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Hopkins Marine Station (Ships & Expeditions)

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Early Years

From the Woods Hole publication "The Collecting Net" in 1931 is an article by then director of Hopkins Marine Station, Walter K. Fisher:

The Seaside Laboratory was only one phase of Stanford's work in  marine  biology. Prior to the opening of the University Dr. Jordan, in collaboration with Dr. Gilbert, had spent considerable time studying marine fishes of the coast, and Dr. Gilbert had been an assistant naturalist on the famous U.S Fisheries steamer, Albatross. After the estabilishment of the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory (1892) there were a number of extensive marine proiects, among which may be noted:

  • Panama (Gilbert, Starks)
  • Mazattan (Jordan, Culver, Scofield, Williams)
  • Fur seal investigation (Jordan, Adams, Greeley, Snodgrass)
  • Hopkins Galapagos Expedition (Heller, Snodgrass)
  • Japan  (Jordan,  Snyder)
  • Albatross Hawaiian Expedition (Gilbert, Snyder, Fisher)
  • Samoan Expedition (Jordan, Kellogg)
  • Albatross Alaskan Expedition ( Jordan, Heath)
  • Albatross Survey of California Coast ( Gilbert, Heath, Fisher, Spaulding)
  • Albatross Japanese Expedition (Gilbert, Heath, Snyder, Burke)

The present activity of the Hopkins Marine Station in the field of oceanic biology is therefore in line with what is essentially a Stanford tradition. The leaven  was brought to the new Universitv by the youthful and eager Jordan; perhaps it is a legacy from Louis Agassiz.


The Albacore, a 56 foot diesel driven vessel was stationed in Monterey Bay in 1931. Photo courtesy of Pacific Fisherman.
The Albacore, a 56 foot diesel driven vessel was stationed in Monterey Bay in 1931. Photo courtesy of Pacific Fisherman.

Dr. Henry Bryant Bigelow, a visitor to Hopkins Marine Station from Harvard University, helped start what would become a long series of hydrobiological surveys of Monterey Bay and beyond. These surveys would eventually result in the combined efforts of Hopkins Marine Station and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to survey the California coast. Work begun on the Albacore continued on the Tage and Proteus.




1950 - 1979 The Tage was a 40.5 foot Diesel-powered launch, equipped with winch and 1000 meters of 1/4 inch cable, used for two netting, trawling, dredging, and hydrographic sampling in Monterey Bay. She was named the "Tage" in honor of the late Professor Tage Skogsberg (1925-1949). Professor Skogsberg carried on hydrographic work for many years in Monterey Bay. Donald P. Abbott who arrived in 1950 (retired 1983) used the Tage extensively. Deck and wheel house were added after being aquired by Hopkins.

Used only inside Monterey Bay for animal collecting and oceanography.


Te Vega
Te Vega

In 1963, a four-quarter graduate program in biological oceanography aboard the R/V Te Vega was started. This program continued until 1968 and provided a training and research opportunity to graduate students and professional scientists from institutions throughout the United States on cruises across the Pacific and Indian Ocean and the eastern Pacific from Peru and the Galapagos Islands north to the California coast. The R/V Te Vega was sold in 1968, and the program was terminated.

The ship Te Vega , a 135-foot two-masted, steel-hulled schooner capable of sustained operations at sea provided the base for graduate training in biological oceanography. The ship carried a scientific party of 15 and was outfitted as a floating laboratory for observation, collection, experimentation, and teaching. Deep sea trawling and hydrographic winches permited sampling at depths of up to 6000 meters. In addition to a variety of gear for physical measurement, chemical analysis, and the collection, examination and maintenance of living organisms, the ship carried a small reference library which was changed to suit the needs of each cruise. Several skiffs and a launch for inshore work were carried on deck. Each year the vessel conducts four cruises, each cruise lasting for one academic quarter. The Te Vega was donated to Hopkins Marine Station by Harold Miller (who also donated money for the Harold A. Miller Library). Professor Rolf Bolin (1934-1968) was the program director for the Te Vega until he retired in 1967. He also served as chief scientist on 8 of its 12 cruises.

Expeditions included the South Seas and the Indian Ocean.



1969-1973 The Proteus (an old 90' tuna clipper) replaced the Te Vega for expeditions. The National Science Foundation funded research on the boat and its maintenance until 1972. At least one major oceanographic expedition of three months or more into foreign waters were planned. Operating the rest of the year from its home port in Monterey, the ship the Monterey Bay and the huge submarine basins in the Channel Islands of Southern California.

Expeditons were mostly Monterey Bay, but also did single trips to Gulf of California, Hawaii and fjords of British Columbia.



2003-present Stanford@SEA is an exciting biological and oceanographic 16-unit course offered through Biological or Earth Sciences. Half the course occurs at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove; the other half aboard the R/V Robert C. Seamans, which the Sea Education Association (SEA) operates in the Pacific Ocean with the support of the National Science Foundation. The shipboard component, with its emphasis on student research projects, creates a highly focused learning environment with few distractions. The interdependence of the students, who rely upon each other to collect data and to sail the boat safely, enhances the sense of responsibility they feel toward all aspects of the learning experience.

Stanford@Sea -- Student Papers


HMS Friendship
HMS Friendship

1979 - 2013 Without funding by the NSF, the station went to self maintained trailerable craft. The first of these was the 26' HMS Friendship, made possible by donations from the Friends of Hopkins. Colin Pittendrigh was director at the time and instrumental in its purchase.

Used in Monterey Bay and just outside the bay along the Big Sur coastline for research and in the Kelp Forest Ecology class.

Other boats from this time period included the Boston Whaler (late 80s or early 90s to present), old wood assault boats retired from the military (weighed a TON!) and a variety of aluminum and fiberglass boats with outboard motors.


White sharks are a major theme of the work done with the Blue Serengeti.
White sharks are a major theme of the work done with the Blue Serengeti.

2017 - present The Blue Serengeti replaced the Friendship after a gap of a few years.

Cars & Trucks:  Not all work was done from a boat. Rolf Bolin and many students did a lot of water collections and temperature readings by driving a car from Monterey to Morro Bay and stopping at many points along the way.

By Hand: Dipping a cup into the surf, placing an accurate, calibrated thermometer in it, waiting a minute for it to stabilize and record the reading. Low tech, but effective if the data set is big enough.

collected at 8am outside the caretaker cottage. See latest data compiled: txt, xls

HMS - sea surface temperature
HMS - sea surface temperature