Nathaniel Brown Palmer was born on 8 August 1799 in Stonington, Connecticut. He went to sea in 1813, and was first employed in the coasting trade from Maine to New York. At the age of eighteen, he was given his first command of the schooner Gleaner, and in the following year, sailed as second mate aboard the sealing brig Hersilia on the United States Sealing Voyage (from Stonington), 1819-1820 (leader James Sheffield), in a search for new sealing grounds. The expedition searched for the Aurora Islands, found Shag Rocks and possibly Black Rock, and in January 1820, visited the Falkland Islands and South Shetland Islands, the first United States sealing vessel to reach the latter, which had only been discovered the previous year.
In the following season, Palmer commanded a sloop, Hero, on the United States sealing voyage (from Stonington), 1820-1821 (leader Benjamin Pendleton), returning as part of a fleet to the Falkland Islands, South Shetland Islands and Isla de los Estados. While the rest of the fleet hunted, Hero entered Deception Island to search for new sealing grounds. In November 1820, Palmer reported land to the south of Deception Island, which he explored, examining the area now known as Palmer Archipelago, but found no seals. Returning to the South Shetland Islands, he met the ships of the Russian Naval Expedition, 1819-1821 (leader Fabian Gottlieb Benjamin von Bellingshausen), off Deception Island, and discussed his findings with Bellingshausen.
The following year he commanded the sloop James Monroe on the United States Sealing Voyage (from Stonington), 1821-1822 (leader Benjamin Pendleton). Joining forces with George Powell of the British sealing voyage, 1821-1822 (from London), Palmer participated in the discovery and charting of the South Orkney Islands in December 1821.
Palmer made several later voyages between the United States and Europe. He returned to the South Shetland Islands on a final sealing voyage in the brig Annawan, in company with his brother Captain Alexander Palmer in the brig Penguin, on the United States Sealing Voyage (from New York and Stonington), 1829-1831 (leaders Nathaniel Brown Palmer and Benjamin Pendleton). Independent scientists who made biological and geological investigations and collections accompanied them on this voyage. Thereafter, he became a prosperous ship owner, contributing to the design and development of clipper ships trading to Europe, the Antipodes and China. He died on 21 June 1877 in San Francisco on his return from a trip to China.
From the guide to the Nathaniel Brown Palmer collection, 1820-1821, (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)