Salmon, Seals, and Science: The Albatross and Conservation in Alaska, 1888-1914

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In 1882, Smithsonian Secretary and U. S. Fish Commissioner Spencer Fullerton Baird launched the steamer "Albatross," the first ship in the world dedicated to oceanographic research. Outfitted with special trawling and deep-sea dredging equipment, it first went to sea in 1883 with scientists aboard to study movements and numbers of various fish, collect specimens of marine life, and, with other specialized equipment, conduct soundings for maps of the ocean's floor. While the ship was best known for its oceanographic accomplishments, during the period from 1888 to 1914 scientists aboard also conducted surveys of Alaskan fish stocks and investigated the fur seal islands of the North Pacific. Their work built an important body of information that came to be used by the Federal government in conservation efforts and regulation of the salmon fisheries and fur seal harvests.


  • Baird, Spencer Fullerton 1823-1887
  • United States Fish Commission
  • Albatross (Steamer)


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Eleven photographs and illustrations accompany the article, which is followed by twenty-seven "Notes." The authors refer to Spencer Fullerton Baird serving concurrently as U. S. Fish Commissioner and as "Deputy Director" of the Smithsonian Institution, when Baird in fact was Secretary of the Smithsonian from 1878 until 1887. On Page 11, the year printed as "1990" should be "1900."

Contained within

Journal of the West Vol. XXXIII, No. 4 (Journal)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


October 1994


  • Oceans
  • Salmon
  • Law and legislation
  • Secretaries
  • Marine resources
  • Ichthyology
  • Salmon fisheries
  • Federal Government
  • Northern fur seal
  • Oceanographic research ships
  • Habitat conservation
  • Wildlife
  • Fishes
  • Salmon canning industry
  • Salmon fisheries--Law and legislation
  • Oceanography
  • Wildlife conservation



Physical description

p. 6-13

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