Our scheduled drilling break is coming up soon, and we’ll be headed home for some rest around the 7th. Right now we’re just putting everything in order for when we’re gone, and in the photo below you can see our first two pallets of core boxes are stacked, strapped, and wrapped up. They’ll be stored in shipping containers with the rest of our equipment until we return to finish the project in a few weeks. There might not be any updates on this site until we get back, rested and ready for the next phase of the project. As of the time of this post, we’ve processed rock core to a depth of 3467 feet.
Drilling has been going well lately, and the rock we’re pulling up has been holding together really nicely. I don’t recall ever seeing sticks of core this long before. The picture below shows two full 10-foot runs of core that only have a single fracture in them a couple inches from the bottom! The fractures were probably caused when the runs were extracted, at that point we have no choice but to break the rock away from what’s underneath.
We’ve been seeing more lava flows and less dikes lately, I suspect the number of dike intrusions we intersect in our drilling is proportional to how fractured our runs of core are, even if fractures are commonly “healed” by secondary minerals cementing broken rock back together. Magma pushing its way toward the surface is a messy and forceful process that we’re just not seeing as much of at recent depths. Speaking of depth, by the end of the day today we had processed core to a depth of 3377 feet.
Today we held an Open House for community members and anyone interested in the project to stop by the drill site and learn about what we’re doing. We had a great turnout and a lot of interest from the community, which was an encouraging boost for all of us who have been working long hours every day. In addition to Dr. Donald Thomas who oversees our daily activities, Principal Investigator Dr. Nicole Lautze flew over from Oʻahu to answer questions and explain the project to our visitors. Mahalo to Pūlama Lāna‘i for helping set up this event and getting the word out.
In other news, our 24/7 drilling continues and we’ve now processed rock core down to a depth of 3127 feet.
After a lot of drilling difficulty over the past few days, we were eventually able to do another cement injection and stabilize the hole again. Now we’re back to coring and pulling up a mixture of intrusive (dikes) and extrusive (lava flows) rock. There was an increase in the amount of dike rock today, we’ll be keeping an eye on that and seeing if it’s a trend or just a one-day curiosity. By the end of the day today, we processed core down to a depth of 2927 feet and the rock is really holding together well, what the drillers call “stick core.”
Drilling is making steady progress, pulling up good rock core broken only by a small number of fractures in general. Our science crew loves that, because we can clearly see features in the core like the xenoliths shown below. These xenoliths contain mostly plagioclase feldspar and olivine, common minerals in Hawai‘i rocks, but these are larger mineral grains clustered together into a small rock of their own and found in a dike. This means that the olivine and plagioclase crystallized in a magma chamber and were carried upward in the dike as it fed a surface eruption. The xenolith never reached the surface, but instead cooled within the dike magma within the volcano. Our drilling has allowed us to see interesting features in the rocks like this. By the end of the day today, we processed rock down to a depth of 2707 ft.
Mahalo to Pūlama Lāna‘i for coming out to the drill site and digging us a sump yesterday, this will allow our drill cuttings to settle out so we can re-circulate clean mud back down the hole. Drilling has been productive the last couple days, at the end of the day today we had processed core down to 2597 feet below the surface. We’re seeing a mix of lava flows and intrusions (dikes), with occasional olivine-rich flows being the most altered and friable rock type.
Last night the night crew (see photo below) used a rotary bit to drill through an interval of ~30 feet or so that was difficult for our coring bit. Then they cleaned the hole the rest of the night, in order to remove rock particles that had accumulated at the bottom of the hole. It appears our cement injection worked as intended, sealing off the sidewalls of the hole, and we were back to coring this morning. We’ve realized our mud isn’t viscous enough to carry all these particles all the way to the surface, because its pH is too acidic. We’ll be getting some soda ash to mix into our mud on Wednesday, and the right mixture of that with our drilling mud should eliminate the problem of particles accumulating at the bottom of the hole.
Yesterday the drill crew tried to stabilize the lower reaches of our borehole. A large amount of loose, sand-sized rock particles (probably rock falling in from weak formation units) have collected at the bottom of the hole and we need to circulate them out and block more from coming in. This “sand” grabs at the drill bit and pipe, and won’t let us progress downward with our drilling until we block it off. Our current strategy is to push cement down into the hole and into crevices on the side, so that when the cement hardens it will block the influx of the rock particles. Then we can simply drill out the center of the cemented region, and the hole should be much more stable. Our first addition of cement yesterday didn’t have much effect, but we’re going to try to put in another batch or two over the next few days. If that strategy doesn’t work, we may have to ship in more of the casing that we put in the upper portion of the well and try to seal off the ~800 feet we’ve drilled with that. I’ll post another update when we’ve made some progress on this issue; below is a photo of one small step of the cement job.
Last night the night crew had to trip out all the pipe to remove a stuck core barrel, and then trip it all back in before they could continue drilling. After that the day crew got a few runs of beautiful core before a highly fractured one started causing the same problem they had last night, rock particles from highly friable units falling in from around the sides of the hole. We’re working on a solution to this problem, and hope to rectify it tomorrow. As of the end of the day today, we’ve processed rock core to a depth of 2294 ft.
Today we finally saw our first clear intrusion in the rock core, in fact we saw multiple intrusions. These intrusions are dikes that fed magma to surface eruptions in the distant past, and the magma that cooled into solid rock at depth and never reached the surface is what we’re able to sample by drilling now. Encountering dikes by drilling at the rim of the Lāna‘i caldera was expected, the surprise was that we drilled about 600 feet before finding some! In the picture below, you can see a high-angle dike that intruded into the overlying rock in the far left column of the core box, and some of the features of the dike rock itself like vesicle banding and a slight coarsening of the groundmass (indicated by the gradation to lighter gray color) in the rest of the box. As of this evening, we’ve processed rock core to a depth of 2147 ft below the surface.
Drilling is proceeding steadily and producing some beautifully intact rock core. While I’ll give our drillers a lot of credit for that, the altered nature of the rock is also helping to cement what was once loose and fractured material back together into solid rock. Processing the core is going smoothly as well, today we processed to a depth of 2036 ft.
Drilling is progressing steadily, today we processed core to a depth of 1916 ft. We’ve been drilling in another breccia unit for a full day now, and it’s much thicker than the shallow one I posted about before. This unit probably was the result of a much larger landslide event. Everyone is curious how thick it will end up being, and what the rock will look like underneath.
Drilling progress remains steady, despite the condition of some of the rock we’re recovering. Oxidation, clay, zeolites, and the process of early serpentinization were all observed in the core today by the science team. Below is a photo of a new secondary mineral I don’t recall seeing before, with acicular habit growing inward from the walls of a large vesicle. We have currently processed core to a depth of 1800 ft.
After replacing the transmission on the rig and other servicing over the past couple days, we were back to drilling yesterday afternoon. We’ve made good progress since, and today the science crew processed core down to a depth of 1667 ft. below the surface (from a starting depth of 1480 ft. where we started deepening Well 10). Below is one of the more interesting units we saw today; a breccia that is probably a landslide deposit. Such deposits are common around the rim of the active Kīlauea volcano caldera today, and Well 10 is located at the southern rim of the Pālāwai basin on Lāna‘i – the modern region thought to represent the caldera of the long dormant Lāna‘i volcano.
Aloha, we’re all excited around here as the night shift produced the first ~35′ of rock core for the project. They had a rough time with some of the rig equipment though, so the day shift is currently doing maintenance on the drill rig. The core processing team examined and boxed up the core shown below, the rock looks like it all comes from a single thick pāhoehoe flow. There are few fractures, and the core is chemically altered with secondary minerals (probably zeolites) filling most of the small vesicles and lining the larger ones. The olivine is quite altered and seems to be larger and more abundant with depth in the unit, indicating it settled downward as the hot flow cooled.
The casing insertion and cementation is still a work in progress, so today I’ll talk a little bit about the science side of the project. My crew and I have our area set up and ready to go, off site and down the hill toward Manele Bay where we have shade, water, electricity, and storage space. The sunny weather of Lāna‘i will be a great asset in drying out the core in the boxes before we stack them into storage. Below is a picture of the rig at the end of the day, ready to begin drilling tomorrow.
Over the past couple weeks, the local crew members from Hawai‘i have been setting up the drill site with much-appreciated assistance from Pūlama Lāna‘i. All our shipping containers, vehicles, mixing and storage tanks, and other equipment including the drill rig itself are set up on site and ready to go. Two days ago, the rest of our drilling crew from our partner IDEA Drilling arrived, so everyone is here and ready to get to work. To start the project on the right foot, we had a blessing at the site led by Lāna‘i City’s own Pastor Saul Kahihikolo.
Today at the drill site, the crew inserted PWT (5″ inner diameter) casing into the existing ~1400′ Well 10 and cemented it in place at the bottom. The cement will be checked tomorrow, and if it’s cured solid then they will insert smaller PQ (3.375″ inner diameter) pipe as another layer of casing in the hole and also cement it in place. Finally, once all the casing is in place we can start coring with a HQ bit that produces 2.5″ diameter rock core samples.
Updates will be frequent from now on, stay tuned for more pictures and information!
Last week, Principal Investigator Dr. Nicole Lautze and a small team of graduate students and collaborators visited Lāna‘i in preparation for the upcoming drilling. They met with representatives of Pūlama Lāna‘i (the island’s land and resource management company) and worked out some of the preliminary details concerning housing and other facilities that will be made available to the project.
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa President David Lassner was on Lāna‘i and took the time to come and visit the Well 10 site that we hope to begin deepening within the next few weeks, showing his support for the project.
Mahalo to Pūlama Lāna‘i and President Lassner for your help and support! All of our gear is expected to be on the island sometime next week, and then we’ll begin preparing the site and hole for drilling. Check back here for more updates soon, which will become daily updates once drilling begins.
This unique project seeks to explore the geologic structures that exist in the caldera region of Hawaiian volcanoes; how those structures influence groundwater storage and flow; and how the magmatic heat from Hawaiian shield volcanoes cools over time.
This site will provide updates as the project progresses, so welcome and stay tuned!