Date: 29 February 2012
Temperature: -11 deg C
We had some interesting visitors dock at McMurdo Station recently. The Research Vessel Nathaniel B Palmer landed at Hut Point, as did The Nimrod during Shackelton’s 1907-1909 Expedition. Both ships witnessed Discovery Hut as they berthed, still standing from Captain Scott’s 1902 Expedition. However, there the similarities end.
Nathaniel B Palmer with icebreaker and Mount Discovery in the distance © AHT/Gretel
Nathaniel B Palmer R/V is a 94 metre Antarctic research icebreaker in the service of the US National Science Foundation. Named after the first American to sight Antarctica, she is capable of carrying 37 scientists with a crew of 22, on missions of up to 75-days. Equipped with an array of biological, oceanographic, geological and geophysical components to study global change there is still room for a helipad. One example of her scientific prowess is the multi-sonar which constantly maps the sea-bed as she sails, slowly piecing together the jigsaw of what lies below the stormy seas.
The Nimrod, under sail and steam, forcing her way through the pack ice towards Cape Royds 1907-09 © Royal Geographical Society
By contrast The Nimrod was a 41 year old sealing boat before purchase by Shackleton and being refitted for his Antarctic Expedition. Despite being a sail and steam boat, she needed to be towed from New Zealand. Her heavy cargo, which included a motor car, live sheep and ponies prevented her from carrying enough coal to get her from Antarctica and back. Towing her as far as the Antarctic pack-ice would help her to conserve coal and ensure the return of the ship.
I wonder what the early historic Antarctic explorers would have made of the fantastic research capabilities of the Nathaniel B Palmer and her ability to weather the Antarctic stormy seas with such relative ease.