Deep-Sea Research 100 Years Ago on the US Fisheries Steamer Albatross

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Smithsonian Institution

The US Fish Commission Steamer Albatross (1882-1921) sailed approximately one million miles, in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and collected millions of organisms. The Albatross had a special and vital link with Smithsonian science, for the vessel was the brainchild of Spencer Baird, second Secretary of the Smithsonian. At least 10 prominent Smithsonian scientists – including Bartsch, Bean, Clark, Gill, True, Schmitt, and Stejneger, sailed on the Albatross, to such exotic places as the Galapagos Islands, Kamchatka, Japan, and the Philippines. Months-long cruises shaped the careers of these scientists, and the resulting collections helped to shape the U.S. National Museum (now known as the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History). Astonishingly, about 40 percent of the Smithsonian's current National Collections of marine animals were obtained by the Albatross.  

Recently-acquired private diaries and letters provide rare insights into life on board the vessel--exciting scientific discoveries, men overboard, jellyfish stings, drunken sailors, shore leave, and emerging volcanic islands. The thrill of discovery during the Albatross days lives on today--and we still have about 95% of the ocean to explore!

Explore Smithsonian’s marine collections with Google Earth, learn about recent ocean research projects by Smithsonian scientists, and discover more about deep ocean exploration projects and discoveries.