Doing scientific research in Antarctica is incredibly important, and expensive. According to a March 2012 article in the NSF-funded Antarctic Sun (whose staff also appears to be furloughed), it costs about $85 million to operate the three U.S. Antarctic research stations. McMurdo and South Pole stations are accessible via air. Palmer sits on an island along the outstretched finger of the West Antarctica Peninsula and is supplied only by ship from Punta Arenas, Chile. When I visited the station, for a journalism fellowship in 2010, I was told a box of pencils for arrival on May 6th would have to be ordered by the 23rd of December because supplies, including scientific equipment, take a long, involved route from a port in Long Beach, California, south to the port in Punta Arenas, where they're loaded onto the Gould. Expediting shipments to Punta Arenas by air was slightly faster, but at the time cost nearly $5 per pound.