Home Sweet Palmer

This year I am sailing on the R/V NBP (or the  Research Vessel Nathaniel B Palmer). The NBP is a huge hulking ice breaker. She is 308 feet long, 60 feet wide, and five stories tall including the Bridge. There is also an Ice Pilot house one floor higher. The NBP was built in Louisiana so there are lots of Cajun references. The most important though is the ship mascot, the Coonass

So lets take a walking tour of some of the public areas of the ship. These all start on the “Main Deck”-  below decks is the engine room and cargo hold (I think, but I haven’t been down there). Below decks is off limits without permission from the Captain.

At the bow (front) of the boat on the main deck is the galley (aka dining hall). We have a rather good chef on board who really cares about making food everyone likes. Sadly, he is so busy cooking and planning that I don’t have any pictures of him. His name is Mike  and he makes me vegetarian garlic free food.

The galley is pretty large. It has what you would expect like a serving line with steam trays and lots of tables and chairs.

Some of the crew are on board for more than six months at a time. It is very important for them to have a taste of home. The condiment collection is a bit out of hand, there are different condiments on every table, but hot sauces feature prominently in all collections.

Hot drinks are also really important. There is a large assortment of coffee, flavored coffees, creamers, and tea in the Galley. Of course for the true aficionados, there is communal espresso machine  in an office one deck up.

The chef picked out the tea collection which is further to the left. It includes English breakfast and jasmine green, yum.

The very important desert table includes necessities like milk, juice, cake, popcorn, and the very popular ice cream freezer. We eat a LOT of ice cream while at sea. The chef purchased $4,000 of ice cream for this cruise and it will all get eaten. There is always left overs and snack on the dessert table. No one will go hungry – or even get a bit peckish.

OK, enough about food. The rest of the main deck is take up by office space and science space.

One of the science freezers is currently filled with food for the Polish Arctowsky Station.  It will be months before they will get any more fresh food. In the summers, Acrtowsky station helps NOAA research teams camped nearby. NOAA repays some of the favor by bringing in fresh fruit and vegetables- a prized commodity.

The rest of the interior main deck is filled with science labs. I’ll show you those later when the science is up and running.

The 01 deck, one floor up, is the living space for the science party.

Each stateroom has two beds and a bathroom that was too small to photograph. Its more comfortable than you might think.

The 02 deck is where the party is.

The 02 deck also has the “hospital” which is only open when someone needs it. Sorry no picture. We have two EMTs on board  in case of injury or illness. Hopefully no one will need it this cruise.

The 03 deck has the staterooms for the chief scientists and some of the higher ranking crew. It also has the conference room. Which I must say is larger and better equipped than my department’s conference room at school. This room though is my nemesis. It is up high (so it moves a lot in the waves!), no windows, and we are usually looking at a t.v. screen.  In short, the perfect conditions to induce sea sickness.

Third floor is also access to the life boats. We had to get in them the first day at sea. The captain gave us a speech about how awful it is to be in the life boats. He also made us pack abandon ship bags with food, water, sea sick meds, and toilet paper. All of the crew and passengers can fit into one lifeboat. The NBP carries two fully enclosed lifeboats and a set of life rafts, just in case.


I have no idea what is on the 04 deck- we are not supposed to go on it. I think it is mostly the captains quarters and office space for the ships officers.

The 05 deck is the bridge and it is spectacular- or rather the views are just amazing.  The captain and officers are very friendly and we are almost always welcomed on the bridge.


Every member of the science team works a 12 hour shift. Shifts are scattered so that work goes on round the clock. It’s hard to get used to a late night shift, sleep happens.  I lucked into a noon to midnight shift, so it has been easy-peasy for me.

Right so the Palmer is a pretty comfy ship, filled with lots of good food. (Thanks Chef Mike and team!)

I am excited to get out off the Drake passage and let the real work begin.

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