Palmer Station Timeline


Winter 2015

Manager: Bob DeValentino; population 21 (list and photos)

Google Trekker backpacking camera put to use around the station.

Google trekker used for imagery
Google makes these Street View cameras available to nonprofits and research groups. Here it is being transported by the Texas A&M long-term environmental monitoring project, led by investigator Andrew Klein, to capture 360º imagery from sites of interest around the station. These have included the glacier, Biscoe Point, and Bonaparte Point. This photo, by Ryan Andres, appeared in the May 2015 station science report.

The project team blog is here, although it mostly covers previous visits to the station.

The Laurence M. Gould encounters heavy sea ice after a final fishing trip (12 June)...

LMG in heavy sea ice ...resulting a photo op for Cynthia Spence to take this amazing panorama, in the USAP photo library (link to original). The fishing trip was for frequent Palmer icefish researcher Kristin O'Brien's team--their visit was blogged extensively by team member Stuart Egginton (the June section of his March-June blog). The ice eventually cleared out on 23 June, allowing the LMG to dock, allow members of the AIMS team (developers of the Palmer Station master plan (see below) to visit briefly, and take the rest of the summer folks north on the 26th. Here's a link to another of Cynthia's USAP Photo Library photos showing the landing craft/"tin can" making a run to collect fishing samples.

Summer 2015-16

Building LIDAR and thermal image survey conducted (October).

thermal image scan of GWR The survey, conducted by CRREL representatives Elias Deeb and Adam LeWinter, was not unlike a similar project I was involved in at Pole in November 2005, to characterize deficiencies in the building exterior and prioritize energy improvement activities. These two images (of the back side of GWR, from the October 2015 science report) depict a raw LIDAR image (left) and a thermal image (right depicting temperature values of the siding surface. Seen here...apparent insulation damage under the windows due to water leakage, as well as heat loss to the right of the 4 windows where perhaps another window was removed or never installed.

Rutgers air sampling experiment set up in the backyard (November).

iron air samplers

This was a Rutgers project led by investigator Yuan Gao, to measure and quantify atmospheric iron, using a number of different air samplers and an associated weather station, which of course required this platform, along with power and data connections. They also collected area snow samples. The team returned to install additional equipment in November 2016, and the project was completed and dismantled at the end of January. This photo, by Yuan Gao, is from the November 2015 science sitrep.

Newly revealed island named for long time Palmer researcher Bill Detrich.

Detrich Island

Melting ice cover around Arthur Harbor recently revealed yet another new island 3/4 mile north of the station. It actually started to appear in 2012. On 19 January 2016 the U.S. Board on Geographic Names accepted the name Detrich Island for this 100' high ice-covered island. A 2 March 2016 Northeastern University news article describes the island and zooms in on its satellite photo...and a custom Google map allows us to zoom in on the island, the station, and the fast-melting glaciers that could eventually reveal that the station itself is on an island (note, you may need to zoom out to see the image). The photo (from the article) is by University of Oregon researcher Thomas Desvignes.

New Palmer Station master plan unveiled (2 February).

The Palmer Station master plan
The plan is another phase in the eventual rework of the station following upon the 2012 Blue Ribbon Panel report. It was prepared by a team led by OZ Architecture which also produced the McMurdo master plan. Major features--replacing the biolab and boathouse buildings, reworking GWR, and constructing new berthing ("lodging") and power plant buildings. Phase 1 is, of course, a new pier. The plan is available here.

Winter 2016

Manager: Ken Keenan; population 21 (list and photos)

The first of the RHIB's undergoes sea trials (July).

RHIB sea trials off Long Beach

At left, the first of the two new 33-1/2 foot aluminum vessels is being test fitted to its trailer. More details about the vessel specifications, construction photos, and the sea trial video off of Long Beach, can be found here.

Leidos takes over the Antarctic Support Contract from Leidos (16 August).

the Leidos logo
This was perhaps due in part to a "Reverse Morris Trust" arrangement--a way for L-M to recover cash (potentially $8 billion) to pay for their acquisition of Sikorsky, and to offset their loss of the long range bomber program to Grumman. Needless to say, the USAP contract was NOT the key piece of L-M's business that Leidos wanted, My full coverage is here, with detailed links. At left, my August 2017 photo of the current sign in front of the ASC project headquarters building.

Summer 2016-17

CBS News team, led by correspondent Mark Phillips, visits Palmer Station (14 February).

Dietrich Island As part of the CBS News "Climate Diaries" series, they visited in mid February aboard the cruise ship National Geographic Explorer. Coverage included interviews with longtime manager Bob Farrell and penguin researcher Shawn Farry, who described the 85% decline in Adelie penguin populations (from 9000 to 1200) since 1973 (Keri Nelson's photo of Shawn's interview), aerial photos documenting the receipt of the glaciers in Arthur Harbor (at left of Mark Phillips standing on Dietrich Island, which appeared on 14 March 2014), and discussion on whether the station itself is actually on a small island. Watch the video here.

The first of the two new RHIB's gets its first launching at Palmer Station (3 March).

the first RHIB test drive at Palmer Station The vessel procurement, construction, and testing has been discussed before here. The first of these, Rigil. recently was delivered. The second one, named Hadar, will show up later. They're named for Southern Hemisphere stars used by sailors for navigation. Here's the video posted by Bob Farrell, and here's Chuck Amsler's photo of Bob Farrell at the helm on the maiden voyage. UPDATES: Rigel's first science mission on 12 May allowed members of the Amsler/ Baker/McClintock team to take a dive (Maggie Amsler's photo from the May 2017 science sitrep). Also see Ken Keenan's video of a deployment which also included divers in the water.

The R/V Hero sinks at its moorings (4 March).

the Hero on the bottom

This tragedy is still evolving, and the details of why it sank when it did may never be known...although this is not totally unexpected. The Coast Guard, the Washington Department of Ecology, and the Pacific County sheriff's office and Emergency Management Agency were involved, and a contractor removed diesel and lube oil. And I was a bit involved in providing them information. For now the vessel is just sitting there...perhaps eventually Washington State may remove it. The story so far....

James McClintock, a member of the UAB team, is interviewed by NPR host David Green (8 March).

The UAB/UAF team at Palmer The subject of the interview...changes he's seen over the years due to the warming temperatures. The team (left, seen up on the glacier) arrived in February, from left we have (standing) Chuck Amsler, Leucas Miller, Jim McClintock, and Andrew Shilling; and kneeling: Maggie Amsler, Santana Thomas, and Sabrina Heiser (Santana and Andrew are from USF). They are diving to collect and study red and brown algae, as well as the amphipod Paradexamine fissicauda that loves to eat the algae. Here's one of Maggie's 2013 blog posts which featured a video of that amphipod eating the algae (that video is now available here). This photo is from Maggie Amsler.

Winter 2017

Manager: Ken Keenan; population 20 (list and photos)

Plan to replace the 50-year-old pier advances.

Palmer replacement pier design It has been falling can be seen in this 2009 RPSC survey report. In May 2017, the Future USAP team completed a 35% design for a new pier (left) consisting of a precast concrete deck supported by pipe piles. The design includes new fenders, fuel and electrical connections, and armor rock wave protection for the adjacent small boat dock, and would increase the pier size from 1800 square feet with 18 feet of water depth, to 8000 square feet with 34 feet of water depth. The project now awaits funding. In hindsight, this design is much better than the 1986 proposal for a jackup type addition to the existing pier. Additional info--this project page by principal designer R&M Consultants, as well as earlier survey data (including the survey report mentioned above) from this 2013 solicitation for the project. When, you ask? My crystal ball currently says perhaps in 2020-21. Meanwhile, the anodes will be replaced in 2017-18.

Summer 2017-18

The second of two RHIB's is delivered (October). It was named Hadar after the second brightest...

Two RHIB's at Palmer in the constellation Centaurus--one of the two pointer stars to the Southern Cross. This is in keeping with the naming of the first RHIB Rigel which is named for the brightest star in the constellation Orion. Both of these boats would get a significant workout by the summer science groups. The two largest Zodiacs are being retired, as the new boats are much better replacements. This NSF photo is from the Polar Programs Facebook page.

William Fraser's team returned for another summer of penguin study.

studying penguin diet Bill Fraser has been studying penguins at Palmer Station ever since his 1975 winter, and I met him more than once in the late well as his then-future wife Donna Fraser (at left). To her right are Shawn Farry, Ben Cook, and Carrie McAtee--they are studying regurgitated penguin diet (2 February USAP photo library photo by Keri Nelson). In other work this the season they counted eggs (and later measured the chicks), monitored brown skua chicks, censused giant petrel nests, and kept an eye on south polar skuas, blue-eyed shags, kelp gulls, and other birds. Here's an impressive rare photo from the Fraser group (from the December 2017 science sitrep) of all three species of penguins in the study area--Adelie, gentoo, and chinstrap!

UK Antarctic Heritage Trust and NZ AHT conduct major conservation effort on Stonington Island.

Base E and tourists They spent ten weeks there, mainly conserving the two-story 1961 BAS Base E building, which replaced an original 1948 base. It was occupied from 1946-50, briefly during IGY, and again from 1960-75. It is 800 feet from the 1939-41 USAS East Base, also occupied by Finn Ronne's expedition in 1947-48. The team worked on both base sites. This photo is from one of the UKAHT photo diaries of the work--here the team escorts tourists from the National Geographic Explorer. The team included Michael Powell, wife of Liesl Schernthanner. He was the 2001 Rothera base commander. I visited Stonington in March 1990 on an NSF visit to plan future conservation. I most recently met Michael, Liesl, and Bob Dodson (who wintered there in 1948) in July 2018 at the Antarctican Society gathering in Maine. Here's a great UKAHT video about the project!

New massive penguin colony found! One might wonder why we are still studying penguins, but here's proof. This colony was discovered not by the Fraser group or other USAP scientists working at sea level around the peninsula, but by a multinational research team who examined Landsat and older satellite images and found pinkish-red guano stains on the Danger Islands (a group of 9 islands just north of the Antarctic Peninsula and about 15 miles SSE of Joinville Island (see below). The team, including Oxford University researcher and friend Tom Hart, visited the hard-to-reach islands in 2015; their drone survey revealed about 750,000 breeding pairs of Adelie penguins. Media coverage with videos include this 2 March 2018 BBC News article, this 2 March Guardian article, and this 5 March New York Times article. The 2 March paper "Multi-modal survey of Adélie penguin mega-colonies reveals the Danger Islands as a seabird hotspot" is here--open access, published in Scientific Reports.

USAP scientists on Joinville Island rescued by Argentine naval helicopter (11 March).

helicopter rescues USAP science team

The team, led by principal investigator Alexander Simms, had been investigating newly discovered raised beaches on Joinville Island, but as time approached for their pickup by the Laurence M. Gould, the Weddell Sea ice conditions deteriorated and the LMG was unable to approach the island. USAP requested assistance from Argentina, as their naval icebreaker Almirante Irizar was in the vicinity, and a helicopter from the icebreaker picked up the science team and their gear. More information, photos, and video....

The 50th anniversary of the permanent station is commemorated (20 March)

Palmer 50th anniversary celebration
The Biolab was dedicated on 20 March 1968...50 years on from that was a significant dedication ceremony, with speeches, a toast, and significant historical photographs from the 1968 event from someone who was there. Check it out!

FIVE 2017 Polies head to Palmer station for the winter at the same time!

Steven, Josh, Rick, Eric, and Mike head for Palmer This may or may not be a first, but in late March, these five 2017 winterover Polies were headed across the Drake Passage for the 2018 winter at Palmer Station. Seen here aboard the Laurence M. Gould are (from left) Steven Ashton, cargo; Josh Neff, maintenance specialist; Rick Osburn, carpenter; Eric Hansen, PM coordinator; Mike Rice, communications engineer. There trip south was not entirely uneventful--the vessel was diverted to Ushuaia after one of the people aboard required serious medical treatment (they were later evacuated to the US and were doing well). The ship reached Palmer Station at the end of March. And note that the crew of approximately 20 winterovers will include a few other Polies who've wintered in previous years. This photo is courtesy Mike Rice, thanks!

Winter 2018

Manager: Ken Keenan; population 20 (list and photos)

Antenna riggers show up in April to do stuff...

replacing radome panels
They had lots of work on and around the various antenna towers, but one of their tasks was to replace damaged panels on the earth station 8-meter radome. At of the damaged panels was unbolted so it could be pushed out and lowered to the ground by rope. Here's a view from outside. The satcom earth station was constructed during the 2002 winter...the 5-meter dish does not normally have to move as it points to the geosynchronous Intelsat-23 satellite. The terminal at the other end is near Malibu, CA.

Thanks to Mike Rice for the photos and information!

Artist Karen Romano Young spends 3 months on station (March-May).

Palmer Station art map

Karen is prolific children's author and illustrator currently living in Connecticut. She created a science comic story/"Antarctic Log" which she started in July 2017 before her trip to Palmer Station. The photo at left is a great cartoon map of the station that she created. Here's the first page of her log, and here's a complete gallery.

Summer 2018-19

Death at Palmer Station (23 October)

carrying the body to the LMG Paul Kyllonen, age 57, died due to natural causes at about 1130 local time (UTC-3) on Tuesday 23 October. He had arrived on station with the first group of the summer crew on 6 October. He had previously wintered at Palmer in 1998 as an equipment operator/mechanic and in 2002 and 2003 as the power plant mechanic. Here is the NSF press release; the photo at left (by Zenobia Evans) depicts members of the Palmer community carrying the remains aboard the Laurence M. Gould. Paul was from Ely, MN; here's a preliminary death announcement from the Eli Echo which includes his photo.

Palmer pier project progresses.

Pier structural plan On 17 December, NSF announced that they were issuing a preliminary "sources sought" solicitation for the replacement pier. This is based on the 35% design drawings completed in mid-2017 (and discussed above) after their review. The lead design firm is R&M Consultants (Anchorage). This is not a request for proposals, but a "testing of the market" to determine potential contracting strategies, similar to what was done for the satellite earth station now under construction at McMurdo by ASC employees. Responses are due by 7 February 2019. The USAP announcement is here; the official solicitation (with additional links) is here, and the drawing package (source of the image at left) is here (43 MB).