Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Remarks of Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall at the Commissioning of the Ocenaographic Research Vessel, The Albatross IV, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, May 9, 1963

May 9, 1963


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

We are commissioning a new vessel, the Albatross, the fourth in an illustrious line of the name since 1882. The first Albatross was unique and modern for its day—being the first oceanographic research vessel of any consequence constructed in the world. Its two successors were converted vessels. The ship before us, however, is one of the best equipped for this specific purpose by the Federal Government since the first Albatross.

We have a new Albatross—but we need a fleet of them. For despite our pioneering efforts over 80 years ago, our Nation still thinks of the oceans principally as highways. Today, we approach the sea with a new concept:

The ocean is the newest and last frontier of the world.

I would hazard a guess that we know more a about the start and the space above us than we do about the water—and the land beneath it—covering more than two-thirds of this planet.

The mysteries of the sea have always captivated the daring and imagination of Americans. Our history and our literature are replete with the rich traditions of our sea people. Herman Melville said “these sea hermits conquered the water world like so many Alexanders.”

Today we need new sea adventurers to provide fresh volumes revealing man’s relation to the ocean. We need new scientific Alexanders sailing to record these revelations.

President Kennedy made this quiet clear in his historic message to Congress on natural resources.

He said, “The sea round us represents one of our most important but leas understood and almost wholly undeveloped areas for extending our natural resource base.”

And, he added, “this Administration intends to give concerted attention to our whole national effort in the basic and applied research of oceanography.”

Our national interest in oceanographic research has until recently been either sporadic or dormant. We are in many respects living in the Middle Ages in our knowledge of the world’s sea spaces. We have made a start by identifying our problems—the important initial step—and we have made progress in charting a course for scientific investigation to obtain answers to these problems. We know, for example:

--That the resources of the sear are almost illimitable, but some are in serious danger of depletion and require improved conservation programs.

--That the shoreline of the United States is changing and becoming increasingly more polluted, thereby threatening many fish and other marine species which spawn or spend their early life close to shore.

--That great expanses of ocean and the floor beneath it are unknown and uncharted.

--That we are woefully ignorant, in many respects, of the ecology of the oceans and their shorelines.

--That our knowledge of genetics of the creatures of the sea lags far behind similar knowledge of the animals and plants of the land.

--That the ocean contains many dissolved minerals which we do not know how to recover economically with few exceptions; further, only in the case of petroleum have we made any significant progress in utilizing the resources under the floor of the ocean.

--That the technology of harnessing the energy of the oceans is in its infancy.

The Kennedy Administration has started to work on some of these problems—and the Albatross will, as its predecessors, make important contributions. Other work is also in progress.

The Department of the Interior has constructed new laboratories; new research projects are under way to develop new oceanographic equipment international probing of the sea frontiers are planned or under way; a fellowship program in marine science will help alleviate the severe shortage of young scientists;

A National Fisheries Center with oceanarium facilities—as recommended by the National Academy of Science—is being located in Washington; ecological studies of fish and  shorelines are in progress; a cooperative program to study the geology and hydrology of the Atlantic Continental Shelf has been initiated with a similar Pacific studies planed and research has been expanded on Fish Protein Concentrate, a product which not only can provide a rich protein diet for the hungry one-third of the world but also bring significant employment opportunities to the American fisheries industry.

We hear much of the peaceful uses of space and the atom, but we should—I feel—place the peaceful uses of the sea on a similar parity in the scale of our national thinking. The secrets of the sea are another challenge in the understanding of ourselves. In the sea, man had an opportunity to reforge his links with the past and to plan his relationship with the future.

It is a mark of progress that we can dispatch questing ships as the Albatross into new areas of exploration. As one of Britain’s great physicians once observed:

“That man can interrogate as well as observe nature was a lesson slowly learned in evolution.”

May good fortune follow the Albatross as it probe and unravels the limits of man’s current knowledge.


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