March 19, 2006
Funded by the
National Science Foundation
Office of Polar Programs
Location: Latitude 63° 17.016' S, Longitude 52° 46.020' W
Air Temperature: -6.0°C
We are getting ready to shoot another seismic line in order to tie our drill sites together. This is an important component to making use of the information that we get from the drill cores-it allows us not only to know the facies and ages at one single spot, but also to extend that knowledge across the sedimentary basin. The sites we intended to drill this year are located along seismic lines that were shot in 1991. However, ice conditions have not allowed us to occupy those stations and we have had to select new sites where we have found water. The fact that the NB Palmer has the necessary equipment to collect seismic data, as well as drill core, has made it possible for us to adapt to the environmental conditions. We are ready to work wherever we end up.
Even though collection of this new seismic data was necessary at some point, it was not on today's agenda. We had been drilling into a section presumed to be early Miocene and had a long way to go with the hole. However, the drill pipe just parted again and we have lost the majority of another bottom hole assembly, as well as the coring tools this time. A few days ago, we lost the entire string of collars, the bottom hole assembly, and bit, but recovered the coring tool. That loss is being attributed to having started the hole at an angle, potentially due to currents. At this site, the loss must be due to something different as there is no indication that the hole was begun at an angle. The problem may be in the design of the upper portion of the bottom hole assembly, or simply due to fatigue in the metal. I don't yet know if we should be pleased that each of these losses has a separate identifiable cause, which can in some way be solved, or if two problems portend a third.
The fact that I have ended up in an academic discipline with such a significant component of work involving physical labor is a bit of a surprise. Academics as a general rule do things like read and write full time. But geology has a type of work that won't ever be found in much of the ivory tower. Yet it is essential to much of the research effort and being entirely dependent on others to get the data for you is extremely limiting. Starting such work, I was painfully aware that I lacked some of the more general experiences that might have helped build competence in things like fixing boat engines or building a coring apparatus. I have never used a lawn mower, much less taken its motor out for some other purpose. I have certainly never used a chain saw or for that matter almost any other kind of saw. After a little while, I came to believe that this lack of experience was not necessarily as much of a hindrance as I had feared. I knew I didn't know how to do certain things. There was no pretending that I had had these other experiences. I had to ask. I would have been doomed if I tried to guess my way through things.
Hanging around and chatting recently, while waiting for the stuck sampling tool to come out of the drill pipe, an incident was mentioned and I was asked if I would like to tell the story. Despite what I wrote in my most recent journal entry, I deferred and listened rather than tell the story myself. Although I knew the story from personal experience, I had never heard it told. I was completely taken off guard that it so radically did not match my own memory of the events. Of course, we all remember things differently and that is why it is so valuable to talk to different people, whether it is to figure out the details of ozone hole development or just to remember what we have done. But, because of the facts I have told in the above paragraph, I feel quite confident that at least part of what I heard earlier cannot be true.
So, I am again ready to tell the story myself. I am about to go to a shift change meeting and I am quite sure that I can adequately explain why our coring apparatus is still in the ground back at the last site. I can't however say how long it might be until we have some more core aboard.
Sheared pipe; photo by Jesse Doren.
Do you have questions? Comments?