Taking a break from drilling soon, 3467′

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.

The first two pallets of core boxes are finished and ready for eventual shipping, they contain just over the first 1350′ of core we’ve drilled.

Mostly lava flows, 3377′

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.

Two sticks of core that are nearly 10 feet long.

Open House! 3127′

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.

The flier posted around town to inform people of our open house.


We’re coring again and getting “stick core,” 2927′

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.”

A 7-foot unbroken length of core, the longest we’ve seen on this project so far.


Interesting rocks, 2707′

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.

A large and a small xenolith, composed of plagioclase feldspar and a bit of olivine, are contained in this dike rock in the core.


Sump dug, 2597′

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.

Chris gives a shaka from atop the derrick, indicating everything is going well today.


Coring again, 2386′

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.

A shot of the rig at night as the drill crew works under the lights.

Attempting to stabilize the hole with cement

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.

Ron uses the forklift to position a giant sack of dry cement over a feeder container, while Ray releases the cement into it and Chris looks on. This feeder can add dry cement to water at a rate of our choosing as we mix up a batch to inject into the hole.

A mix of good and difficult drilling, 2294′

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.

Bryan and Ron remove a messy run of rock core from the tube while driller Ray looks on.

Multiple intrusions, 2147′

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.

A high angle intrusive contact (far left column) and the dike rock associated with it.

Steady drilling progress, 2036′

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.

A panorama of the drill site and a beautiful view of the highest ridge on Lāna‘i in the background; if you click on the image and zoom in above the trailer on the right, you can see Kahoʻolawe volcano and even East Maui as well.

Thick breccia unit, 1916′

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.

A representative core box that contains some of the thick breccia unit

More strongly altered rock, 1800′

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.

An unknown secondary mineral with acicular (needle-like) habit grows inward from the walls of a large vesicle.


Good drilling progress, first breccia unit, 1667′

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.

A breccia unit we processed today, which is probably a landslide deposit from the rim of the ancient Lāna‘i caldera.


First core of the project!

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 first ~35′ of rock core dries quickly in the Lāna‘i sun

Cementing the casing still in progress, core processing area ready

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.

By the end of the day, the casing was cemented in place and now drill rods are stacked and ready for drilling tomorrow.


The site has been blessed and drilling preparations are nearly complete

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.

The entire drill crew and science staff gather at the drill site for a blessing before we enter the well.

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!

Gearing up for Lāna‘i Drilling

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.

Principal Investigator Dr. Nicole Lautze explains the science and goals of the Lāna‘i Hydrogeochemistry project to UH Mānoa President David Lassner (photo courtesy of Dr. Scott Rowland).

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.



Palawai Basin From Lanaihale

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!