Rig Floor Reflections

One of the best things about being an Expedition 352 Education and Outreach Officer is the opportunity to learn about all parts of the drilling process.  From the geology of the drill sites to the roles of each individual on the JR, everything is fair game; no question is too basic or trivial as everyone takes up the task of helping me learn.

In order to do the best job possible of communicating what we do here on the JR, I need to spend a lot of time learning.  This is the BEST JOB EVER!  First of all, the IODP leadership, technicians, scientists, and Siem crew members are so helpful and patient as they explain their role in the greater scheme of things while allowing the E&O Officers front-row access to the action.

I can get lost for hours watching the process of using the equipment to prep for and do the drilling.  The cranes and the winches and the top drive working as extensions of the men who operate them.  Men and machines come together in choreographed movement of HUGE pieces of equipment to touch them down, seemingly light as a feather, EXACTLY where each piece needs to be.  AWE INSPIRING!

While observing levers and pulleys and wedges at work, I don’t know how to begin to capture all of the mechanics used for all of this motion.  How do I demonstrate the magnitude of this drilling operation in something as simple as an activity for 10-year olds?  They need to be right here standing with me to see all of these ideas from the classroom put to work in the ultimate combination of machinery to do one task:  drill for and retrieve core from beneath the ocean floor.

The men on the rig floor probably have mixed reactions to me watching them work. I wonder sometimes if they are muttering something to themselves about “tourists” while they are working a hard and dirty job in the hot sun (or just as often hot moonlight).  Despite my tourist-like gawking while they continue with their labors, they are always polite and even willing to move themselves or each other out of the way of a good camera angle (even without my request).  Phil, nightshift “toolpusher”, doesn’t mind taking the time to explain the details of drilling and patiently answers all of my questions (even the repeated ones).  He’s even given me gifts of used drill bits and cones to share with students in order to help them get in touch with the process of drilling.

I remember how much fun it was to take my nephews to construction sites when they were little so they could watch the machines at work.  Now I think:  if they were here now, I bet they’d STILL get a kick out of this. I think most of the grown-up “boys and girls” I know would get a kick, too.


Photo by Mark Reagan

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