March 8-14 March 15-21 March 23-28 March 29-April 4
Tuesday, March 2, 1999
After 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.
Wednesday, 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.
Thursday, 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.
Friday, 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).
Saturday, 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.
Sunday, 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 1000 feet to land safely in our core tubes.
Monday, 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.
Tuesday, 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 ago.
Wednesday, 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.
Thursday, 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.
Friday, 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, Utah, 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.
Saturday 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 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 councilthey also learned about dog-judging techniques.
Interesting 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 obscurred 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!
Monday, 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.
Tuesday, 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 mid-afternoon, 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.
Wednesday, 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.
Thursday, 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 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 Harms 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 p.m. shift.
Saturday-Sunday, 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 lead 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.
Tuesday-Wednesday, 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 mid-day 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.
Monday, 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 accom- plished 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 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 to sample.
Tuesday, March 30, 1999
Today was a windy and warm day in Kiowa. The drillers continued to slowly ream out the hole. The clay-like 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 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.
Thursday, April 1, 1999
Today 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 the Cretaceous.
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 in Kiowa.
Friday, 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 and Amundsen.
Saturday, 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 up tremendously.
Sunday, 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).
Monday, 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 a.m. on April 6.
Tuesday, 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 openingno 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 Kelleywho had been patiently standing by since driving up from Los Alamos early the previous eveningprepared 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.
Monday, April 19
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 teamtogether with helpful volunteersare 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.