Palmer Station Construction 1966-67

construction materials stacked on the Biolab foundation; the Westwind is in the background


pumping water from the skua pondThe U. S. Coast Guard icebreaker Westwind first arrived in Arthur Harbor on 8 January 1967. The Seabee team offloaded compressors, rock drills and explosives, and set up four Jamesways for living quarters. The John Deere 1010 tractor was brought over to the construction site from Palmer Station. A boat ramp and storage areas were prepared. The first dam was constructed for the glacier meltwater pond, which was then 40x60 feet in size and 3 feet deep. The pond was more than sufficient to provide water for both the camp and the icebreaker...although the fresh water could not be gotten to the Westwind where it was so desperately needed due to boiler failure. A bladder was brought to shore on a LCVP and filled with water, but the ship's company could not come up with a pump to get the water into the ship's tanks...hence 20 days of water shortage until the Westwind sailed to Punta Arenas for parts. At above right, a Seabee gets ready to pump water from the pond on another day.unloading the Northwest crane carbodyOn 27 January the cargo ship Wyandot arrived and offloaded 750 tons of cargo, including 2 955 tracked forklifts, a Northwest 25 crane (left), and a Universal rock crusher.

The first step was extensive drilling and blasting operations to level out the roadways and prepare the Biolab site. This was followed by pad preparation for the two 37-foot diameter fuel tanks. Additionally, a dive team carried out underwater blasting to excavate the seawater intake trench using special underwater "jet set" explosives (right) setting explosives for the seawater intake trenchand bangalore torpedoes (essentially pipe bombs). Tank and pier construction then proceeded. The pier (which is still in service today, although it is deteriorating and needs replacement) consists of three 27-foot diameter cylindrical shells of sheet piling arranged in a triangular pattern. These were connected with more sheet pile to form a rounded triangle with the apex pointed toward the shoreline. The sheet pile cells were filled with rock, and a 20-foot wide ramp was filled in to connect it to the shore (the photo below shows the cells in various stages of being filled in). Rough seas and wind caused difficulty--the third cell was knocked out of alignment three times before it could be successfully positioned. The pier was fitted with a wood fender system to protect docked vessels.

By 15 March, the pier had been completed, the fuel tanks were welded out and painted, and the final blasting on the Biolab site had been completed, and the foundation and subfloor erected. The subfloor work had not originally been scheduled for this season.

new fuel tanks at Palmer
new fuel tanks at Palmer painted out

Credits...the color photos are from Westwind crew member Joe Rogers...and he has shared more that I will be adding soon. As for the b&w photos, the one at the top of this page is an NSF photo by W. Austin from the Antarctic Journal, May/June 1967. The three smaller photos on this page are official U. S. Coast Guard photos published in the Antarctic Journal, July/August 1967.

filling the pier sheet pile cells with rocks