RAID Project Updates – December 2016


The RAID Scientific Drilling Project Team continues to send updates as the project progresses.  Here are the updates for December 2016.

See October/November updates here.

Check back here for regular updates as they are added. See the original project description here.



Heavy fog today.  It is very cold and the internet just came online.  We had a troop of 8 distinguished visitors out yesterday.  Kelly Falkner, head of Polar science for the NSF, among others.  We refit an auger bit to attach to a piece of HWT.  We will RIH the HWT and slowly turn the bit forcing all cuttings to the center of the HWT.  We will then RIH NQ rod hooked up to the air package and try to air lift the remaining cuttings from the hole.


We had a brilliant idea to try and air lift the remaining fill out of the bore hole by running in with HWT casing and an auger bit welded up to funnel the cuttings inside the casing.  We then ran into the HWT casing the NQ rod and directed air through the swivel down the NQ picking up the cuttings and lifting them to the surface. We were able to use this technique for about 20 feet and then we started seeing some torque and lower penetration.  Erring on the side of caution, we started pulling back to make sure the hole was in good condition.  The hole was torquey the 20 feet that we had drilled.   Looking at the process, we think that the air was melting the bore wall a little and the re-freeze was deforming the bore hole. We worked the rods out and that was the end of the day.  John, Jeff, Blaise and Mike Jackson all arrived yesterday.   We are expecting Nature McGinn today from environmental.  We will continue to Auger today by adding NQ rod to the auger string. And doing some more pull back to the surface.


Today we tried to auger a little further by crossing over a NRQ rod to the top of an auger.  We were able to drill ahead for another 30 feet, but in the removal process, there was a large amount of cuttings we were lifting to evacuate the hole.  We stopped several times to discuss the situation and try new approaches to removing the cuttings.  In the end, when we started coming out of the hole, the cuttings were binding and refroze to the bore wall.  The augers became stuck and after an hour of working them, the pin between auger 12 and 13 of 31 augers sheared and separated the string.  So we have steel in the hole.  There are a few ways to get it out, one involves using glycol to melt the cuttings away from the steel, and thereby free up the augers.  We are looking for guidance from environmental about using this in open hole.  We will be working on unsticking these augers tomorrow in the morning.  We are in parallel looking for alternative augers that may be available in McM and or NZ or AUS. So a setback today, but we will prevail.

We had Nature McGinn, on site today from the NSF Environmental group and Greg Anderson from NSF EAR.


We are currently awaiting word from McM on additional augers and the possibility of using glycol to flood the hole and start melting the ice around the augers. Stay tuned.


We were given permission to add 5 gallons of glycol to the bore hole.  We made some preparations yesterday but were waiting for Alex Pyne to weigh in on a call at 2000 hours. So we shut down last night and cleaned up.  We were back at it this morning and were able to fish in a delivery tube for the glycol to approximately 65 fbs.  The glycol delivery in in a 1/4″ nylon tube was tapped to a piece of flat bar iron and inserted between the hole and the augers.  Five 1/16″ holes were drilled into the tube and allowed the glycol to weep out when pressured.  I have some pics and videos of the process.  We are waiting to see if the glycol will loosen up the cuttings around the auger and release it


We applied the prescribed 50/50 glycol to the hole yesterday in gallon increments every other hour, waiting an hour for the glycol to cook.  The 1/4″ nylon tubing and the steel weight started out 59′ and we were able to get it to go to 82′ by end of day.  We pulled the augers via a nylon strap that we lassoed around the top of the string and pulled in tension to see if the augers would come free while we were soaking them with the glycol solution.  We let the solution soak in overnight and this morning we were able to get the tubing to drop another 10′.  We added another gallon of 50/50 glycol and will let it cook another hour.  We have put out feelers for other available augers and have found a company in Christchurch NZ that can build “like” units and the drilling world group whom we purchased through last time has 51 units in Ca.  We are hoping that we can get these augers unstuck and resume on a new hole soon.

Still Stuck.


We had some bad weather today 37 knots, 42 mph winds.  That’s the Antarctic experience I remember from January. Needless to say it was a cold, blustery day. We emptied all of our allotted glycol today and we have not seen the augers budge with the nylon strap attached.  The nylon strap is only rated to 6400 lbs. and the rig can pull 92400 lbs. So we are really trying to take it easy.  A great idea came about today from one of our drillers Will Samuels.  It is called “Magic Pin.” In essence, we sent down an auger with a box end and a pin that is kept out of the slide path by a pull pin.  The magic pin has a bungee cord around it, so when the pull pin is pulled, Whammo! “Magic pin,” and we are hooked up to the augers again.  We started sending it down the hole this evening and had a malfunction that will require a brace welded onto the pin sleeve.  We will repair that in the morning and then we will RIH the Magic pin.

With any luck we will nipple up to the augers and have rotation capacity and pull capacity to try and free them up.


We have Magic Pinned the augers and we have worked them to the top of the hole.  They are free!  We had the magic pinned auger back to surface by 2000 hrs last night, and the boys are out pulling the remainder of the augers today. We are going to rig down today and try to move to site A-1.2 today and tomorrow.


We were moving to hole 2 on site A1, but after reviewing the downhole video, we opted to bail out the remaining cuttings and try to set the packer at the 48 mbs mark.  We need to hold pressure against the bore wall in order to keep our fluids circulating properly.  So using the 4.5″ HWT Casing on hand, we started to bail out the cuttings in the 7.25″ hole.  Slow and tedious.  We continued today to bail and we are currently RIH the packer to try and get a borehole seal.


Raid Team we bailed and reamed the hole down to 164 fbs and tried to polish the bore hole in order to get a good seal.  We ran in the hole the packer and set the packer with 170 psi compressed oxygen, the packer was set well and tight.  We introduced air into the bore hole and tried to pressure it for an hour.  No pressure would build, and we would get an instantaneous bleed off.  The best guess is we are not deep enough yet to exclude the firn. We carry on tomorrow.  We will attempt to use the bailer in order to get an ice core in the morning and we will try to get a little deeper.


We auger bailed slowly all day to get to 56mbs.  We took an ice core with the HWT bailer and got 5′ core with which we measured and weighed to find a bulk density 90 g/cm^3. It is still a little below that, however, because of the edge melt from the friction of the bailer.  Jeff S. will hone the calculation in to what it really is.


Another day has come and gone.  We tried another packer set @ 54 mbs yesterday without any pressure building.  The bore hole still seems to be taking the air supplied through the drill rod and escaping into the firn.  We will be augering and bailing more today to get to the 70mbs mark.


On the 12th we augered/bailed in order to get the hole deeper.  We are underestimated on the number of augers we needed in order to get to the ice/firn transition where we need to set the packer, so we are using this stop gap measure to chew into the firn a little deeper and then using bailing techniques to remove the cuttings.  Not as much fun as one would think, but we are making slow progress.  By the EOD 12th we were bailed to 217 fbs but bailed to 202.  The same thing occurred on the 13th, with the result as augered to 232 fbs and bailed to 220.5fbs.  We are looking to the 229 fbs (70 mbs) as what is hoped as the maximum lower boundary we would need to go.  By EOD 13th, we were at 220.5 (67.25mbs) and we wanted to run a packer test. So into the fray one more time.  The packer was set at 67.25mbs with a 200 psi internal pressure, and 100psi was applied a bleed off 50 psi happened in 3 min.  The test was redone and a 50 psi bleed was observed in 2 min 15 sec. The packer was bumped to 300psi and the same bleed off 100 to 50 psi occurred in 2 min 10 sec.  The packer was inflated to 400 psi and the bleed off occurred in 1 min 15 sec.  The final packer test was done at 500 psi and the bleed rate went to 1 min 04 sec.

So, we are seeing something positive.  At least we can build pressure.  We are getting into the transition now.  But the decrease in bleed off time for the same internal pressure, but an increasing packer set pressure leads us to believe that we are developing a bleed path through the firn around the packer.  In previous years we saw a radically slower bleed rate when the packer set pressure went up.

So, onward and deeper today! As the Japanese would say Ganbare Masho! Let’s do our best!


We had another day of augering to try and get to 70+ mbs.  It was a slower progress day than the previous 2 days as we are drilling into virgin ice and the cuttings don’t want to pack up and stay on the augers as well.  At about 1600 hrs we started to experience stickiness in the hole.  The driller on shift pulled back on the hybrid auger/NQ string and it started getting tight and the rotation was torquey and ultimately stopped.  We worked the rods for 30 min and regrouped to discuss with the client.  It was decided to RIH 30 gal of Estisol to try and lubricate the chips and unstick them.  The Estisol was pumped in through a second NQ string run to the cuttings interface and delivered the Estisol to the point.  We worked the rods again with no luck and then decided to put the rods in tension and see if we could get the steel to creep overnight.  As of this morning, the rods were still stuck. We are pulling gingerly because we know we can shear the pins on the augers and we don’t want to lose connectivity.
We have asked for the ability to use glycol again and are awaiting the answer.

Super bummer.  Sorry for the bad news.  We will probably abandon this hole and move to A1.2.


All day yesterday we were on standby waiting on orders (WOO) from NSF for the permission to use glycol on the hole to help unstick the auger flights again.  We worked the rods several times to no avail.  We received word to proceed this morning with the glycol.  With more glycol introduction into the hole, we will more than likely need to move to hole 2, as the glycol will severely damage the hole, but we will review that after the fact.

We have made a running decision that has been backed by the NSF crew not to run in augers anymore if they go below the surface.  So we may be seeing some down days WOA (waiting on augers).


We have been adding glycol to the hole very slowly at small increments of 1/2 gallon at a time.  We have a little time before our augers are here, so we are trying to see what the minimum amount of glycol we can add in order to free the augers.   With the borehole camera down hole, we can see the glycol melt the chips at the top of the augers.  We have not been successful at getting the glycol fish to run in the gap between the augers and the bore wall.  We believe this is due to the tighter tolerance between the augers and wall due to the slow rotation with which we have been cutting and bailing with in this zone.  We are pretty confident that they will come free and we will look at hole condition at that time.

On another note, we are anticipating the augers, which are in the USAP cargo system in Christchurch.  The intended air cargo date to McM was Dec. 21 with anticipated delivery to RAID site on Dec. 23.  There have been a few recent delayed flights from Christchurch to McM and with USAP rules, such that passengers get priority over cargo, it might be that we don’t see the augers until after Christmas.  We have applied for and received an extension to the field season that will allow us operation time, helo time and camp staff until Jan 7th. So this could be a major help to meeting our goals.  I want to thank all of the camp staff, traverse staff, in town managers, USAP shipping and logistics people, on station NSF reps, Science reps, Environmental reps, and all those back in Denver and Washington for keeping this a positive experience and even though were in the face of challenge being supportive and helpful to see RAID succeed.

Thanks for being part of the team.


We have had heavy storms the last 2 days and winds in the 22 knots/25 mph, with drifts upwards of 2’ and 6-8” of snow.   We worked the rods 3 times again yesterday and added more glycol in ½ gallon increments.  There was some slight movement in the rods as of last night.  We are still pulling lightly in order to ensure we do not separate the string.  Once the augers are free and out, we will assess the hole for another packer test.


We were able to get about 10” of movement in the rods last night.  We let the glycol cook again over night and this morning we pulled and rotated and finally worked the rods free.  We got everything out of the hole with the exception of one of the cutter bits.  So the augers are out of the hole at this point. We are looking at the borehole integrity, and determining whether or not this is a viable hole still.


Yesterday we got the augers out of the hole and all recovered.  We have demobilized off of site A-1.1 and have moved to site A-1.2 We will be set up early this afternoon.  If the helicopters make it out today we will have the new augers to get us to the desired depth of 70-79 mbs.  The augers were on the c-130 flight yesterday and are in McM now.  We should be ready for the augers when they arrive.

We will auger this next hole directly to the bottom and withdraw the augers as quickly as possible.  Any cuttings remaining will be bailed by the HWT and or 6-5/8” wireline bailer.  The target is to set the packer at 75mbs. 

After verification of the packer seal, we will RIH with the ice coring suite and try to obtain 2 ice core runs.  After that we will RIH the NCA assemblies and rotary drill to the ice/bedrock transition.  We will then RIH the ALN rock coring suite and after obtaining two 3m cores we will unload the hole of Estisol, and move to site A-1.3. 


We have successfully moved over to the new drill pad @ A-1.2.  It was a 10 hour process, with a few things we can improve on.  Keeping the generators warm so they are ready to start on demand would save an hour.  So as far as our check off list is concerned we were rigged down in about 6 hrs, but it still was not 100%  some items were shuffled to the pad without complete tear down.  So we will say 8 hrs to rig down and 10 hrs to rig up.

We received the 20 extra augers today at about 1500 hrs and the X-overs were fabricated and welded up.   We will start augering in the morning. With the goal to have the packer test by EOD.


We successfully augered to 258.75 fbs, with little to no torque issues on the way out.  Just like it should be.  Good job Drill crew. We also had a success as we pulled out of hole we had much more cuttings on the augers on the way out, which lead to a 10% fill ratio in the hole.  That is the best we have seen as yet.  We also bailed the hole 6 more feet using the wireline 6-5/8″ bailer.  We were successful 1 in 5 times with the bailer and then we sent the camera back down to look, and found a plaque of cuttings around the borehole wall where the bailer had removed the cuttings, making a friction stop for the bailer not allowing it to get deeper.  We were not able to get a packer test in today.  We are doing that this morning. 


We have tried a packer to seal at 228-232 fbs without success.  We bailed the hole to 249fbs and that is where we stopped yesterday.   We will continue to bail to the 258fbs mark and then we will adapt a Kovacs core tool to the end of the HWT and try get a core we can get a density from.  We will then proceed to run a packer test.


We have bailed the hole to 255fbs (77 mbs) and we have 3’ of fill left in the hole.  We are trying to bail that this morning using our rocket reamer (see attached) and basically stuffing the cuttings into the end of the HWT casing that the reamer is made of.  The rocket reamer (RR) was made onsite here and the volume of the hole relative to the volume of the RR is 3:1 so you can see why it takes many trips in and out of the hole in order to “Bail” cuttings.  We have currently drilled the hole with the reamer to 260 fbs and are ready to take a Kovacs auger core and set the packer again to see if we get a seal.


Some disappointing news today.  We were not able to get the packer to seal and we believe we have not yet passed the ice/firn transition. 

We set a packer 252-256fbs (76.8-78.0mbs) at the maximum hole depth we could make and then bail with augers of 259 fbs (78.9m).  On top of that the Kovacs auger twisted off at the glue bonding joint between the top of the barrel and the stainless adapter. 

We are at this point running in the second packer to exclude any issues with the packer from the bleed rate.

If this packer test resembles the others of yesterday, we will probably be looking to move over and start another auger hole just to replicate and verify we can get at least 10% fill or less.


Merry Christmas!

We started the day RIH our back up packer to try and see if we could exclude the last item in the casing set as a potential faulty part that may be leaking.  The backup packer went in the hole and we inflated it to 400 psi. Then we dumped air into the space below the packer to 100 psi and we got the same results as on the 24th with the primary packer.  So we decided that we would try and frac the hole with a higher insert pressure. So we dumped the more air into the borehole. 500 psi gage reading at the surface, but probably a little less at the bottom.  The air just ran away with no noticeable change in bleed rate. So frac test is inconclusive.  We spent the rest of the day cleaning organizing and some light inventory. We are currently in standby waiting on orders (WOO).  


We have been in a single continuing storm since 12/22 that has progressively gotten worse and worse over the last 5 days.   All of the equipment is functioning well including the drill tent.  Yesterday while waiting for a helicopter run that still hasn’t happened we decided to start inventorying the items we would need to replenish and start the winterization of the FRS container as it will be unusable this year without a casing set deep enough to circulate the hole.  So we have removed all sensitive electronics components except from the air compressor and the HMI/PLC.  We disassembled the reefer duct work and bulkhead into the FRS. 

Yesterday afternoon after discussion with john and Jeff our new priority is to fish the kovacs auger from the hole A-1.2, then weather permitting move about 10’ and re-auger the top section for experience and to verify we can do it leaving 10% fill. If there is time we may do that another time.  If not we are preparing to winterize, pack up and be ready to fly to McM on Wednesday the 3rd. Will and I will stay here and finish winterization as needed and we will fly back to McM at the first available transport.

12-27 and 12-28, 2016

We were notified yesterday that we need to wrap up here at Minna Bluff and bring “Big Red” in for the winter.  A little disappointing since we were not able to accomplish most of the goals we had set out to do.  But c’est la vie.  We have been working yesterday and today to winterize everything that we can inside of the modules.  We are still in a midsummer night’s squall out here with high winds and driving snow.  Some of the drifts are getting ridiculously tall here and are almost black diamond worthy.  We are looking for a small window in which to drop the tent and jack down the ROD and DRILL modules.  

So far we have accomplished winterization of 50% of the ROD, 10% of the DRILL, 50% of the POWER, 99% of the FRS, and 50% shop.  We need to put all of the DNF items into their respective crates for shipment home on the vessel this year, and get an inventory of those items.  

We will continue with De-mob and Rig down through the week end with scheduled helicopter transport next week.


The weather finally broke yesterday morning early so we went to work at 0400 to capitalize on the calmness.  We were able to get the tent down and stowed.  The drill and rod units have been broken down and the ROD winter cover is about 90% finished.  We should finish the winterization by tomorrow night.  Our current intended departure from Minna Bluff is on Monday.

12-30 and 12-31, 2016

As of 1700 hrs last night we are officially rigged down and completely winterized.  The ROD module was towed off this morning to the 2nd crevasse, with the remainder of the unused fuel (12000 gal).  We are scheduled for evac tomorrow morning at 1100 hrs.  We will be in McM handling all the northbound shipments @ Sci cargo for the DNF. The northbound flights for the crews are pending.


01-01 and 01-02, 2017

We are still in de-mob and Northbound movement.  We were able to EVAC Minna Bluff yesterday and get back to porcelain and 5+ gallon showers.

We are returning USAP equipment as we can and prepping to fly north.


We are set to bag drag tonight for 0700 am flight northbound tomorrow.  Inclement weather is on the horizon and may hamper the plan, but as of now we should be Northbound tomorrow.


Just marking time.  The weather turned bad yesterday and the C-130’s scheduled to fly were grounded.  So we are now set to fly on the 6th.


Waiting on Northbound Flights. Looks like Saturday The 7th.


We went to get on the plane this morning @11:30 and were informed that we as a group were not leaving today, so we are here until Monday, when the next flight is scheduled.


Standby.  Looking to fly tomorrow.


Travel home!