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the story of the bureau of commercial fisheries biological laboratory woods hole, massachusetts

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U. S. S. Fish Hawk

The Fish Hawk (fig. 20) was a coal-burning steamer of 156- feet overall length. She was registered at 484 tons displacement and had a rig of "a fore-and-aft schooner with pole topmasts." She was built according to specifications and plans made by C. W. Copland, naval architect of the Light House Board. It was a special vessel to serve as a floating hatchery for hte production of shad, herring, striped bass, etc., and was capable of being moored almost anyplace where breeding fish could be found in sufficient quantity (Tanner, 1884).

A considerable portion of the deck space and hull was occupied by hatching equipment and laboratory. The laboratory was 10 feet, 7 inches long, 9 feet wide and 7 feet 3 inches high. It was provided with a laboratory table, specimen case, box for microscope, and the necessary shelves and drawers. Sea water was supplied by a steam pump capable of delivering 10,000 gallons per hour. Hatching equipment consisted of 36-inch cone-shaped containers each capable of holding 7,200,000 shad eggs. These hatching cylinders were suspended from beams outside of the vessel.

The ship was equipped with the most up-to-date gear for trawling and dredging. There was a drum or reel holding 1,000 fathoms of steel-wire dredge rope 1/3-inch in diameter (1-1/8 inch in circumference) with breaking strain of 8, 750 pounds; the wire rope weighed 1.14 pounds per fathom. The dredging boom was 36 feet long and 10 inches in diameter. It was used for operating beam trawls of three different sizes (9 feet, 11 feet, and 17 feet long beams), otter trawls, and various dredges (fig. 21).

Other types of collecting gear such as tangle bars, rake dredges, and various sieves (so-called table sieve and cradle sieve) were designed by Verrill. The sounding machine consisted of a cast brass reel 11.43 inches in diameter and 600 fathoms of piano wire of 0.0028 inch diameter, having a tensile strength of 200 pounds.

Built primarily as a "hatchery ship" the Fish Hawk was not suitable for offshore work but was intensively used in dredging and trawling in Vineyard Sound, around Cape Cod, in the Gulf of Maine, Long Island Sound, and other coastal waters. The ship made her last two cruises in October-December, 1925, and was decommissioned in January 1926.

U. S. S. Albatross

The Albatross (fig. 22) was an iron-hull, twin-screw vessel of 234 feet overall length and 1,024 tons displacement (registered net tonnage was 384 tons). She was built by the Pasey and Jones Company of Wilmington, Del., according to the plans drawn by Charles W. Copland of New York; aggregate cost was $145,000. She was launched in March 1882, and made her first cruise in April 1883.

According to Lt. Com. Tanner, her first commanding officer (Tanner, 18855), she was rigged "as a brigantine, carrying sail to a foretop-gallant sail." She had comfortable cabins, had water distilling equipment for drinking water, electric lights, and elaborate equipment for oceanographic research. There were two laboratories. The upper one, 14 feet long and occupying the whole width of the house, had a square work table for four persons centrally located. Each working place was provided with a tier of drawers under the table. Attached to the walls were two hinged side tables, a sink, water and alcohol tanks, wall cabinets for instruments and glassware, and books. A medical dispensary occupied a corner of the room. The lower laboratory, immediately below the upper one extended across the ship 20 feet fore and aft. It was supplied with long working tables and a lead-lined sink with running water. Part of the space was used as a photograph dark room and chemical laboratory. There was plenty of storage cases and lockers for jars, bottles, and various collecting gear. A supply of alcohol was stored under the laboratory in an iron-walled room which could be isolated from the rest of the ship. In case of fire, this room could be quickly filled with steam.

The dredging engine was provided with additional "gypsy heads" for hoisting boats, and was equipped with a friction brake to regulate the paying out of the rope. The dredging wire was 3/8-inch diameter galvanized steel. It was composed of six strands wound around a tarred hemp heart; each strand consisted of seven wires. The wire weight was 1.32 pounds per fathom in air, and 1.2 pounds in water. The ship carried 4,000 fathoms in one length and later on received additional reels in 500-fathom lengths. A newly designed sounding reel, various trawls, dredges, nets, and recording thermometers were on board the Albatross for conducting oceanographic research. Every technical detail of the laboratory arrangement and equipment indicated good planning and understanding of technical research problems by Baird and his principal collaborators. Tanner incorporated many original ideas into the design, construction, and operation of the ship and its naval equipment; Verrill was primarily concerned with the laboratories and their equipment.

In 1883 the Albatross was prepared to undertake oceanographic investigations in any part of the world. Her explorations made a glorious chapter of U.S. marine research, and the name Albatross became famous in all civilized parts of the world. It is interesting to read the comments about this ship written by the famous American explorer, Alexander Agassiz, who in 1890 was asked by Marshall McDonald, at that time the U.S. Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries, to take charge of deep-sea exploration off Panama. The Albatross was offered under the conditions that Agassiz should supply the coal, thoroughly re-equip the ship, and pay part of the running expenses. In return, he was to get first choice of the collections that were of special interest to him. Upon reaching Panama late in February 1891, Agassiz boarded the Albatross, and in his letter home described the ship in the following words: "The working accommodations are fine, an upper room 20 feet x 20 feet for rough work and general laboratory, and a second floor below for storing the collection in racks. We ought to do well. . . . . My cabin opens out into a good-sized dining room and sitting room of about 12 feet by the width of the ship, where Tanner and I sit and take our meals. It has large portholes, a fine skylight, and is very airy and comfortable." Uipon completing a preliminary trip and returning to Panama after an absence of 20 days, Agassiz wrote: "The Albatross is an excellent sea boat and she rides the sea wonderfully well, and really much better than many large ocean steamers I have been on. . . . . You can hve no idea how comfortable the trip has been. . . . . . The accommodations for work and for taking care of the collections are excellent. . . . . . The laboratory, with its ingenious arrangements and its excellent accommodations for work by day and night, was to me a revelation." (Agassiz, 1913). Agassiz usually made three or four deepwater dredging or trawling hauls every day, and at the same time the surface net was towed.

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