March 9, 2006
Funded by the
National Science Foundation
Office of Polar Programs
Location: Latitude 64° 2' S, Longitude 55° 09' W
Air Temperature: .2°C
View from the Drilldeck
he first skirmish is over and for once a quiet afternoon beckons, a chance to catch up on paper work, or better still a bit of sleep. But no, under great duress and the threat of having to work for scientists for the rest of my life, I have been persuaded to write an entry for the journal.
Firstly, a big thank you to all the crew on the Palmer from all of us on the drill crew. The average driller is not the sort of guy you would take home to meet your mother. We cut up your ship and weld 300 tons of scrap iron on the aft deck, then cover it in oil and grease. We take over the Filipino's lounge and turn it into a smoke filled den of euchre playing, and still on his arrival Capt. Mike gets out of his taxi, hugs me and says it's great to have us back.
Although there is too much ice to work and once again we have been forced to abandon a hole prematurely, it is a perfect, still day, with the sun shining. On days like this I find myself comparing Antarctica to my home, the Isles of Scilly, a small group of islands in the Atlantic off the Cornish coast. Both have a unique beauty whether it's a still peaceful day like this, or the extreme harshness of the Antarctic compared to the severe winter gales that lash the islands at home. My journalistic skills are inadequate to do either place justice, but it's not a bad life to live in one and work in the other.
Enough of the romantic stuff, but it's what everyone else seems to write and apparently sells books, back to the drilling. At the end of last years SHALDRIL when we all got home and the dust had settled we took a long hard look at what we had done and what we had achieved. The conclusion was that we had got the rig itself just about right and we had not done so well with the in hole tools and this reflected my areas of concentration prior to SHALDRIL 1. So this year apart from a few minor bits of fine tuning the rig is exactly as it was last year. What we have changed for this year is the in hole tools and bits. At the debrief of SHALDRIL 1, myself and Leon Holloway were given the task of finding the ideal set of tools for the conditions that we have down here. What followed for me was a summer of transatlantic travel: 9 round trips in all. For someone who had never visited America before January of last year, it was a bit of a culture shock. It will always amaze me that despite being a former colony, a country that can make ordering a sandwich such a minefield of confusion, can achieve super power status.
Without going into detail, we found 7 different systems all had good points and all had bad, and we finally settled for working with Marshall Pardey and modifying a set of DOSECC tools to both SHALDRIL's and Seacore's needs. We also had a hard look at the bits that we were using last year and decided to move away from oilfield style roller bits and turned to mining style impregnated diamond bits, albeit with a radical cutting design. Its early days yet on this project but initial results are promising.
Finally, I have been asked why no Cornish flag on the rig this year. We are all proud of our Cornish heritage of mining and seafaring. At the end of last year we all felt that we should have done better despite our best efforts. Anyone who has worked in the drilling industry will tell you when things are going wrong is when the work is hardest and last year was a hard trip on all of us. There is a brand new flag on board in amongst the spares and when the rig has earned it, it will be up there.
Looking for good water.
Do you have questions? Comments?