HSPDP is an international scientific collaboration whose goal is to collect sediment drill cores for paleoclimate and paleoenviromental analysis in proximity to some of the world's most important fossil hominin and artifact sites. The objective of this research effort is to provide a detailed, continuous and high resolution enviromental context for human evolution for the areas where our early ancestors are known to have lived.
July 11, 2014
And that's a wrap! Geophysical logging was completed yesterday morning on the Magadi 2A borehole with the loggers and science team arriving back in Nairobi last night. Now time to get the cores exported back to LacCore while the DPI crew finishes demobilizing at the site. Stay tuned for the final drill site at Chew Bahir, Ethiopia later this year.
July 7, 2014
While waiting for the geophysical loggers to arrive the Magadi science team took advantage of Olorgesailie Prehistoric Site's proximity.
July 5, 2014
Just before the shift change last night we hit the basement trachyte in hole 2A, finishing up at ~197.5 meters below surface. We'll sit tight for a few days while we wait for the geophysical loggers to arrive and start on the 8th. Overall the depth to trachyte was less than expected but we have two good cores from different spots in the basin to continue work on.
July 3, 2014
Slow but steady progress at Magadi. Have had to trip out drill rods each day to check/change the drill bit, but currently at ~189 meters below surface. The night shift had to deal with another phase of the infamous chert, we'll see what is in store for the day shift once we trip back in and get back to bottom.
July 2, 2014
The "Arizona Swap" occurred in the last 24 hours with Andy Cohen and Anne Billingsley (U of Arizona) being replaced by Chris Campisano and Dominique Garello (Arizona State). Robin Renault is also on his way home. Safari salama to our friends as the day/night shift transition was at ~135 meters and in nice green and black muds.
June 30, 2014
Started drilling today at Site 2. We had great success and got down ~40m in the first 12 hr shift. Everyone is happy to see lots of trona. Speaking of which, see the photos of the soon to be blockbuster viral graphic novel (courtesy of Anne Billingsley and Emma McNulty), "The Saga Of Trona Man" (what happens when scientists collecting cores in evaporites have too much down time on their hands.
June 28, 2014
On the 27th, right at the day shift to night shift change the drilling hit trachyte volcanic rocks, the basement rocks for the L. Magadi basin. The science team made the decision to move to a completely new site in the northern part of the Magadi basin. Setup began in the morning (28th) and we expect to be drilling again at the new site by Monday, in two days.
June 27, 2014
Today we finished putting in the new casing and getting the drill rod back down to near our maximum drilling depth of 125m. We will continue coring from there. Dan Deocampo and Tim Lowenstein left and was replaced by Nate Rabideaux who arrived yesterday.
June 26, 2014
The last 2 days have been pretty trying for the drill and science teams. The second hole was bored but not cored down to the 120m level and we got two core sections below that overlapping with our first hole. Then our drill rods broke apart 60m below the ground and we discovered that the casing at the top of the hole had also fallen 9m down into the hole, blocking our attempts to fish out the tools and lost drill pipe. Bottom line was that we had to start a third hole. This has now been started and we have recorded the upper portion of the strata, of interest to our sedimentologists. Later this afternoon, once some new drill bits arrive at the site we will drill back down to the 125m level and continue collecting new core.
June 23, 2014
The Magadi Team has drilled down to ~114m in the second hole about 2m away from the original one. Once we get to 120m (hopefully soon) we will start coring again to have a section of overlap with the first core. Everyone is excited that we will start getting core again today!
June 22, 2014
The Magadi drilling has been down for 2 days now. Lost part of a tool in the original hole and we could not fish it out, so the first hole had to be terminated. We moved the drill rig about 10 feet over and are now in the process of reaming our way down the prior drilling level. Slow going as we encounter all the nasty chert again!
June 21, 2014
Not much happening today. We were down all day waiting for a part to be machined. The geology team went to look at local outcrops of what we are drilling through, especially the infamous muds and cherts. We are currently about 128m down. Hope to continue drilling starting with the night shift!
June 20, 2014
Yesterday was pretty quiet at the Magadi drill site. We had to pour a lot of cement and install casing around the drill hole and then let it dry for 18 hours so the day crew knocked off early and got to even go swimming in the Magadi Sports Club pool. The night shift had their entire shift off. But this morning with the cement set we started drilling again and made great progress, down to 104m by 1PM, with mixed results, some zones of very good recovery and some lousy.
June 18, 2014
On the 17th the broken subdaptor was taken to the mine machine shop for repair, but because of meetings related to the imminent mine layoffs the repair had to ultimately be done on site. Once the piece was repaired at the end of the day we were able to resume drilling. Recovery of the interbedded cherts and green mudstones was very poor at first with bits of chert blocking up the liner and loss of mud almost entirely. But as the shift progressed and with a bit of experimentation the drillers got better at collecting samples of this complicated lithology and by the night shift (17th/18th) they were getting up to 50% recovery. The day shift is now back on for the 18th and thankfully so far it is cloudy which makes working here a lot more pleasant!
June 17, 2014
During the downtime the Magadi day shift science crew went to visit Little Magadi soda lake about 20 km northwest of the drill site, so that Emma McNulty could collect some nahcolite samples and do some ongoing water chemistry measurements. See pics of our exciting day, which also involved some zebra and grants gazelle sightings and spectacular rift structure scenery.
June 16, 2014
After a very productive first day of drilling at Magadi things slowed down. The second day shift encountered very variable lithologies, including bedded cherts with trona, muds and abundant sand and gravel horizons (the latter unexpected). Recovery was not very good, especially in the gravelly intervals but we advanced to about 36m using a combination of the various lake tools. The night shift cored to just over 40m with only about 2m of recovery in the last 4m. When the June 17 day shift arrived we arranged to have the broken HQ sub adaptor which broke off on the drill head remachined at the Magadi Soda plant. We are hoping it should be fixed by the afternoon and to be drilling again by the late afternoon.
June 15, 2014
First day of drilling at Magadi! At the end of the single Sunday shift we were down to 20.76m, which includes about .8m of drill pad so about 20m of lake sediment. Everyone is very happy about that! Magadi is hot during the day amd the sun is intense reflected off the dry salt crust, but it cools off nicely so (for the day shift folks anyway) we will enjoy a nice G&T hour at the end of the shift!
June 2, 2014
The Magadi drilling begins June 15th! Keep a look out for new posts here and on facebook. Last minute preparations to start drilling began last month. Here are two pictures of the Magadi drill pad and the warrior style tent that the HSPDP team will be using during drilling.
May 15, 2014
Sorry for the delay in posting the wrap up of Chew Bahir drilling. As of March 25 the Chew Bahir team drilled 41.5m, however further drilling was not possible, due to insufficient casing on site and instability of the hole. In addition, heavy rains on the night of the 24th flooded the site by a few centimeters blocking access to the rig. Once the site dried the team demobilized the rig. Here is a picture of the Chew Bahir drill site.
March 24, 2014
The Chew Bahir team is now at 41m depth in hole 1, with only two days of downtime waiting for a spare part to arrive. (h/t Sarah Davies)
March 22, 2014
As of March 21 with three successful coring days the team reached a sub bottom depth of 26 m, possibly just intersecting the Eemian, as their extrapolated sedimentation rates and red coarse grained structure visible from the core catchers suggests. Currently the team is waiting for a spare part for the casing which should arrive from Addis over the week-end. The weather conditions continue to be dry, which is perfect for drilling at the site (at the center of the basin)!
March 21, 2014
The Afar drilling campaign is complete! Weranso core ended at a depth of 245 meters. Combined with the overlying section at Osi Isi, the Afar thickness is on the order of 275 meters stratigraphic thickness, much of it double or triple cored.
March 20, 2014
Chew Bahir has begun drilling the first of two 50m test holes. At day 2 of drilling they are at 17meters depth with nice cores (update via Sarah Davies). The weather is fine at the drill site and the basin floor is dry. On the 16th of March they successfully set up the drill rig close to the cb05 core site and planned to core the first meters too.
March 19, 2014
The extant of basat #3 has been reached at 65 meters thick at 230m depth! Unfortunately, after drilling about 8m of dark mudstone the rod twisted off at about 174m depth. Currently in the process of designing some "fishing" tools to retrieve the core and get back to drilling eventually.
March 18, 2014
After two days waiting for equipment from western Ethiopia, drilling has continued. As of midnight tonight (East African time) drilling has reached 214.5 meters depth, but STILL in basalt #3 (50m thick thus far). 3 full days of drilling left to see what we encounter next!
March 16, 2014
Here is an action shot of the Weranso team orienting a core and a sample of the nice gray-green clays at about 140m depth.
March 15, 2014
At the end of the PM shift, current depth is 167 meters. Virtually all the shift (32m) was nice mudstone except for the last drive... welcome basalt #3.
March 12, 2014
After moving the gear to the Ledi site (~13km west of Osi Isi), some "local political issues" caused us to withdraw before drilling commenced. We are now at the Weranso site (~3km east of Osi Isi), the eastern edge of our original seismic line. Started coring last night and after about 20m of more recent alluvium we are now at about 53m and into mixed lithologies and with good recovery.
March 10, 2014
Apologies for the lack of Afar updates. After the first hole was a bust a second and third attempt at Osi Isi has come to an end due to a series of equipment complications including a melted/fused bit at the top of the second basalt in the third hole. But not to worry!, they have moved to an alternate location about 13km away where preparations were already under way so hopefully only 1-2 days down time.
February 27, 2014
The Awash drilling is at 185m as of yesterday! Another surprise basalt, however only 9m thick thus far. Here are a few pictures of the night crew.
February 25, 2014
The Awash team has made it to 152 m! They've had a few surprises along the way, including a broken wireline and then 25+ meters of unexpected basalt! They are now back in lake sediments and pushing forward.
February 24, 2014
The N. Awash drill team hard at work!
February 23, 2014
Drilling at the N. Awash site has commenced! So far with a total of 14 runs 41 m have been drilled! With a brief pause for repairs and maintenance, the rig is now drilling strong. It's hard to see details in the cores, but lots of mudstones are encountered for sure! Pictures will be coming soon!
February 20, 2014
A very busy day for the crew in the Afar! A full day of unloading, setting up camp and working through logistics.
February 19, 2014
HSPDP March Madness!! Frank Schäbitz, Henry Lamb, and Asfawossen Asrat, PIs of the HSPDP’s Chew Bahir site in south Ethiopia, will undertake a further pilot drilling at the site next month, March 2014. Their aim is to obtain a 50m core which should span the last 200,000 years, and provide valuable information in advance of the main 400m core to be drilled in November-December 2014. The March campaign, using the equipment and expertise of Addis Geosystems Ltd and advised by DOSECC Exploration Services, will also help realise the objectives of the University of Cologne’s CRC 806 “ OUR Way to Europe” Project A3 (http://www.sfb806.uni-koeln.de/index.php?option=com_content&view=article...).
February 18, 2014
The crew had a very busy day today getting the drilling and science equipment from Addis Ababa University to Geosearch’s gear yard. It was a big day with two forklifts, lots of lifting, driving through busy Addis traffic, one big Isuzu, and one big shipping container. In the end, all was loaded successfully and the truck is on the road. After finishing off the day with more shopping and organizing the crew is set for an early morning departure to the Afar.
February 17, 2014
The last members of the first wave of the science team arrived in Addis this evening. Logistics and planning continue with the loading of drilling and science equipment by Geosearch tomorrow at Addis Ababa University. Meanwhile EthioDer is already setting up camp in the Afar. If all goes as planned the crew will depart Addis and arrive in the field on Wednesday.
February 15, 2014
Work is underway in Addis Ababa. After an uncertain start to the Northern Awash drilling project, things are looking up! Check in with us for updates and photos of the Awash drilling for the next several weeks. Good luck to the Afar crew and happy drilling!
Here are the first group of photos of the crew getting ready to drive down to the Awash site:
February 2, 2014
Following a long period of uncertainty about whether we would be able to find a local drilling company in Ethiopia capable of working with us I am happy to announce that DES has signed a contract with the firm Geosearch, and that we will begin mobilizing for drilling in the Afar later this month. We expect to start drilling at the Oso Isi site, near Mille, around Feb 20 and will be there for about a month. The science team will begin to assemble in Addis Ababa in about two weeks and everyone is very excited to see the project moving ahead once again. This also bodes very well for staying on target with drilling at the other Ethiopian site at Chew Bahir later in 2014. Once mobilization starts we will post some photos! We are also moving forward with using the local company Ethioder to provide logistics support for the Afar camp.
January 17, 2014
The current update for the Lake Magadi drilling project: The construction of the drilling pad at Lake Magadi is now completed. We are looking forward to the start of drilling at the Magadi site this coming summer (June-August 2014). The work is being done now to insure that the surface will be dry, compacted and stable when drilling starts. Thanks very much to Marfa Construction and our colleagues at Tata Magadi Soda, Anthony Mbuthia and Luis Kiema, for pushing this work along well ahead of schedule!
January 3, 2014
Happy New Year! With a not-so-great start to the New Year for HSPDP, the Northern Awash drilling season has officially been delayed due to issues with securing a drilling company in time. There are multiple options that are currently trying to be figured out. At the very most the drilling season will be delayed until January of 2015.
Chew Bahir drilling has been delayed until the next weather window in November 2014 due to licencing issues with the drilling companies. In the meantime Andy Cohen will be giving a brief presentation at the ICDP Townhall during AGU on the results from the Kenya drilling operations in June/July of this year (those cores have now either been split and sampled (West Turkana) or will be split and sampled in the next week (Tugen Hills). The Northern Awash drilling plan is still for January 22, but may be delayed due to the same issues as Chew Bahir. The Lake Magadi (Kenya) drilling planning is still moving ahead for summer 2014. Happy Holidays!
The initial core description (ICD) of the West Turkana HSPDP core at LacCore has just begun! A team of eight scientists representing Rutgers, Arizona, Georgia and CNRS (France) began work on Monday 11 November. The first two days of work focused on establishing optimal protocols for core splitting (primarily using band saw and tile saw), imaging, description and sampling. (See pictures below) The LacCore staff helped us through the technical details of core processing along with the complexities of data acquisition and integration. The West Turkana cores proved to be in excellent condition, and preserve exquisite sedimentological detail. Systematic sampling for a wide range of environmental proxies is progressing well. The biggest challenge has been the 11°F temperatures and windchill encountered on the morning hike to the lab.
Chew Bahir drilling operations are delayed due to organizational issues. The start is now scheduled for the 5th of December. Meanwhile, the studies conducted by our geophysician team (Richard Bates, Dei Huws and Beimnet Haile Tigistu) were successfully completed. Check out this video of the Chew Bahir electrical geophysics survey.
HSPDP and Andy Cohen are featured in todays UA News. Follow the link to read more about this story or visit our press page:
NSF press release on this year's successful FESD proposals, including HSPDP.
HSPDP is featured in two articles in a special issue of the August 2nd edition of Science: "Natural Systems in Changing Climates" (How a Fickle Climate Made Us Human). Lake Magadi, the final leg for HSPDP is also featured on the cover! See the "Press" page for the articles by Ann Gibbons and Elizabeth Pennisi.
Science team left the drill site this morning for Lodwar and then flew back to Nairobi. The next step will be getting the cores shipped off to LacCore after the truck arrives a few days from now. The photo is of the West Turkana drill site with Lake Turkana and North Island in the background.
Here's a picture of the West Turkana camp. Fire extinguishers at every door; it must be hot there!
The photo is of our nurse Gladys Tuitoek, who (we are happy to report) has nothing to do on the medical front, so we have put her to work labeling cores instead-maybe she'll switch to being a geologist!
With the casing needing recementing it has been a slow two days, but as of this morning Kenya time we were making headway again. By late afternoon Kenya time the team was drilling at 175m. Just short of the halfway mark!
Communications have been quiet the last few days due to the difficulty of communicating from the drill site in Northern Kenya. After a day and a half of slow progress, tripping pipe and casing we are back in business drilling! Down to 155m. Our 3-D film team from Earth Images Foundation was with us the last few days and left yesterday. We are very excited about the film they will produce of the project.
Yesterday was the start of drilling. It was a slow start with a 12 hour drilling day ending at 22m. Today was another 12 hour day but drilling speed increased ending the day with 37m drilled and close to a 100% core recovery. Our goal is to ramp up the drilling time to 15 hours then 24 hours as soon as possible.
With the exception of a few personnel who are in Kenya for both phases, the Tugen Hills crew has left Kenya for the most part. The Turkana crew is all set and flying up to Lodwar on the 19th, then driving to the drill site on the 20th. The drill rig and equipment will arrive about the same time and our mobile field camp is already set-up and ready to go. As cell communications are non-existent at the drill/camp site, we'll be relying on (expensive) satellite communications for Turkana. As such, updates may be a bit more sporadic as we send them out with people coming and going from camp.
The Baringo Tugen Hills Drill site team with the final core, just before shutting down the site!
The Tugen Hills drilling finished up on June 11th. We reached a depth of 228 meters, just shy of our original 250m target depth, but we may have reached further back in time than originally anticipated. If so, this will provide even more overlap for a great comparison to the northern Awash core. The downhole logging is also complete and the science crew is back in Nairobi. In the next few days we will be swapping out some project personnel and heading up to West Turkana on the 19th to begin the second phase of drilling. A festive evening capped off the end of the Tugen Hills drilling, which included some traditional dancers. So far, so good. Stay tuned for more updates from Nairobi and West Turkana!
June 10 and 11
The deeper we go, the more challenging the drilling gets - formation swelling, sticking rods, heavy rain and lightning. Despite the resistance of the Chemeron Formation, we are down to about 228 meters. During a break in drilling, His Excellency, the Honorable Benjamin C. Cheboi, Governor of Baringo County, visited the project at the drill site and in the laboratory at Soi Lodge.
Over the last few days we had a variety of small glitches. Thursday evening we got our first significant rain at the drill site and saw the effect on our road in and out. There is a big hill coming down from the drill site and when the truck reached it, it started sliding even in 4WD-low. We parked it and called for the other vehicle to come from the lodge to get us but when the second car parked at the base of the hill we could not get it started again! So now we had two stuck vehicles and a 2km walk out to the main road where the hotel mini-van picked us up. A new load of core liner was delivered, but when we tried putting these into the coring tool inner tubes they wouldn't fit! The upshot is that Beau Marshall arrived in Nairobi late last night and went to the NOCK yard where 3 more inner tubes were in the DES containers and found that the liner does fit into those inner tubes. On the positive side, the Multisensor Core Logger (see photo) is now up and running at the Soi Hotel and we are getting very nice data. The diatomites from deep-water lake phases show up very nicely. MSCL logging is moving ahead at about 10m an hour, so if nothing happens (fingers crossed against blackouts!) we will clear out the backlog of cores by tomorrow afternoon. Finally, we are currently at 204m, so over 80% of the way to our 250 target depth. Al Deino thinks we will have a significant temporal overlap in this record with the Afar record, which would be really great.
110 meters of core has been recovered (ahead of schedule) with 98% recover over the last 60m! Varied lithology reflecting oscillating lake transgression/regression sequences with abundant tuffs. Density profiles of cores/depth in hole neatly reflect cycling of diatomites in response to eccentricity modulated precession. Currently collecting interesting facies indicating varied terrestrial and potentially lacustrine environmental conditions.
First day of drilling. A single 12 hour daylight shift with all crew involved. Successfully drilled 25 meters! We will now begin 24 hour drilling with two 12-hour shifts. Photos above are of the Tugen Hills science team and the first Tugen Hills core (3 meters) on deck.
The shipping containers finally made it from the docks in Mombasa to the NOCK (National Oil Corporation of Kenya) yard. Unfortunately, the truck was a bit too big for the NOCK entry gate! After removing some keypad posts and gate arms, the truck and crane finally made it in to be unloaded. Gear to be transported to the awaiting drill rig on May 31 with drilling planned for June 1.
The DPI drill rig is in place at the Tugen Hills site. The trucks had no problem making it up the newly made/graded road to the site. The capping Kapthurin gravels have been drilled and cased so we are all set to drill the underlying Pliocene lacustrine sediments once the rest of the gear clears customs. Water pump set up in river about 50 meters below the site works great and should allow for 24/7 drilling no problem.