2019-20...the endless summer (?)
A Zodiac approaches Palmer Station from the Nathaniel B. Palmer in the early morning of 24 March.
So...the coronavirus happened. At the end of the Thwaites Glacier Collaboration Collaboration, the NBP first headed to Rothera, where the 10 British members of that international project were dropped off on 22 March (right, a photo from Mike Single of the British researchers disembarking at Rothera). The plan was for them to get back to the UK via Stanley. At one time they thought they'd have to wait until June to get home, but after being quarantined at the Malvina House Hotel in Stanley (along with about 20 other BAS folks) they were flown back to the UK overnight on 5 April on an RAF MoD flight that refueled in Senegal as the usual refueling stops on Ascension Island and Cape Verde were closed.
The Nathaniel B. Palmer then headed back to Palmer Station, arriving early on 24 March as seen in the photo at the top of this page. The researchers had originally been scheduled to stay on station until mid-April had only a few days warning to wrap up their projects and pack up their labs. (Some of the summer people had departed Palmer Station earlier on the Laurence M. Gould on 14 March...upon arrival in Punta Arenas, a police escort was necessary to get them from the pier to the airport.)
The Nathaniel B. Palmer departed Palmer Station on the same day it arrived (24 March) and arrived in Punta Arenas on the 29th. Adventure cameraman Mike Single, who had been documenting the Thwaites Glacier project, was the sole New Zealand citizen aboard. He was able to catch one of the last flights to Auckland via Santiago (he was quarantined there for 2 weeks before eventually being able to return to his wife in Ohio), while the Americans caught later flights to Miami and home, also via Santiago. The NBP stayed in Punta Arenas until 10 April before heading north to Port Hueneme. It arrived there on 4 May, where it offloaded science samples and other USAP cargo. On 10 May it headed north again with an apparent destination of Oakland...but after dallying briefly in San Francisco Bay it continued north...to...Eureka, where it docked on 14 May. And it will apparently be there for awhile. It's actually docked at the Fairhaven Terminal on the Samoa Peninsula, across the Humboldt Bay entrance from Eureka. The photo at right, by MPC Ken Vicknair, appeared in this 5 June Lost Coast Outpost article about the port call of this "big orange ship." But there's more....at right is another photo by Ken Vicknair of the Nathaniel B. Palmer at the Fairhaven Terminal on 27 May, from the USAP Photo Library (link to original).
Meanwhile, as of this original posting (28 May) the 2020 Palmer winterovers were...not yet at Palmer Station, while the remaining 20 summer crew were...still at Palmer Station. But...in mid-May, the winterovers flew directly from Denver to Punta Arenas on a charter flight. Upon arrival, they were immediately taken to the Laurence M. Gould, where they were quarantined for what turned out to be 24 days before the Gould headed south on 3 June. If you have access to Facebook, this great 29 May video of winter site manager (and fellow 2005 Pole winterover) Ken Keenan, shared by NSF Polar, is a great watch.
Interestingly, the Gould proceeded west on the Strait of Magellan all the way into the Indian Ocean before heading south. This track meant that the vessel only required a harbor pilot...the more traditional route through the Beagle Channel would have required a Chilean pilot all the way to Puerto Williams. The expected arrival at Palmer Station is 10 June, and it showed up early that morning local time. At left, a photo from the Palmer webcam grabbed at midday 11 June. The Laurence M. Gould actually departed Palmer Station on 16 June...four days before Midwinters Day (!)
The photo at the top of this page is by Zee Evans and is from the USAP Photo Library (link to original).