Palmer Station is one of three U.S Antarctic research station. The other two, McMurdo and South Pole, are located further south and more inland. Palmer is on an island, located right on the water. Most of the research completed here is marine in nature, from phytoplankton and zooplankton, to krill and larger sea invertebrates. Whale researchers also come through here and divers that research sea stars and other marine life, as well as birders studying the penguin colonies on surrounding islands. Our “bugger” team has been coming to Palmer for 10 field seasons.
Palmer Station was built in the late 70’s. Throughout the summer season (October-April) there are about 40 people on station. This group includes scientists, station managers, marine technicians and other crew. We dine together, help clean around station together and keep ourselves entertained when not doing our research or other duties. Palmer has one main lab building (Bio building). There are 10 lab spaces on the first floor, equipped with everything from aquatic tanks and walk in coolers to thermocyclers and test tube shakers. While Palmer itself has a lot of equipment, each research group is required to make a list of required materials. These are then shipped from the states, and rides on the LMG with us across the ocean to station.
The second floor of Bio is the galley (kitchen) and the main offices of station managers and departments. Our kitchen has two chefs—this year Mike and Casey, who cook breakfast, AM snack, lunch, PM snack and dinner 6 days a week. Sundays are everyone’s day off, so if you want food, you either have to cook it yourself, or raid the “Debra Jo”, the gargantuan leftover fridge. The third floor of Bio is where half of station lives in the dorm rooms. The other half live in a separate building, about a 2-minute walk from Bio. This building, GWR (stands for garage, warehouse and recreation) is newer and the envy of Bio people. I have the privilege of bunking here! The rooms have a bunk bed, two dressers and a desk. Each room also has a satellite phone for calling family and friends back in the states.
When we’re not doing research, or helping out on station, there are tons of things to do at Palmer! There is a gym, ham radio, music room, “Sheathbill Saloon” aka the bar, and hot tub. Also, in our backyard there is a recreation cabin for those who want to rough it a little more than the dorms allow. Behind station is also a glacier that you can hike, snowboard or ski down. The glacier is named Marr Ice Piedmont glacier. It’s one of Antarctica’s 244 marine glaciers. It has been in retreat for the last 40 years, receding about 300 meters. What was once a short walk from station is now a barren land of rock and snow drifts before reaching the glacier’s start. Researchers continually check for weak spots and set out flag barriers for those hiking up.