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the origins and early history of the steamer albatross, 1880 - 1887
by Dean C. Allard

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dredging engine drawing
dredging engine drawing
Figure 7. - The Albatross dredging engine views.

3) Major economic benefits would accrue to the nation’s seafaring industry by increasing the yield of American fisheries.

4) The development of U.S. fisheries could make use of the British North American inshore fisheries unnecessary.

5) Albatross was a national security asset since, in case of need, she could be taken over by the Navy for use as a warship. In fact, this did occur during the Spanish American War and World War I.

6) And finally, Baird acknowledged his basic scientific interest when he stated: “As incidental to the economical inquiry, but of very great interest to the naturalist,” the ship will collect “objects of natural history in large quantity otherwise unobtainable” (USFC, 1884a:xxv–xxxi).

In 1882 Congress once again granted Baird’s request. In that year the Fish Commissioner not only received $42,000 in new funds for the ship, he also secured a $45,000 appropriation for the vessel’s equipment. In all, a sum of $190,000 now was in hand to construct the Albatross (USFC, 1884b:xxvi–xxvii). Bearing in mind what this amount is worth in modern dollars, not to mention the great difficulty the U.S. Navy encountered during the early 1880’s in obtaining appropriations for any new warship construction, one must be impressed by Baird’s political skill in securing funding for the Albatross.

The Pusey and Jones Shipyard in Wilmington, Del., which previously built Baird’s Fish Hawk, received the Albatross contract on 28 March 1882. Charles Copeland supervised the yard’s work. He was assisted by Lieutenant Commander Zera L. Tanner, U.S. Navy, the prospective commander of the ship’s Naval crew. That officer had considerable experience with marine exploration as the first commander of the Fish Hawk and through an earlier assignment with the Navy’s Hydrographic Office.

Tanner was primarily responsible for selecting and installing—and in some cases personally designing—the trawl nets, rake and grapnel dredges, tangles, surface nets, and other collecting devices, as well as the ship’s thermometers, salinometers, and sounding equipment (Fig. 8, 9) (Tanner, 1885; USFC, 1884b). According to Baird’s associate, George Brown Goode (Goode and Bean, 1895: I,vi), the trawl nets carried by the Albatross were of particular since they represented a major advance in the ability to collect deepsea specimens, a task previously undertaken with metal dredges.

Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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