Research Vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer now docked in Humboldt Bay

By Joan Tippets

Some of you may have noticed a cream and red colored ship docked near Samoa in

The U.S. Antarctic Programs’ research ship Nathaniel B. Palmer in McMurdo Sound with the Royal Society Range in the background. (NSF photo by Holly Gingles.)

Humboldt Bay since May 14 of this year.   It is the Nathaniel B. Palmer, a research vessel with ice-breaker capabilities that is chartered by the National Science Foundation that has most recently been doing research in Antarctica in collaboration with the United Kingdom.  The Nathaniel B. Palmer  is tasked with extended scientific missions in Antarctica.  The Nathaniel B. Palmer was purpose-built for and delivered to the NSF by Edison Chouest Offshore’s North American Shipbuilding facility in 1992. The Nathaniel B. Palmer  carries a helicopter, accommodates up to 37 scientists, has a crew of 22 and is capable of missions lasting up to 75 days. The vessel is named after merchant mariner and shipbuilder, Nathaniel Brown Palmer, who is credited by some historians with the discovery of Antarctica.

Thwaites Offshore Research (THOR) is a ship-based and ice-based project that will examine the sedimentary records both offshore from Thwaites Glacier and beneath the ice shelf, together with glacial landforms on the sea bed, to reconstruct past changes in ocean conditions and the glacier’s response to these changes. More information can be found at

There are no scientists on board and no research or maintenance being done at this time, according to public relations staff person Elaine Hood. She further stated that “the ship simply has to be ‘parked’ somewhere in between science cruises and northern California is a convenient location at this time” and adds, “We are delighted with the reception received at Eureka.” The public is not being allowed to tour the vessel at this time due to COVID concerns but the ship is scheduled to be here through the end of September.