Palmer was built in 1968 on the island’s southwest coast to honor American sealer Nathaniel B Palmer, who in 1820 was one of the first to see Antarctica. The new station replaced the prefabricated wooden huts of ‘Old Palmer,’ established in 1964 about a kilometer across Arthur Harbor from the present station. Old Palmer itself superseded Britain’s Base N, occupied from 1955 to 1958 (no longer in existence).
Palmer accommodates 44 people in summer but only about 25 people winterover. The station is accessible by sea year-round and is resupplied by ship every six weeks.
Palmer comprises two main buildings, as well as a boathouse, a dive locker, workshops, a clean-air laboratory, a sauna and storage buildings all placed close together. The three-story BioLab includes a laboratory, a dining area, offices, and communications and sleeping facilities. The two-story GWR building (the acronym stands for garage, warehouse and recreation) also houses generators, sleeping facilities, a small medical facility and the station store.
Research focuses on long-term monitoring of the marine ecosystem (mainly seabirds and krill), atmospheric studies and the effects of increased ultraviolet radiation (caused by the ozone hole) and climate change on marine and terrestrial communities.
Only 12 ship visits are permitted annually to avoid disruption to research. Tourists get a walking tour, including an interesting peek into two aquariums filled with anemones, mollusks, sea urchins, krill and fish. You may also shop at the station store (which accepts credit cards and US dollars) and taste the locally famous ‘Palmer brownies’ in the dining room.
You can’t overlook the leaping orca mural on the station’s giant fuel tank. Palmerites sometimes watch outdoor movies projected onto the side of the tank, when weather permits. Also, look for the metal krill weather vane atop the sauna.