Day 41 – Monday, February 14 – Palmer Station

I have a little catching up to do. We have been very busy the past two days. As told in my last post the weather was absolutely fantastic at Elephant Island. One of our onboard Antarctic experts said a day like that happens maybe 1 in 100. We were lucky. Yesterday unfortunately was more typical of Antarctic weather. We had some light freezing rain in the morning, changing to light snow off and on during the day. Late in the evening we actually had some accumulation which many of the Philippino stewards were thrilled with. Many of them have never seen snow.

The weather did prevent us from tranversing the Neumayer Channel. We made it to the mouth but winds were about 50-60 mph and the captain was concerned about such high winds in the narrow channel for a ship of our size. We would not have had room to turn around safely without the possibility of being blown against an iceberg or the channel wall. We did get some good photos but sadly missed the Channel. Earlier in the morning we did see Couverville Island and then later Paradise Bay.

Early evening about 8:00 PM the wind began to pick up and the captain reported that we were having winds in excess of 65 Knots, over 75 mph. The sea became quite rough which made walking difficult. We watched a movie and enjoyed the ride at the same time! During the night the storm continued but Kay and I slept well. We were awakened a couple of times, by things falling. In the morning we had several things on the floor and found one wine glass had fallen out of the cabinet and was broken. We will be crossing the Drake Strait tonight, and will probably have some more rough seas.


Dining Room Stewards enjoying the snow


Kay with snow on the Lido in the background


Picture of waves thru our balcony window, taken at about 10:30 PM and there was still this much light! We are pretty far south…. Unofficially, I understand the waves were in excess of 20 feet.


Palmer station, this is a file photo. We never got even close to the shore, it was much too shallow.

The station is named for Nathaniel B. Palmer, usually recognized as the first American to see Antarctica. The maximum population that Palmer Station can accommodate is 46 people. The normal austral summer contingent varies but is generally around 40 people. Palmer is staffed year-round, however, and the population drops to between 15 and 20 people for the winter maintenance after the conclusion of the summer research season. There are science labs located in the Bio-Lab building (pictured), as well as a pier and a helicopter pad.

The facility is the second Palmer Station; “Old Palmer” was about a mile to the northwest adjacent to the site of the British Antarctic Survey “Base N”, built in the mid fifties. The site is on what is now known as Amsler Island. Old Palmer was built about 1965, and served as a base for those building “new” Palmer, which opened in 1968. Old Palmer was designated as an emergency refuge for the new station in case of disaster, though this perceived need disappeared over time. It was dismantled and removed from the Antarctic as part of the National Science Foundation’s environmental cleanup efforts in the early 1990s.

The majority of the science research conducted at Palmer Station centers around marine biology. The station also houses year-round monitoring equipment for global seismic, atmospheric and UV monitoring networks. Palmer also hosts a radio receiver that studies lightning over the Western Hemisphere.

Palmer Station is located near penguin colonies — Adélie, Gentoo and Chin-strap penguins are in abundance during summers, but small numbers can be found in the area at all times of the year.

The area is also home to several types of seals: Fur seals, Elephant seals, Crabeater seals and Leopard seals. The area is often visited by Minke, Orca and Humpback whales.

Other research is conducted from the R/V Laurence M. Gould. Science cruises cover physical oceanography, marine geology and marine biology. The ship also carries field parties to sites around the Antarctic Peninsula to study glaciology, geology and paleontology.

We arrived off Anvers Island early this morning. About 7:00 AM a contingency of two zodiacs carrying about 20 individuals met the ship from Palmer Station. The group included the Station Director, the doctor and several workers, and researchers. We will be leaving one person at Palmer, Jackie, who we picked up in Buenos Aries and we will be taking back three people who are leaving the Station.

The Palmer representatives gave a great presentation about the station and the work they do. They then hosted a question and answer session. This group remained on the ship while we attempted to cruise Lemaire Channel. We again were foiled, this time by the ice in the channel. We were able to get some great scenery and then went back to the Neumayer Channel which we could not pass into yesterday. Today we were able to see the Neumayer.

The Palmer group, many who were research students really enjoyed the few hours on the Prinsendam. They seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time in the Lido Restaurant! The group was eager and willing to answer questions about their work and the Station. I guess after spending months with the same 40 odd people, it’s nice to get the opportunity to talk with someone different.

Palmer provides this service a part of their public relations, and Holland America in turn sent the zodiacs back loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables, something everyone at permanent installations in Antarctica cherish.


A couple of the Palmer people on deck.

Entrance to Lemaire Channel


Carl, Kay, Janet and David

The Penguin Plunge! At the southernmost point of our cruise everyone was invited to join Thom with a dip in the pool while in Antarctica. A number of people did participate….

On the other hand, our own penguin, Carl, did hop into the Jacuzzi on the Aft deck for a photo opportunity. We said Carl took one for the team….

Hello Soleil!

As you can see, this proves what we all know, Janet is smarter than Carl.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. I have got to get dressed for our Valentine Formal Night Dinner.

On to Cape Horn for tomorrow morning… It might be a rough night.



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2 Responses to Day 41 – Monday, February 14 – Palmer Station

  1. Paul D (100+) says:

    Great updates Wendell.
    We booked the return trip from Buenos Aires to Ft. Lauderdale (through Amazon) on the Veendam in March. Your blog was a great influence. I was shocked at how gorgeous the weather was at Elephant Island because when we were there we had snow and rain. It’s a volatile weather region. Sorry to hear you weren’t able to see Neumeyer channel but glad to see you got the Antarctic experience. So now you start your way up the west coast. ENJOY!


    Pops I know your trip is full of “once in a life time experiences”, but the Polar Plunge would have been a MUST. At least Carl took one for the team. Camden said “HEY POPSSS, and GRANDMA. LUV YOU.

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