Palmer Station: where we live and work

Photos from UAB in Antarctica group on Flickr, related to this post
By Chuck
Posted on 03/16/07

In our journals we are often talking about this or that building here at Palmer Station, but we haven’t taken the time to introduce you to what all of these are. So for today’s journal, I thought that introductions were in order!

In many ways the physical layout and buildings that make up Palmer haven’t changed very much since I first got here a week or so before Christmas 1985. In other ways, they have changed dramatically.

Although I won’t spend time here talking about the history of the station and its buildings, I refer anyone interested to a very informative web site by Bill Spindler. The URL is (note that this link will open in a new window).  Included in the Palmer Views/Palmer Station miscellany section is a photo of Maggie working in the lab during the 1979-80 season, her first one here at Palmer (link also opens in a new window). 

There are two main buildings and a number of smaller ones that comprise the station. The two main buildings are Bio Lab and GWR. Bio Lab houses the biological laboratories on the first floor (hence its name).  The laboratories were just renovated a few years ago and are excellent. They are the equivalent of what you’d find in a top research university like UAB. You’ll hear more about them and what we do there in other posts.

The second floor of Bio is where I’m typing this entry. At the center of the second floor is the kitchen and dining room. One wing off of it is the “admin hallway” and includes the communications center, weather room (illustrated in my “Stormy Weather” journal entry), and a number of offices including one occupied by Jim, Bill, and Maggie and another by me right across the hall from them.

The other wing on the second floor of Bio is where a lot of the dry foods are stored. The top floor is where about half of us sleep. Dating back to the days when the station was run by the Navy, sleeping areas are still called “berthing” areas.  This is a really sweet arrangement for many of us. I live on the third floor, I eat and have my office on the second floor, and the lab is on the first floor. There is no sitting in traffic on I-65!

You may have wondered why GWR is called that. Well, it houses the garage, warehouse, and recreation areas (pretty clever, huh?). The garage and warehouse are on the first floor along with the physician’s and cargo offices and the small station store (nicknamed “Palmart”).  Upstairs is the gym, lounge, bar, and the berthing area for the other half of the station population.

There is a new building called the Terra Lab that incorporates and expands on things that had been in two older, smaller buildings. It houses equipment used in a number of geophysical and atmospheric science projects plus equipment that is part of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Organization monitoring system.

Not too far from the Terra Lab building is the Earth Station where our internet connects via satellite with all of you. For those of you who deal with such things, our station internet capacity right now is 768 kbs, full duplex, or about the equivalent of half a T1 line.

Among the other smaller buildings, the ones we use the most are the Aquarium building and the Boathouse/Dive Locker building.  Both names are self-explanatory. The Aquarium is behind one wing of the Bio Lab building and connected to it by a short passageway. It is a very nice facility that has both filtered and unfiltered seawater coming into large and smaller tanks. There are additional, larger tanks on a deck outside the building.

The Boathouse/Dive Locker is about two-thirds the boathouse section.  Of the rest, a bit more than half is the dive locker proper, where we keep wet gear, and the remainder is the “field gear room.” Right now this is being used by bird scientists.  But when they leave in a couple weeks, the “dive locker” expands to incorporate the field gear room too. That is where we will keep our dry things such as the dry suit underwear.  You’ll hear more about how things work in the dive locker in future posts.

The people who work in all these buildings as well as in others (particularly the “carp shop”) make Palmer Station a wonderfully functional and efficient community for science. I have no doubt that it will remain so for many years to come.


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