If Harriman had been serious
About 120 years ago the steamer Albatross conducted watershed surveys, interviews and salmon distribution studies throughout Southeast Alaska, nominally aimed at ‘redfish’ (sockeye salmon) but truly holistic in scope. Research questions included fisheries harvest trends, declining runs, untapped opportunities, protection, sustainability, and cultural issues.
Between 1898 and 1902, Albatross visited almost all existing and abandoned canneries, salteries and hatcheries, collecting a rich dataset on salmon numbers, their habitat and their use by European and Native people. The project totaled more than 6 months in the field over the course of 3 separate summers, penetrating more than 100 watersheds, often to the limit of salmon spawning, collecting high-res glassplate images and detailed maps of ‘redfish’ watersheds.
I want to follow in the wake of Albatross—to resurvey those watersheds, to characterize more than a century of change, both positive and negative. Albatross Retraced could help reshape the way Tongass residents and outsiders think about landscape ecology, biogeography, ecological and cultural resilience, and the role of open (non-agenda-driven) question-asking in conservation.
Part I of this document has concept-&-background info, pre-field data acquisition, research questions, potential field methods, and thoughts on camps & travel, project objectives, and core mission. Extensive sidebars summarize the 1898, 1901 & 1902 voyages, and compare them to the far better known Harriman Expedition, whose mostly-aging science dignitaries were tourists next to Albatross‘s crew .
Part II detailed a possible itinerary for a proposed pilot in July, 2019. Covid and other distractions intervened, but many of us would jump on the opportunity to revive Albatross Retraced, should stars realign. Meanwhile, this richly illustrated document gives a sense of the excitement and tragedy of Lingít Aaní, at turn of a turbulent century.
PS 2023: In preparation for a teachers’ cruise with Sealaska Heritage Institute and Renewable Energy Alaska Project (SHI and REAP for you acronym lovers), I’m fortifying this document. New historical photos and maps. At last, we may get to see some of these amazing places!
Download 10 MB report