Palmer Station

Feb 13, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer


Some days on expedition are more challenging than others for the staff and crew. Today’s visit to Palmer Station was one of those days. Palmer Station is the smallest of the three United States Antarctic Program scientific research bases and located in Arthur Harbor on Anvers Island. When we arrived last night, we already had a sense of the difficulties we might face getting everyone ashore. The harbor was full of closely packed brash ice which swirled around the ship and jostled against the hull all night. In the morning, the ship was surrounded by jumbles of ice chunks recently calved off the nearby glacier. The ice crackled and rolled as our Zodiacs inched toward the shore slipway, which had to be cleared constantly by running the outboard motors of several boats. Our expedition leader waded in up to his waist to help keep the slipway clear with a shovel. He looked as if he was enjoying himself immensely.

Throughout the morning, as we rotated guests to the station, the shifting currents pushed a large iceberg into the harbor, causing our bridge team to change anchorages a couple of times as the ’berg completely moved into the position that our ship had just vacated.

The extended Zodiac ride to station gave everyone an opportunity to contemplate the power of ice and imagine how early explorers’ vessels became trapped. Seals hauled out on growlers lifted their heads to take a peek at passing boats but were otherwise unbothered by the ever-changing landscape.

Finally reaching shore, we were given a tour of the main public areas of Palmer Station by one of the 35 scientists and support staff. The tour included a stop at the small shop for souvenirs and a final meet-and-greet with more Palmer folks who served their famous chocolate brownies and hot beverages. We learned more about the extensive marine biology and long-term ecologic studies being conducted here and gained an appreciation for what life might be like on a small peninsula station.

As operations concluded toward lunchtime, the winds picked up, making us feel very lucky indeed that we’d been able to finish on time.

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About the Author

Sheri Bluestein

Expedition Leader

Sheri has over 12 years of experience sharing the wonders of Alaska as a hiking guide, expedition leader, cultural interpreter, and naturalist. For 10 of those years, she made her home on the Kenai Peninsula where she spent her free time hiking, growing enormous vegetables, and successfully avoiding bears and moose on her way to the outhouse at night. 

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