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Thursday, April 19, 2012

I did it!

Sevier Lake field project? Complete.

27 of the last 31 days of my life were spent out at Sevier Lake, but that's not where it began. I'm going to tell you all about my first real geologic field experience, beginning in August, and you're more than welcome to read :)

It started on August 1st. I went out to Sevier Lake with my project manager, Larry, and met the field supervisor, Alex. Through all of August I was at Sevier Lake. In fact I spent 18 days of the month there, worked roughly 200 hours, and in an indirect way set up my new boy/girl-type relationship for failure. I spent all of this time training with the field supervisor on both the direct push and mini-sonic rigs that the client had out there. We rode 40 year old snowcats around the dry lake bed at around 4 mph. They were constantly breaking down. One day we had to walk two miles back to shore through mud.

Late september and all of October the job went on hiatus while I worked in the office and the client got permitting taken care of for the federal land leases.

November began with more Sevier Lake field work. I went out there and met up with Alex and a civil engineer from Denver, Orion. At this point the client had invested some money in ATVs to use on the lake bed for faster transportation. There were three drill rigs. I was put in charge of the Direct Push 1 rig. It was a track mounted Geoprobe and we drilled 45 holes. I logged and photographed each one. This lasted for two and a half shifts, or about 25 days. Approximately 300 hours were spent working at Sevier Lake during this time. We finished all the drilling on the dry parts of the lake bed and had to take a break while the client figured out how drilling on the parts of the lake bed covered in water would play out.

It was late December when the client got things squared away. There would once again be three drill rigs. A direct push, mounted on an airboat. A mini-sonic mounted on a tracked cargo buggy and a truck mounted full size sonic. The mini-sonic would be mine. Alex had left for another project at this time, so Norwest brought in a new guy to be the field supervisor. I forget his name, and he isn't important because he quit 10 days later. This left just Orion and I. During the remainder of the time the deep-sonic rig was active I was out there while the mini-sonic rig was having mechanical issues the whole time.

January came around and Orion was replaced by an interesting older geologist named Jon. Jon's truck broke and him and I commuted to and from the site together for most of the shift before Enterprise finally replaced it with a working one. The mini-sonic rig broke off and on throughout the whole month and continued doing so into February. This translated into a lot of down time for me. During this time I worked another 200 hours at Sevier Lake. The direct push program wrapped up and this left me as the only Norwest employee at Sevier Lake and it unofficially became "my project" according to my project manager.

During late February the program was changed to drill clusters of wells to test for transmissivity, or how well the water moves through the sediments. I would go for a day or two, log a well, and go back to my office duties. This lasted into mid March and I was fine with this. I worked at Sevier Lake for roughly 75 hours during this phase.

During mid-March it was decided that not enough sonic wells were being put in at far enough intervals to accurately define the base of the resource. This meant 9 more sonic wells were added and this is when I spent 27 of 31 days at Sevier Lake, almost to the point where Delta became home. During this time I spent roughly 350 hours out there. I became good friends with the two Boart-Longyear drillers, Dairus and Ty. We sort of began to resent the marine "specialists" whose sole purpose on the job was to supply us with well construction supplies, which they never did in an efficient manner and left us with countless downtime sitting around chatting while they took their sweet time.

In all, not counting office support hours, I spent 925 hours on or around Sevier Lake. That's roughly 23 normal work weeks spent there. After my first day I was afraid I wouldn't be able to even finish one. I feel quite proud of myself for this. I've really shown myself that I can do some pretty hard stuff when I try... and... when you offer me enough money to do so...

Don't believe it was hard?

Temperatures during the time I was at Sevier Lake ranged from -6 degrees to 103 degrees. The average January high was 24. The average August high was 92. With no mountains around to stop them, winds consistently blow at 20 mph, easily gusting upwards of 50. During the summer the monsoon caused frequent thunderstorms over the Sevier Lake. This is a 30x10 mile flat lake bed where the tallest thing as far as I could see was the drill rig. After that was our mechanic and after that was me.

When we were drilling on the water the airboat I had to ride on was one of the most terrifying things I've been on in my life. It was a boat, with an airplane propeller attached to a 350cc V8 engine that consistently ran at 4000 RPM's and speeds over 40 mph across water that was sometimes no more than 2 inches deep and usually well below freezing; the high salt content allowed for the 20 degree water to stay liquid. The boat had broken welds and it was normal to jump in the boat and hear *splash* The barge that I spent most of 2012 on had no shelter, no bathroom and no way to the shores, which were usually 5+ miles away, other than the airboats. During extremely bad weather, when the airboats wouldn't run we had to ride in on a tracked machine called a Marsh Master which had a top speed of about 5 mph.

Delta, the forsaken town I was staying in, was anywhere from a 50-70 mile drive from our various staging points. This caused for a long commute on top of a 10-12 hour work day. I was paid for the commute, but still, when you work 14 hours in one day and have to go home and do paperwork, life is not happy. Delta had nine restaurants when I first began working there. Three were Mexican and two were pizza. Three of them closed during the eight month span. I had no kitchen, just a microwave and a refrigerator. Lunch was a sandwich, cookies/crackers, chips and an orange, every day. Milford, the town I stayed in from Late August-January, had three restaurants. One made me sick each time I ate there.

Know what though? I did it. I made a shit-ton of money doing it and even more importantly gained invaluable experience. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Now comes the fun part. Taking 8 months of data and making a report out of it. I bet you envy my life so much right now :)

Also of note:

Vehicles I drove during the project:
Ford F150, Dodge Durango, two Chevy Silverados, multiple Dodge Rams, Toyota Rav4, Jeep Liberty, Ford Escape, an 8x8 Argo, a snowcat and multiple 6wd Rangers.
Towns visited that I'd never been to before:
Delta, Milford, Minersville, Hinckley, Eureka, Leemington, Lyndyll, Fillmore.
Weird food I ate:
Alligator, lamb, jambalaya
Total number of holes logged by me:
74
Approximate number of photos taken by me:
3,800

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