Bumping up the pier
the LMG docking at Palmer Station on 22 September...with new fenders moored alongside (photo from Sean Bonnette).
The Palmer Station pier was originally sized for the Hero, the original research vessel. And it has been a bit of a problem since, well, January 1985, when the replacement for the Hero, the much larger (but much smaller than the LMG) Polar Duke showed up for the first time. There is a significant rocky ledge just offshore of the pier which presented a problem for the Duke, so the temporary emergency solution was to procure some large fenders (bumpers) to keep the ship away from the ledge. The longer term solution, of course, was to supplant the pier with a larger structure...and the program then sent the prominent marine engineering firm Han Padron (now Halcrow, a CH2MHILL company) to Palmer to devise a more permanent solution. They came up with a conceptual design for jackup pier platform to be installed in deeper water just outboard of the sheet-pile pier, with a connecting ramp. This all happened at the time I became the ITT/ANS project engineer for Palmer Station. Anyway...most of you will recognize that this innovative solution did not get built.
And since then, things have changed. First...the current NSF vessel, the NBP is much larger and deeper draft than the Duke (and the NBP is even larger). And secondly, the pier...constructed in 1966-67 of rock-filled sheet pile cells (see the bottom of this page for construction details and a photo), was starting to deteriorate...holes have developed in the sheet pile, spilling out some of the rock fill. This has required diver attention more than once in recent years.
Jump forward to 2012...two things happened. First the NSF Blue Ribbon Panel (more info) made a strong recommendation that the pier be upgraded or replaced. And secondly, during the 2012 winter (and after the Blue Ribbon Panel report was issued!) the LMG made its biennial transit north to Louisiana, partly to transport hazardous waste north...partly to pick up cargo more conveniently, and partly to get some maintenance and drydock time. And in drydock...they found a dent. So...the immediate solution was to find more/bigger fenders in PA. There was one in the USAP warehouse and another available from a local vendor...these were brought down on the October LMG cruise. Before docking at Palmer Station, they were attached alongside the LMG (photo at top of this page). After docking, these fenders were secured to the pier outboard of the older ones (photo at left from Neal Scheibe, taken as he was leaving the station).
That wasn't the end of the story. When the LMG next showed up in November, it brought this larger fender (below, photo from Stacie Murray), which replaced the smallest one seen in the above photo.
Okay, the engineering information...the newest fender (at least) is from Yokohama. They are basically large air-filled floats constructed from rubber and cord layer materials used for tires, typically pressurized to about 7 PSI.