harbor that had been used since the
Fish Commission began its work in 1871(8).