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Victoria University Antarctic Research Expedition Science and Logistics Reports 1998-99: VUWAE 43


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2.1 General Comment

The operation of the CRP-2 drill site which includes drilling/science support and scientific programmes worked well most of the time. I believe that the major part of the success of CRP-2 is due to the crew of highly motivated and experienced drilling, science and project support staff working at the site. Drilling is normally an unpredictable task and this is made even less predictable in this area of Antarctica where each new hole we drill has to be considered as a wild cat. Decisions on drilling operations which usually affect the entire drill site operations and routine must often be made at very short notice and this is a fact that project operators, scientists and support organisations have to accept.

Support staff provided excellent service in the running and maintenance of drill site services and supplies including fuel, drill fluid supplies and drill rod. Some of the drill fluid components were flown from New Zealand and these arrived at the drill site by helicopter but any lack of supplies on site did not stop drilling at any time.

2.2 Drilling/Science Liaison.

This season the drilling group and the science group worked well together at the drill site. Drilling decisions and options were discussed regularly (hourly) between the Drilling Manager (DM) and Science Support Manager (SSM) and changes in operations undertaken after consultation. When a major decision was required (eg casing) then options and strategy was discussed at the drill site then presented to the Chief Scientist and Project Manager for discussion and agreement.

Communications between the management at the Drill Site and Camp were difficult at times due in part to the lack of a secure phone line between the two sites and the long hours worked by personnel at both sites left little time for meeting after shifts. We are not prepared to detailed drilling discussions by public radio. A phone line of electronic data quality is requested to connect the two sites possibly via Scott Base to improve communication and daily reporting.

The high workload of the management personnel at the drill site is also of concern and a assistant Science Support Manager is proposed to share the drill site management and science support roles. I hope that this new position will also improve our ability to allow the core technicians a day off every two weeks.

2.3 Personnel.

Drill site personnel worked 12 hour shifts on site and normally had a 13 to 14 hour work day when the shift change transport (Helo/Hagglund) is added. After routine drill site operations had begun the long work day meant most drill site personnel were tired when returning to camp and usually weren't able to partake in after work recreational activities. The uncertain nature of the day to day drilling operation also means that planned recreation was usually difficult for drill site personnel. However it was disappointing that they were often forgotten while personnel at the camp were able to go on trips and I believe moral suffered.

The experienced drill site personnel understand and accept the uncertain nature of drilling operations and would normally expect to work through the drilling period without planned page break time off. To try and force the drilling programme and personnel with a rigid time off plan is unrealistic as it would require extra personnel and training and I believe could seriously compromise the drilling and drill site science operation. It is therefore very important to have a commitment to a recreational programme in place for drill site personnel once all drill site activities are completed. Many of the drilling and science personnel take pay cuts to come to Antarctica and are attracted not only by the challenges of Antarctic drilling and science but they are also interested in other aspects of the Antarctic environment. To send them home without wider antarctic opportunities would be unacceptable. The recreational opportunity that was available in the Wright Valley after drilling I believe was well received by those who could take advantage of it and similar opportunities will be required in the future.

2.4 Catering.

The quality of food provided to the drill site for mid shift meals was generally poor and much of the food was returned to the camp uneaten. In my experience the drill site food was generally of a lower standard that that available at the camp for the same meal times. I believe the reason for this was some food stock were of poor quality (saveloys, old pork chops etc) but also that the Camp's professional chef was uninspired. When the chef had a day off (and left early) the food quality at the drill site improved immeasurably when prepared by Colleen and Kath and replacement cook Leslie.

2.5 Drill Site Visitors.

I did not keep records of the exact number of people who had the opportunity to visit the drill site but I believe it was in the order of 80 to 90 during the coring phase of the drilling and included most of the Crary Lab science group. Both the drilling manager and myself agree that visitors to the drill site are an important consequence of the Cape Roberts Project but I wish to point out that visitor activities were never a planned part of the drill site operations. I think the extent of the visitor program came close to compromising our ability to maintain to the normal routine (especially in the science lab) and respond to any drill site problems on some days. It was disappointing that those people responsible for planning visitor programmes in the ANZ office did not discuss their intentions with management of the camp and drill site in a timely fashion (pre season) and appeared to act as if the visitors took precedence without any consideration to the possible impact to the drilling operations. This season I believe most visitors had a good impression of the entire drill site operation due to the programme that the DM and SSM provided but carrying this out cut heavily into our time. This programme contained the following:
  • Visitors were only acceptable during the day shift when both DM and SSM were on shift. Visitors were not acceptable at shift change when personnel hand-over was a priority and when core was readied for transport. Any visitors arriving on shift change helos arrived last and usually were requested to wait in the mess/area until either the DM or SSM were available to brief them, initially on safety issues and drill site etiquette.
  • The DM and SSM normally personally conducted drill site tours so that expert opinion could be provided on all aspects of drill site operations and that hazardous areas and drill site etiquette could be pointed out. Visitors who stayed for longer periods were encouraged to look around after the "official tour" and many remarked that they understood much more detail of the drill site operation after observing the operation in their own time. Visitors received the better experience when coring was taking place so that core recovery, core processing and the science routines could be observed.

2.6 Shift change - Helos and Hagglunds.

In the initial set-up and decommissioning periods prior to and after the continuous 24 hour page break drill site operations the Hagglunds were used to move personnel to and from the drill site. We could improve the efficiency and reduce the stress on personnel during these short periods in the future by using helos and this should be planned for at the beginning of the season.

When the routine 24 hour operations began helos were used for most shift changes except on the few occasions when the weather conditions did not allow flying. During these times Hagglunds were used on an established road but unfortunately the road surface conditions were drifted up because of the bad weather and a trip to the drill site often took in excess of 1.5 hours, hence shift changes were late and drill site personnel quickly became further fatigued. The project should investigate procuring a snow drag that can be towed behind the Hagglunds so that a raised snow road can be constructed and maintained that is less susceptible to drifting. Normal travel of Hagglunds to the drill site during non shift changes by support staff should be sufficient to maintain the snow road once constructed by heavy plant.

An ice road for heavy plant and sledge traffic should be maintained nearby using the same flag route marking.

2.7 Drill-site Lab and Operation

This season's improved Drill-site Lab set-up and operation generally worked very well. Some operations are still a bit cramped but tolerable (core physical properties measurements) but there is no room for further activities. It was noticeable that the day shift suffered greater disruption to the routine primarily due to visitors (see above) but personnel generally coped remarkably well. For details of 1999 requirements/purchases etc. see appendix 1 to this report.

2.8 Cargo to and from the Drill Site and New Zealand

The documentation accompanying cargo needs to be improved so that in the coming season a updated file of drill site cargo and supplies can be maintained by the Science Manager. This is required for equipment and supplies arriving both from the camp and cargo arriving by helicopter from Scott Base.

The movement of cargo from New Zealand to Scott Base and onto the drill site was generally handled well but serious delays and potential damage occurred at Scott Base when cargo was being returned to New Zealand. Even after specific requests from the CRP Liason Officer cargo still remained in the garage another two weeks because of inaction by the stores system. When this valuable and fragile scientific equipment finally returned to Wellington it was contaminated with transparent plastic pellets, sand and ash of unknown origin. I am concerned that the CRP Liason officer has to do many tasks personally that would normally be done by Scott Base staff servicing any of the New Zealand field programs.

2.9 Drill Site Environmental Audit

Fuel, oils and lubricants.

No fuel spills during transfer of drums from Aalener sledges to refuelling Hagglund sledge and pumping into Generator, Drill Rig and Science Lab holding tanks. JP8 and Mogas Herman Nelson hot air machines were refuelled at the equipment pumped from a 209 litre drum and plastic Jerry cans.

Waste oils, primarily from routine generator and drill rig oil changes stored in a 209 litre drum in the Italian tent.

Minor hydraulic connector leaks on the rig floor were captured in the underslung tarpaulin and fluid transferred to a waste oil drum. This tarpaulin could be improved by getting a new one cut to position beneath the rig floor and so it would interfere less with tidal monitoring page break attached to the sea riser.


Twenty four Anzomex P explosive primers (0.5 kg each.) with detonators were fired beneath the sea ice for the Vertical Seismic Profiling experiment on 30 November. Seal observations in the drill site area were made daily from the shift change helicopters and seals investigated if within 2 km of the drill site. Lone seals were noted on 10 November 1.4 and 1 km North West of the drill site but they had left after two days. A single seal was noted on 23 November 0.6+ km south of the drill rig and remained less than 24 hours. All seals did not have ice holes when investigated and were transient. No seals were observed in the drill site area on the 7 days leading up to the VSP experiment.

A explosive cutter was used to sever the sea riser casing at the sea floor in 178 m of water on 01 December.


Up to 2 litres of food grade glycol was used in gas detection system. Most of this was recovered on decommissioning the site and consigned to the waste oil containers. No chemical consumables are used in the laboratory operations. The radioactive sources installed in the core logging equipment and used during down-hole logging were used routinely without incident and transported from the drill site after use.

Drilling Cuttings

Sediment recovered from the drill fluid by centrifuge and sediment rich sea water from the Laboratory core cutting saws and sink was dumped on the sea ice 50 m west of the Lab. Some cuttings and minor spilled drill fluid from the centrifuge were returned directly to the sea via the sea ice access holes.

Sea Floor Impact

Drill fluids and cuttings and grout (cement) reached the sea floor during the riser installation to 6.25 m bsf, coring ahead with HQ to 57.5 m bsf and a second riser installation to 13 m bsf. After the second riser installation no drill fluid or cuttings were observed with the submarine video that exited the annulus around the riser at the sea floor. A flat cone of cuttings and cement was created on the sea floor that was less than 5 m in diameter and 0.6 m high with an approximate volume of 1.25 cubic metres.

During this phase of riser installation and HQ coring ahead a volume of 300 cubic metres of drill fluid was used comprising 17.5 tonnes of biodegradable dry mud products that was dispersed into the sea water at the sea floor. Cementing the riser used 2.2 tonnes of dry cement to mix 1.1 cubic metres of grout that was distributed in the annulus around the riser to a depth of 13 m bsf and in the sea floor cuttings. Drill fluids used after installation of the riser and sealing at the sea floor annulus were not observed exiting the sea floor in the video system field of view and were presumed to be lost to the formation.

Drill Fluids CRP-2/2A

Total drill fluids used: 600 cubic metres (38 tonnes of biodegradable dry products or inert mineral products [mica and barytes).

Total cement fluid grout 1.385 cubic metres (2.64 tonnes of dry product).

Casing and hole completion

HQ casing (with barrel assembly later drilled out) was cemented at 199.3 m bsf. This casing was cut off around 70? m bsf [confirm with drilling manager's report] leaving approximately 130m of casing cemented in the well. The cut off HQ casing was with- drawn to expose the formation above 70? m bsf for down hole logging but immediately bridged at the 25 m and probably collapsed down to the casing cut off.

The hole was sealed above 25 m bsf with 165 litres of grout on December 1?

The sea riser casing was cut off about 1-1.5 m bsf leaving approximately 12.5 m of casing page break cemented below the sea floor.

Drill Fluid spillage.

Spills were minor in 1998. This is not a environmental problem as this material comprises sea water and biodegradable products. In the colder part of the season spills on the sea ice surface froze and were shovelled up and either dumped through the ice hole or taken to the surface dumping area or reused if the product was clean. The problem is that later in the season when ice temperatures have warmed the saline enriched fluid is corrosive on and penetrates the sea ice causing premature weakening of the sea ice structure. We should consider ways to capture/divert spilt drill fluid in the cellar floor area to maintain the integrity of the ice directly under the drill rig.

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Appendix 1

Cape Roberts Project: Equipment Modifications and Development and Purchases.

1.1 Tungsten insert cutting shoe. (Drill Manager)
1.2 Riser Sea Floor packer?? (Drill Manager)
1.3 Air bag airlines replace with new 14 mm tubing and supply blanking fittings. (ARP to spec.)
1.4 Annular Preventer horizontal tensioning. Trolleys to run on drill rig platform columns. (ARP design)
1.5 Drilling ice hole melting. Permanent freeze-in rigid glycol ring (ARP design)
1.6 Fit filter to compressed air line before regulator to prevent intermittant regular operation.
2.1 14 mm Airlines and blanking plugs.
2.2 New mooring straps. Check existing bags in Chch. (ARP to design, CRP purchase).
2.2 Mooring tubes. Through ice pipes of s.steel/polythene with bottom V pulley for rope and air line guides. Eight required. (ARP to design, CRP purchase).
2.4 Electrical 2 m long heating probes to free mooring tubes. Eight maximum. (ARP design, CRP Electrician)
2.5 Air Bags under Mud Hut. Discuss.
2.6 Filter in air line before regulator in Generator container to prevent regulator failure.
3.1 Calibrate sensors (Auckland suppliers) (ARP to arrange, CRP Pay))
3.2 10/12 mm airline to replace 8 mm between glycol trap and Generator Container. Run airline in glycol loop insulated cover. (CRP Purchase)
3.3 Heat trace Glycol trap head, insulated head cover (snowfoam /velcro and canvas), heat trace and insulate 4 m of exposed air line. (ARP design, CRP Electrician)
3.4 Push in fittings to convert from existing 8 mm line. (ARP to design, CRP purchase).
3.5 Replace incompatible Y2K laptop computer for Science Lab Gas Readout and data storage. (ARP to spec.)
4.1 Access damage to umbilical (ARP to arrange WHO pays?)
4.2 Repair/Purchase new umbilical (WHO PAYS?)
4.3 Normal maintenance of equipment (ARP, VUW MWksp)
4.4 Umbilical - guide wire separators (ARP design, CRP?).
4.5 Repair/Replace B&W Drill Floor Monitor and environmental enclosure (CRP).
4.6 Purchase new tapes. (CRP)
5.1 Pressure Transducer Housing design/build (ARP/EWB design, VUW MWkshp).
5.2 Pin impression type head, design/build (ARP/EWB design, VUW Mwkshp).
5.3 Software modifications (ARP/EWB)
6.1 Modify core clamping rails to centre blade. (ARP, VUW Mwkshp).
6.2 Replace blade shafts with stainless steel bearings.
6.3 Purchase diamond saw blades @ 75 m/blade (ARP/CRP).page break
7.1 Y2K (486+) required for Community Base Station at Cape Roberts Hut.
7.2 Real Time Correction Signal - Compatible with any new Vehicle GPS units purchased and RTCM 104 compatable.
8.1 Down hole wire line cutters. Crimp and charge type for wire line.
8.2 Modify HQ fishing tool with HQ box? [tool was put in VUW cargo.]
8.3 Modify Bull Ring slips? [slips were put in VUW cargo.]
8.4 Van Routh plugs for cementing open hole sections to be drilled out later.
9.1 Paper towels consumed @ 2 packs per 24 hours.
9.2 Core splitting blades, allow 80 m of drill hole each (10 × .065 × 5/8 inch).
9.3 Replace two hand pump garden sprayers (sea water corrosion and used for other purposes contaminated during decommissioning).
9.4 Four Lab-distinctive Tape Measures, 8 m quality/coated for better performance for sea water exposure.
9.5 Plastic core splits for boxed core. The core repository has requested that all core be boxed with splits.

Alex Pyne