The Point Sur is 135 feet long and 32 feet abeam...with a draft of 9 feet and a gross tonnage (definition) of 298 tons. Interestingly, its specs are not that much different than the specs of the wood-hulled R/V Hero, and it is no more ice-strengthened. I really like the above photo (which was posted on this page of the Point Sur blog, in part because I spent about a year in 2001-02 in this area working on a power plant here. Not the older one you see pictured...but a 4-on-2 gas turbine combined cycle plant which was just behind these older units.
End of digression...the Point Sur supported several science groups including one from Duke University which was tagging whales (with suction cup trackers) to study their movements. They also took the UAB research team out for some diving operations (the UAB blog) to collect specimens in the Lemaire Channel.
The project which caused the Palmer population explosion was a geoscience venture by a Columbia/MIT/University of South Carolina consortium who nicknamed themselves the Antarctic Ice Dodgers (their photo-prolific blog). They'd intended to camp on Snow Hill Island and gather samples. Their backup was James Ross Island, but access to both of these planned sites was blocked by ice, which the Point Sur was totally incapable of dealing with. So after making a number of short shore visits from the Point Sur, they ended up staying at and working out of Palmer Station for several weeks...camping for some of that period in the backyard or on the cargo deck behind GWR (photo at left). That photo appears in this blog post by UT Brendan (aka Tsaven); it also includes other pictures of the Point Sur. It departed Palmer on 24 February, heading back to Moss Landing with some other science stops along the way.
The use of the Point Sur was considered a success by some of the research groups--the ones which were able to use it; hopefully it (or a ship of similar size with a bit of ice capability) will be used again in the future.