March 2, 1999
a long and cold night of drilling, the full moon set behind the
drill rig and a heavy snow began to fall. The "day" drillers
arrived at 6:30 a.m. and began to look for methods to improve the
amount of core we are recovering. This was accomplished by pulling
up the drill rods from a depth of 328 feet and applying a new drill
bit. The sun came out by noon, and by 1:30 p.m. we had drilled to
340 feet and cored the 10-foot thick paleosol that marks the boundary
between D2 Strata (Dawson Arkose) above and D1 strata (Denver Formation)
below. Carbonaceous and coal-like beds are now beginning to appear
in the core.
March 3, 1999
Today was a day of smooth drilling. We have changed the core-catching
device several times, and we are now obtaining very high recovery
percentages for the core. By 5:00 p.m., we had reached a depth of
598 feet and were down into the D1 Strata (Denver Formation). The
clay layers we are drilling through were forest floors more than
63 million years ago. A little after 5:00 p.m., the drill rig developed
a leak in its hydraulic system and we had to shut down for repairs.
We plan to be up and running again by noon on March 4. This minor
breakdown gave us a chance to catch up on our cleaning, photography,
description, and packing of the core. The core-handling crew was
entertained by the Elbert County Dog Obedience Class, which took
place during the evening.
March 4, 1999
The gasket was replaced on the rig, stopping the hydraulic leak,
and we resumed drilling by noon. We continue to drill through the
coal-bearing portion of D1 (the Denver Formation). Drilling proceeded
slowly, allowing the core crew to catch up on descriptions and packaging.
Flocks of visitors appeared at the drill site.
March 5, 1999
Arctic conditions made the evening rig operations challenging.
Snow and wind gnawed at the tender appendages of the interns and
even the hardy drillers sought to mitigate the elements. (Steve
got a little too close to the gas stove check out the hole
in his coveralls if you get a chance.) The water lines to the rig
were freezing and the core turned to an icy rock Popsicle as soon
as it was plucked from the warm ground. All in all, dawn thawed
out the rig, the workers, and our spirits. "Cackling"
volunteers came bearing a very large icing-topped cake and good
cheer (hint, hint). Our core description is taking place in the
Elbert County Agricultural Center. This evening we were entertained
by the rabbit clinic judges' meeting. Although lacking in live rabbits,
our team learned the detailed show characteristics of the ideal
doe rabbit (nine pounds, sleek fur, two well-balanced ears).
March 6, 1999
By morning, we reached a depth of 844 feet in the sequence of
rocks that were deposited in swamps and swamp margin areas. Preparing
for the first onslaught of visitors, Kirk redecorated the Ag Center.
Posters, newspaper clippings, fossil specimens, Cretaceous-Tertiary
(K-T) boundary clay layer samples, coring equipment, and core samples
now deck the hall. In the early afternoon, Bob's DMNS geology class
arrived for a tour of the site. The cake was enjoyed by all! The
class observed the coring operation, and experienced the lab/field
procedures. Bill Sanford is an experienced core washer and delighted
25 of Bob's top geology students with a demonstration of his skills.
Core description, which includes siltstone chewing, acid dropping,
fingernail scratching, and detailed note-taking, were all made to
look soooo entertaining that we had a hard time keeping the class
from leaping in on the action. (We even have some enthusiastic volunteers
for the graveyard shift!) Shannon, the DMNS intern biologist, stepped
up to the core-describing challenge under the careful eye of Jerry
(on a microscope made-for-two). Meanwhile, enticing aromas are emanating
from the Winnebago where Laura was warming a delightful spinach
and mushroom hand-crafted lasagna for her hard-working crew. By
midnight, we reached 925 feet.
March 7, 1999
By the morning, we reached a depth of 962.5 feet. A brisk sunny
day welcomed the morning shift. Showing great dedication, Bob forced
his way past the all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast in downtown Kiowa.
Between mouthfuls of doughnut holes, we happened to notice astonishing
amounts of lignite and a dearth of sandstone. Suddenly, at the rig
site, the core barrel became lodged in the drill pipe while being
pulled out of the hole. The winch tightened, groaned, and with a
twang, the cable snapped! This necessitated pulling the entire string
of pipe from the hole, giving the core loggers much needed time
to catch up. Two hours later, we were back on track. Small children,
using tiny noses as cake drills, caused an exuberant dispersal of
icing and were careful to only fondle sections of the core that
were already fully described. We sent them gleefully away with a
sugar-high and a sense of the joys of scientific research. At 4:07
p.m., the wild 1,000-feet dances began! Amber Taylor, a local high
school student, performed an impromptu jig celebrating the millennial
core sample. What an exciting moment! Based on the alignment of
the planets in the beautiful Kiowa sky, we anticipate the next 1,000
feet to land safely in our core tubes.
March 8, 1999
Weather warming ever so slightly, the wind continues unabated
from the south, carrying snow skiffs. Dawn found us coring in a
sandy zone with modest recovery in unconsolidated sandstone. Sands
actually started to ooze into the hole, causing the drill pipe to
get stuck. Steve, the night driller, had to pull the drill string
to clear a sand blockage. The day drillers gingerly worked past
the sloughing zone, and by dusk the hole was back in good shape.
A coal-like zone near 1,100 feet yielded a gleaming fragment of
amber; and there was a frantic, though futile, search for insects
in the amber. The night cooled down, the wind slapped our coveralls,
and the drillers kindly gave us refuge in their heated "doghouse."
They had copies of this Web page that had been relayed to them;
and now Steve, the night driller, is dreading seeing pictures of
his burned pants in future updates. Drilling is slow in the hard
mudstone, almost as slow as in quartzite. It takes about 20 minutes
to drill five feet, but the recovery is fantastic. The drilling
speeds up in the sandstone. By midnight we had reached a depth of
1,141 feet and are in the lower portion of D1 Strata, a zone known
to the hydrologists as the Arapahoe Aquifer.
March 9, 1999
The graveyard shift had a very nice night and logged an impressive
100 percent core recovery. Volunteer Ray Bridge worked from 12:30
a.m. to 6:00 a.m. before heading off to work his day job. The sun
rose on a beautiful warm Colorado spring day. About 8:30 a.m., the
first of the school groups to visit the site arrived. Former Colorado
teacher of the year Pam Schmidt brought her class from Thunder Ridge
Middle School, and they were followed by a batch of kindergarten
kids. We expect several classes a day from now until the completion
of the project. The evening swing shift also had stunning core recovery
with 99.3 percent. Sadly, the core loggers failed to load the camera
properly and shot 21 frames before they realized that the film was
not advancing. Kirk showed up at 9:30 p.m. and promptly fell asleep
in anticipation of the upcoming graveyard shift. By the end of the
shift, the hole was 1,275 feet deep and well into the Arapahoe Aquifer,
rocks that were deposited as stream sediments about 67 million years
March 10, 1999
The day started slowly with a long leisurely graveyard shift.
Kirk typed rock layer data into the computer from 1:30 a.m. until
11:00 a.m. before falling over. Drilling progressed smoothly through
the night with Rick Arnold steadily hauling in beautiful five-foot
core sections that were logged and described by Regan Dunn. A splendid
half moon hung in a clear sky. Around 7:00 a.m., the hole exceeded
a depth of 1,300 feet. A bit later, the hole began to soften, and
the day drillers decided to pull the rods out of the hole to clean
it out. School groups continued to arrive in a steady parade. Intern
Paul Harnick was shadowed by Emily Helton and Kate Steinberg, students
from nearby Kiowa High School. Kate and Emily learned how to retrieve
the core and how to wash it. Washing core is a process that is very
similar to washing dirt; but with careful spraying and scrubbing,
the core can be cleaned of drilling mud to reveal its original structure.
March 11, 1999
We are drilling slowly with cores coming up every half hour
or so. As we get deeper (now drilling below 1,400 feet), the trip
time required to bring the core to surface increases and the consolidated
nature of the shale slows the drilling rates. Students from Elizabeth
High School shadowed our core "describers" for part of
the day. A big group arrived on a Museum tour with Jack Murphy and
were shown the entire operation. Core describers feasted on chili
rellenos supplied by Paula Koch. During the graveyard shift, the
swivel broke twice, showering Steve with glutinous drilling fluid.
March 12, 1999
In the wee hours on Friday, snow started to fly and the cores
came up with only crumbs; the snow changed to small pellets and
core tubes came up empty. The drillers spent all morning pulling
the 1,465 feet of pipe out of the hole and are now using a new drill
bit. This "Kiowa Drill Bit" was flown in from Salt Lake
City, and was just recently designed specifically for the type of
sedimentary rocks we are drilling through. During this time, we
had visits from two local school groups who braved the blowing snow
to learn about the project. At noon the drillers were thwarted yet
again when the wire line snapped. This meant that they had to pull
out the rods again, retrieve the core barrel, splice the wire, and
return the rods to their previous depth. All in all, it has been
a quiet day for the core loggers, but a challenging one for the
drillers. Drilling should resume by about 5 p.m.
and Sunday, March 13-14, 1999
The drill-site snow melted away in the first balmy days of spring,
but the weekend brought nothing but repairs and downtime. One of
the main cables that moves the drilling motor up and down the drilling
tower frayed and parted. The drillers had to remove the rods from
the hole and take down the entire drilling tower for repairs. Shane
was able to find someone in Denver who could repair the cable, and
those repairs started on Saturday afternoon and continued through
Sunday morning. Rods were back in the hole by Sunday noon, but caving
in the lower part of the hole made it difficult to commence coring.
Much of Sunday was spent adjusting the chemistry and consistency
of the drilling mud, and the drillers were still solving these problems
at 10:00 p.m. Meanwhile, the Ag Building was taken over by an Australian
shepherd dog show, and the project team learned more about dog-grooming
vacuums, dog-judging techniques, and the posture of dog judges than
they did about the nature of the lower D1 Strata. The site was visited
by a large number of people, including State Sen. John Evan and
his advisory council; they also learned about dog-judging techniques.
note: During one of the many tours at the rig site on Sunday,
a large group was gathered around the mud engineer as he explained
the detailed methodology of ascertaining the mud chemistry, rheology,
and viscosity. A member of the audience, a charming 6.5-year-old
girl in an oversized hard hat, waited patiently through the chemistry
discussion, then when topics turned to the effects of the K-T boundary
extinction event, she answered a question with an astonishingly
lucid discussion of the consequences of the dust cloud ejected into
the atmosphere by the impact. She told the spellbound group that
after the dust obscured the light, many of the plants died and consequently
the large herbivores died, and as a further consequence the large
carnivores found nobody to eat and they, too, died. She told us
that the survivors were the weensy, teensy mammals. WOW!
March 15, 1999
After a weekend of drilling woes and dog shows, core again began
to emerge from the ground at 6:30 a.m. Monday. The drillers are
now using a new core retrieval system, which consists of a lightweight
core barrel inside a wider tube. When brought to the surface, the
core barrel is ejected from its outer casing using water pressure
from the drilling rig. This mud and water fountain brings new excitement
to the site. Drilling continued throughout the day at a slow pace
with excellent core recovery. After a beautiful sunset, dinner was
created consisting of moose steak and vegetables harvested from
the grocery store. The night was balmy and quiet, and dawn was soon
upon us at 1,561 feet.
March 16, 1999
Tuesday was a marvelous balmy day with a gentle breeze from
the south wafting across the prairie. Drilling was slow through
the wee hours, but recovery was excellent. The drillers were concerned
that the progress was so slow that they might have to ream out the
hole and set pipe across some swelling clays. By midafternoon, drilling
rates had picked up and the mood become more optimistic. At 3:00
p.m., we drilled through a very coarse arkosic sandstone at 1,565
feet. Since then, we have been in a dark, fine sandy shale. There
is a growing realization that we may have punctured through the
synorogenic package and may now be drilling in the Laramie Formation.
If this is true, this would have us hitting the Laramie about 60-70
feet high to prognosis (shallower than expected). We have had scores
of visitors, including the Mayor of Kiowa, two grade school groups
(some children very excited), a group from the United States Geological
Survey (USGS) core repository (ultimate destiny of our core!), and
Museum staff members.
March 17, 1999
The evening shift started well and just got better and better.
Core recovery was 106 percent, indicating that the night shift recovered
core lost from the previous shift. First time this has happened!
Otherwise, the evening was punctuated by dog-obedience class with
many cute puppies and a brief appearance by Mikey, the 14-month-old
"horse"/great dane. He's about three feet at the shoulder
and very friendly! It appears that we've moved out of the Arapahoe
conglomerate and are now firmly entrenched in the Laramie Formation.
Core is coming out in beautiful five-foot lengths and is very interesting;
lots of bioturbation and clasts in the coarse stuff.
March 18, 1999
A gray overcast, a cool breeze, and a few visitors made for
a fairly monotonous day of drilling. The hole continues to behave
well and yield complete five-foot cores. We had reached a depth
of 1,762 feet by 4:00 p.m. We are drilling in the Laramie Formation
and have been since yesterday. The contact of the base of the D1
Strata (also called the Arapahoe Aquifer) and the underlying Laramie
was reached at a depth of 1,647 feet. This is a significant contact
because the base of the D1 Strata marks the first appearance of
sediment that was eroded from the Rocky Mountains. If we can successfully
date this layer, then we can date the origin of the Front Range.
The Laramie Formation was deposited in quieter swampy times. Back
then, this part of Colorado looked like the bayou country of Louisiana.
Not only is the drilling going well but the lab work is also progressing
nicely. Project palynologist Farley Fleming has been sending mudstone
samples to Russ Harmss lab in Canada for high-speed processing.
Russ dissolves the samples in hydrofluoric acid, a nasty acid that
dissolves rock but not organics. Fossil pollen and spore grains
are acid resistant and survive the process. The residue is spread
on a glass slide and shipped back to Farley who examines the slide
and identifies the pollen grains. He has been searching for the
first evidence of Cretaceous pollen in the core and found it at
a depth of 910 feet. This means that the famous Cretaceous- Tertiary
(K-T) boundary, the time that saw the extinction of the dinosaurs,
was located between 910 feet and the last sample site at 810 feet.
Subsequent sampling has narrowed the search interval down to the
zone between 876 and 890 feet. With continued sampling, we will
eventually be able to put a finger on the K-T boundary and sample
it for the rare metal iridium, which is an indicator of asteroid
dust. The K-T boundary iridium anomaly has never been located in
the Denver Basin, a gap that we hope to resolve in the next few
months. Intern Regan Dunns parents, Bruce and Heather, dropped
by on their way to eat barbecue in Kansas City while intern Paul
Harnick overslept the beginning of his 4:00 p.m. shift.
March 20-21, 1999
It has been a quiet weekend in Kiowa, our adopted hometown.
The rig has been idle and the Museum crew has been catching up on
sleep. Early Saturday morning there was a hydraulic leak on the
rig. As soon as it was repaired, a stripped spline on a drive shaft
immediately followed. Shane is trying to get the spline fixed in
Denver on Monday morning; and as a backup, he has ordered a spare
from the rig's manufacturer in Australia. Our offers to courier
the part from Australia were declined. We are at a depth of 1,882
feet and are in the top of the Fox Hills sandstone. Most of our
group was involved with the K-T boundary Conference sponsored by
the Western Interior Paleontological Society this weekend. Kirk
and Bob gave talks on Saturday and led field trips on Sunday. During
the conference, Bob showed slides of the core interval that has
been identified as containing the K-T boundary based on pollen.
The audience surged from their seats and vied for the chance to
be among the first to see the boundary. Recovery was good, though
there are a couple of short gaps. Suggestive pale streaks are visible
in a generally fine-grained, organic-rich interval.
March 23-24, 1999
Progress is slow at the rig site in Kiowa. The efforts to repair
the swine of a spline have been prodigious but futile. The replacement
part has been traveling in a posh seat from "down under"
in Australia. It enjoyed a sunrise over the Pacific and a hectic
immigration process in Los Angeles. A chauffeur-driven pickup truck
was dispatched Wednesday to meet it at Denver International Airport.
In an effort to maximize the use of time and capitalize on the anticipated
good hole conditions, the crew decided to run an intermediate electric
log on Tuesday afternoon. This turned into Tuesday night and, as
those of you with drilling experience can imagine, it turned out
to be 2:00 a.m. Wednesday before the conditions were just right
for logging. Because of the spline problem, the night shift had
to pull the pipe from the hole in 10-foot "sticks" (we
were at 1,882 feet, so that's 188 pieces of pipe). Lacking rig-turning
power, they had to use hand wrenches to unscrew each pipe and then
lay pieces down on the pipe rack. The evening was warm and sweat
dripped onto a landscape that we earlier thought of as tantamount
to tundra. Colog, the electric-logging contractor, arrived as the
gleaming Kiowa bit was finally hauled out of the hole. Logging involves
delicately lowering sensitive and expensive instruments down into
the murky bowels of the mud-filled hole. Initially, the cable sang
out nicely as the sonde plunged down; then there was a slackening
of the cable and a groan from the loggers. The tool had reached
some kind of subterranean impediment at 550 feet! Despite considerable
efforts on the part of many engineers and a few Ph.D.'s, there was
no hope in lowering it further. It hit the obstacle with a sticky
clunk--a signal of swelling mud stones bulging into the hole. Making
the best of the situation, we logged the top 550 feet of the hole;
and at midday Wednesday, the drillers were preparing to finish repairs
on the rig and to ream out the hole and set steel casing to 1,880
feet. From there, we will core onward to the top of the Pierre Sea.
March 29, 1999
It has been a long week of repairs and retrenching at the drill
rig in Kiowa. The broken spline replacement part arrived from Australia
and the drill rig was repaired by the Wednesday evening (March 24).
Shane, the project foreman, made the tactical decision to widen
the hole by a process known as reaming. To do this, the drillers
removed the old surface casing (the 4-inch diameter steel pipe set
from the surface to a depth of 70 feet) so that they could install
a larger diameter surface casing to allow the hole to be widened.
This was completed and cemented into place by Friday. Then the drillers
began the process of reaming the hole to the larger outer diameter
of 5 3/4 inches from the existing 4 inches. This is being accomplished
with a different type of drill bit, one made of three rotating heads
that chews off the rock more rapidly that the coring bit. Even this
process is complicated by the fact that the hole has been caving
in at certain levels. When this bit is drilling smoothly, the drillers
are able to go through about 100 feet of rock an hour. As of 10:00
a.m. this morning (Monday), the reaming had reached a depth of 1,580
feet. As you may recall, we had cored the well to a depth of 1,884
feet. Our plan is to ream the hole to a depth of 1,850 feet. Then
we will remove the drill rods and make another attempt to acquire
electric logs for the complete well. Once the logs have been taken,
the drillers will lower a 4-inch-diameter steel casing into the
hole to the depth of 1,850 feet. Once the casing is in place, they
will pump cement grout down the casing, set a rubber plug on top
of the casing, and pump the plug to the bottom of the hole. This
process will force the cement out the bottom of the casing and up
around the base of the casing for about 100 feet. Once the cement
sets, the casing will be firmly held in place and we can start the
process of coring to greater depths. The casing will prevent the
collapsing hole from impeding our progress. The distance from the
bottom of the casing at 1,850 feet to the bottom of the existing
hole at 1,884 feet is presently filled with cuttings from the reaming
process. We will have to drill through this debris before we can
start to acquire new core.
The project team had a meeting this morning to determine the sequence
with which we will finish the hole. After the hole has been cored
to a depth of 2,200 feet, we will begin a series of tests to study
the pressure and chemistry of the groundwater of the two lowest
aquifers. Project hydrologist Rick Arnold has been working with
the data from the core to determine the optimum depths from which
March 30, 1999
Today was a windy and warm day in Kiowa. The drillers continued
to slowly ream out the hole. The claylike nature of the Laramie
Formation causes the bit to gum up and that causes the drilling
to go slowly. Pat Woodard from Channel 7 dropped by to film a piece
for his weekly "Woodards West" vignette. Its
scheduled to air at 10:00 p.m., Monday, April 5. About noon, Jerry,
Tim, and Shane tripped the rods out of the hole and put a new drill
bit on the drill string with the hope that the reaming would proceed
more rapidly. A few visitors dropped by the site and the local feed
store is advertising that chicks and ducklings are in for the spring.
The interns took the afternoon off to prospect for Eocene plant
fossils, and Colog is standing by to complete electric logs on the
well as soon as the reaming is complete.
April 1, 1999
in Kiowa, under snow-spitting skies, the Denver Basin Project cored
the unbelievable. With great excitement, the day driller's assistant
Tim split open the first core barrel in 10 days to reveal a very
skinny 5-foot by 2.5-inch T. rex skeleton; the only pygmy
T. rex known in the world. This mini-dino will shed new light
on the creatures that cruised the Denver Basin landscape during
Actually, the morning unfolded under gray clouds as the drillers
waited for the concrete surrounding the casing to set. At approximately
1:00 p.m., as a core-hungry school group from Castle Rock looked
on, Glen Graham brought in the first delectable chunk. This five-foot
segment of silty mudstone came from a depth of 1,800 feet. But how
can we be retrieving core that we drilled through last week? The
answer is that we have "jumped" hole. As the drillers
reamed down to the depth of 1,800 feet, the rods angled into uncored
rock. How far off we are from our original hole can't be said at
this point. As coring continues at 4:00 p.m., a light snow is falling
April 2, 1999
A fragment of writing from a shift report for the evening of
April 2, 1999, recovered from the Ag Building. It reads as follows:
"Besieged by driving snow, subzero temperatures, and howling
winds. Rations dwindling, life sustained only by consumption of
Nutella supply, which is also dwindling at an alarming rate. Spirits
are sagging, roads impassable, trapped in Kiowa, the end may be
near. How fragile a beast hope is."
Other shift reports recovered were in a similar vein as the town
of Kiowa was inundated by a swirling maelstrom of snow. Log from
the graveyard shift, very early morning of April 3 reports the consumption
of the last bit of Nutella and the contemplation of eating core
to stay alive. Spirits were momentarily lifted when Laura Lapey
arrived, having courageously braved the muddy snowy quagmire that
passed for the Kiowa-Bennett road. Such determination and dedication
to the job is reminiscent of such great explorers as Shackleton
April 3, 1999
Morning reports from April 3 records: "A reprieve in the
weather has allowed supplies and fresh coworkers to make it to our
beleaguered outpost. We are recovering as best we can in the Winnebago.
All is not lost and the core continues to come out of the ground.
Oh, how we all wish we could be lounging on the beach that appears
before us in beautiful five-foot segments. Alas, we are 70 million
years too late."
Thus the great storm disappeared and normalcy was restored to Kiowa.
Were coring through the Fox Hills Sandstone, the aforementioned
beach deposits, and drilling is proceeding at a brisk speed of about
45 feet per 12-hour shift. We were visited by the golden brain and
Dena Meade-Hunter, the keeper of the brain. Just before midnight
we processed the second millennium core, 2,000 feet down. This was
marked by much rejoicing and the baptism of Pat (night-drillers
assistant) and Kerri Collins 2-month-old baby girl, Aurora,
who posed for pictures with the core and appeared to be happy to
be part of the show. One wonders what shell think about this
when she is older. Sadly, Amber Taylor, the dancer of the 1,000-foot
jig, was absent. Core retrieval is hovering around 100 percent,
food rations are back to previous levels, and spirits have picked
April 4, 1999
Tim and Laura, who had been working for almost 24 hours, were
relieved by Kirk and Jerry a little past 8:00 a.m. The cores were
composed of muddy sandstone containing shell fragments and abundant
burrows of brackish water critters. Were now coring through
the deposits of a coastal lagoon. At 1:30 p.m., we are coring back
into the remains of another white-sand beach. The marine shales
of the Pierre seaway cannot be far away. Shane and his wife celebrated
Easter by hosting a fine barbecue on the tailgate of his truck.
The low-elevation briquettes refused to light in the howling Kiowa
wind, so the grill was moved into the doghouse. Soon a steady stream
of cheeseburgers and hot dogs were filling the bellies of the hungry
interns. The impossibly cheerful Laura remained amazingly so, even
after her thumb was crushed as the wind slammed the door of the
Winnebago on her unfortunate appendage. Upon close inspection, it
proved to be merely a painful flesh wound. As the evening approached,
Tim awoke and Regan and Richard showed up. By midnight the hole
was 2,125 feet deep and stringers of marine shale and fossil shells
were beginning to show up in the core. This will be the last night
of drilling for Steve Hawkins, the night driller. He is leaving
at 5:30 a.m. Monday to fly to California where in five short days
he will be wed to Clarice Moses. Clarice has been monitoring Steves
behavior on the drill rig via this Web site and has proved to be
quite knowledgeable about geology. Well miss Steve, but wish
him and Clarice well as they head off to their honeymoon in Bora
Bora (no kidding).
April 5, 1999
The day in Kiowa started with a full blizzard. The drill rig
was barely visible from the Ag Building, a distance of less than
100 yards. Six inches of fresh snow covered the ground, and a brisk
breeze was throwing up drifts. In classic Colorado style, the sun
came out and the snow was rapidly reduced to little ponds of water.
By noon, a glorious spring day was under way. Because Steve the
night driller had left to get married, Shane worked with Jerry to
continue the coring. At 3:13 p.m., the target depth of 2,200
feet was reached. Kirk and Bob huddled to determine if enough
stratigraphic data had been collected. One of the scientific goals
of the project is a magnetostratigraphic time scale. The rock at
2,200 feet was heavily burrowed siltstone from the top of the Pierre
Shale. The burrowing by ancient marine invertebrates has been known
to wreak havoc with paleomagnetic data, so we decided to drill on
in hopes of encountering better rock. Layne-Western, the drilling
company, had met their obligation by reaching 2,200 feet, so it
was up to us to pay for the additional drilling at an hourly rate.
We continued drilling until 3:20 a.m. on April 6, when we reached
a depth of 2,255 feet and had started to pull up less-burrowed mudstone.
The bottom of the hole was the top of the open marine deposits,
and we felt that we had met our goal to drill a hole to the top
of the sea. Tim Lucky, who had replaced Steve at the night controls,
and Pat Collins began the process of pulling the drill rods out
of the hole in preparation for the last run at logging the well.
Logging was slated to begin at 6:00 a.m. on April 6.
April 6-Thursday, April 8
The decision to cease coring was not trivial as we knew the
Kiowa bit, in the grip of Tim Lucky, was spinning over the uncharted
depths of the Pierre Sea. However, having reached our targeted strata,
we knew it was time to stop; so, with sweet satisfaction, we called
it quits. The Winnebago bulged and snores soon came from all surface
areas and several of us found overflow space on the floor of the
new Elbert County Agricultural Headquarters Conference Room. We
slept as Tim and Pat pulled pipe. At dawn, the Colog crew arrived
and plunged into the hole with the dainty gamma/resistivity tool.
To our horror, it got hung up at the top of the Fox Hills sandstone,
and we just couldn't get it through. We hauled the tool up and affixed
a chunk of ballast and went back in the hole...only to get the same
results. At this point, we discussed the situation with Shane, who
avowed that nothing could stop the power of the rig and in he went
with the wireline and core grabber to try to force an opening; no
dice. Shane got a look of determination in his eye and a cutting
torch in his hand and soon crafted a pipe saber by slicing off a
chunk of drill pipe. The weight of the drill string combined with
high-pressure mud quickly opened the hole. To be safe, we elected
to leave the drill pipe in at a depth of 1,860 and log the lower,
open part of the hole. Logging went smoothly all day with the gamma/resistivity
followed by the density sonde, followed by the full wave-form sonic
tool and finally by an experimental imaging tool. The imaging tool
yielded no usable images; and, by dark, the logging was complete.
As the crew changed, Shari Kelley--who had been patiently standing
by since driving up from Los Alamos early the previous evening--prepared
to obtain her thermal readings. With the help of Tim and Pat, she
lowered her hand-cranked thermoprobe to the bottom of the hole taking
measurements every few meters. The hand-cranking continued until
5:00 a.m. Wednesday.
Wednesday was devoted to water testing and early efforts to blow
out the lower portion of the hole were only partly successful. By
the end of the day, a few feeble gushes of water had been coaxed
from the Fox Hills sandstone, but it appeared that something was
clogging up the area between the drill pipe and the casing.
Thursday we determined that the Fox Hills sandstone was disaggregating
and causing the blockages. Several water tests produced considerable
sand. By Thursday afternoon we were standing by to obtain a water
sample from the zones of unstable sandstones.
Once the well had officially reached its total depth at 2,256
feet, an exercise of logging, water sampling, and well completion
began. We completed the electric logging as described earlier, then
started to try to obtain water samples from the Fox Hills sandstone.
As pressure was drawn down on the formation, it lost grip of itself
and become sand in the well bore! This hindered efforts to obtain
a clean water sample, and we had to be content with a few liters
of muddy water that came from near the top of the Fox Hills. The
sanded-in pipe presented a challenge for the drillers as they had
to clean out the sand before setting cement in the hole, a state
requirement for abandoning wells. After several days of struggle,
the lower zone was cemented and the drillers started recovering
the casing string. The casing pipe was slowly salvaged and several
more cementing efforts took the bulk of last week. By the weekend,
they were cementing the final zones at the base of the Denver aquifer,
and the well was being prepared as a monitoring well.
On Monday, April 19, the well site was being prepared for abandonment
with the big rig moved off and a cement pad and ceremonial cap getting
installed. Within the next two to three days, we will be bailing
a sample of Denver Aquifer water and cleaning up the location.
Meanwhile, at the USGS Core Repository in Lakewood (west Denver),
the diehard intern team--together with helpful volunteers--are curating
the core, swabbing pipes, repairing torn plastic sleeves, and double-checking
footage numbers. Laura Lapey and Rick Arnold are collecting additional
samples for water analysis and Jason Hicks is obtaining a full set
of oriented paleomagnetic samples. Bob Zielinski of the USGS Central
Energy Team has sampled the Laramie Formation coals to study their
sulphur content and isotopic character.