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, as seen in the photo at the top of this page. The subfloor work had not originally been scheduled for this season.

a small loader at Old Palmer
Early season at Old Palmer, the loader is about to be loaded onto an LCVP to be transported to the site of the new station. The officer at left is Captain Fred Goettel of the Westwind, observing. The structure is FIDS (BAS) Base N, the presence of which was one reason Old Palmer was located here (more Base N/OP photos).
Another try to load the tractor
Apparently the first loading attempt didn't work, perhaps the ramp collapsed. So...getting ready for another try. Question of the hour, is this a Caterpillar or ??
new fuel tanks at Palmer
The first fuel tank partially erected; note the dozer inside.
one of the blasts for the pier
And just a bit later, here's one of the blasts for the pier.
explosives for deepening the bottom
Speaking of the pier and explosives, here's one of the landing craft loaded with ammonium nitrate explosive canisters to deepen the turning basin for the R/V Hero. Yes, ammonium nitrate fertilizer + fuel oil is a common explosive used for years by farmers, contractors...and Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City in 1995.
filling the pier sheet pile cells with rocks

The loader in the photo at left is presumably bringing more rock to fill the pier cells. This photo shows the cells in various stages of being filled.
divers working on the pier
A view of the divers working on the north side of the pier.
new fuel tanks at Palmer
The fuel tanks being painted (and filled) near the end of the season.
new fuel tanks at Palmer painted out
A last view of the completed construction as the Westwind heads north.

Credits...the color photos are from Westwind crew member Joe Rogers...and (as of September 2016) I still have a few more of his photos to add. 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.