Running casing with a "swell" packer
The last 24 hours was pretty frustrating, because we were trying to get 10-3/4″ casing into a hole drilled into basaltic crust. We got the casing about 320 m into the hole, but could not get it in the last 16 m to land it and latch it in. After trying to get the casing in for about 12 hours, we pulled it back out, shortened it, and now we are going back in to the hole.
The photo shows a new technology we are applying to this operation: a swellable packer. The rubber element you see here is about 5 m long. It will react with seawater and increase in size, slowing closing the gap between the packer element (the rubber, swellable part) and the surrounding casing. Its should finish sealing the hole in about 4-5 weeks, in time to be used for long-term CORK experiments. I think that this is the first time that a swellable packer has been deployed as part of scientific ocean drilling.
Once we get the casing installed, we can cement and drill ahead, eventually recovering the first cores of the expedition. That will be an exciting day.