The history of drilling as found online is the subject of this "Smart Business" column.

Surfing the web can lead to the most interesting places.
A lot of people my age wax nostalgic for the “good old days” when life was simpler and slower. Not me. There's no other era I'd rather be a part of than our modern age of electronic marvels. Yes, e-mail, cell phones and so many other wondrous gadgets of our time bring with them certain annoyances, but that is a small price to pay for all the convenience and efficiency they provide.

For a wordsmith like me, no modern tool has changed the world as much as the Internet. It's staggering to contemplate the amount of information available to all of us just a few mouse clicks away. When I started my career decades ago, I used to spend many hours at a local library researching background information for articles I'd write. With the Internet, information that used to take me hours to track down now takes minutes. And, I can print it out in a fraction of the time I used to spend fumbling around with big books and photocopy machines.

A problem I have with the Internet, however, is it contains so much fascinating information, I usually find myself getting sidetracked. I look up one subject and end up exploring Web sites that are only marginally or not at all related to my original quest.

But it's fun, as well as educational, getting bogged down on the side roads. Whether or not it has much to do with the subject at hand, you learn a lot of interesting things tinkering with Web search engines. That's what happened to me recently when I was trying to learn a thing or two about the history of drilling in hope of coming up with an article or two.

All of what follows may not be exactly pertinent to your business, and maybe not worth a full article, but here are some places I think you'll find worth a visit when you have a few moments to spare.

Leslie Foster's Drillers Log: Mr. Foster describes himself as a senior driller with Blue Diamond Drilling Ltd. of Great Britain. He has created an entertaining and informative Web site filled with drilling basics and historical milestones. The “Great Moments in Drilling History” timeline that accompanies this article was developed in part from Mr. Foster's Web site. http://

“Almost All You Need to Know about Well Drilling” is a Web page explaining to home owners in non-technical language the process of water well drilling and its importance. This well-done article is part of a Web site belonging to Marshall Well Drilling of Emsdale, Ontario. Access this site at

Drilling Fluids: A brief history of drilling fluids can be found at

Simple but Effective: Hunt Drilling Co. of Jackson, Calif., has a simple Web site, but I admire their choice of content - as well as the fact they don't get bogged down with too much verbiage. There are only seven pages to the Hunt Web site, but each is effective in creating a personality and promoting the business. One page which is, labeled “Customer Comments,” is a scan of a customer's handwritten note telling of wonderful service received from the company. (For the sake of journalistic accuracy, I wish they'd either post a second comment or make “Comments” singular in the page title.)

I especially like Hunt's final page, labeled “Wisdom.” It consists of John Ruskin's famous remarks on “The High Cost of Paying Too Little,” which ought to be memorized by every business owner. Read it for yourself at

Oil Well Dispute: We learned in school that the first oil well in the U.S. was produced in Titusville, Pa., by Col. Edwin Drake. Not so, claim people from neighboring West Virginia, who trace commercial use of oil drilled from their state dating all the way back to the 1820s. You can read about it at: /Pages/moveover.html.

Arsenic Epidemic: An on-line National Geographic article from June 2003 reports that as many as 77 million Bangladeshis and Indians may be victims of the largest mass poisoning in history from arsenic-laden water wells. This came about after well-meaning health authorities and public policy officials embarked on a well digging program throughout (mainly) Bangladesh starting in the 1970s, due to water-borne diseases from rivers and other surface waters that had been largely contaminated throughout the country. It wasn't until 1993 that the geology of the region led to dangerous levels of arsenic in “clean” well water. http://news.nationalgeographic .com/news/2003/06/0605_030605_arsenicwater.html#main

Drilling for Dinosaurs' Demise: Scientists are pretty much convinced that the dinosaurs, along with most other species on the planet at the time, died out around 65 million years ago due to a catastrophic collision with an asteroid or some other extraterrestrial body. The theory was first developed in 1980, but pockets of skepticism remained for a while because there were no apparent remnants of the gigantic crater that would have been created by such an impact. Then in the 1990s, scientists pinpointed a structure beneath Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula that seemed to fit all the parameters. It's known as the “Chicxulub crater,” named after the first well located near the Mayan village by the same name. Evidence was uncovered largely by drillings conducted by Pemex, Mexico's national oil company.

If you want to explore on your own, simply do a Web search on “drilling history” or “history of drilling,” or try a few other permutations. I'll think you'll find it a worthwhile excursion that adds to your insight of and pride in the work that you do.

Sifting through the annals of drilling history affords a wealth of information. A Bucyrus Erie 24-L cable-tool rig circa 1952. Photo courtesy of Virdell Drilling Inc.

Great Moments in Drilling History

2550-2315 BC - The Egyptians used diamond drilling tools for construction of the pyramids.
800 BC - Chinese are the first to drill for and use natural gas.
600 BC - Chinese use bamboo/stone-drilling system for holes up to 14 inches diameter and depths to 2,000 feet.
200 BC - Chinese first to drill for oil, using brime drilling methods.
1126 AD - Carthusian monks drill water wells down to 1,000 feet.
1500 - Leonardo da Vinci sketches machine for boring wells.
1745 - First oil well drilled in France.
1806 - Spring-pole cable drilling developed in U.S.
1807 - Cored trees used for casing in recovery of salt brine.
1825 - First cable tool drilling in Europe.
1844 - Englishman Robert Beart patents rotary drilling methods.
1845 - Circulated fluid used to remove drill cuttings for first time.
1855 - First steam-powered drilling rig developed.
1860 - Fluid-circulation rotary diamond-coring drill developed in France.
1870 - First cable-tool rig to be developed.
1878 - First patent on a two-cone bit.
1880 - Rigs sold with full suite of surface, down-hole tools; drag-type bit developed; standardization of casing begins.
1893 - Drilling depths surpass 6,600 feet.
1895 - Earliest use of rotary drilling.
1897 - First offshore drilling (Santa Barbara, Calif.).
1902 - Shoes developed for casing installation.
1904 - Steel cables replace rope for cable-tool drilling.
1905 - Cases cemented in for the first time.
1908 - First rock bit used.
1909 - Rolling cutter bit developed by Howard Hughes.
1910 - Drill pipe tool joints introduced; tube mills begin turning out “drill pipe.”
1919 - First diamond drill used.
1925 - First rotary rig to use diesel engine.
1928 - First electric welding for pipeline joints.
1929 - First use of bentonite as a drill mud.
1930 - Rotary rigs surpass cable-tool rigs in number.
1933 - Tri-cone bit introduced.
1937 - First horizontal well drilled (Yarega, USSR).
1947 - Drilling depths reach 17,820 feet.
1953 - First fully hydraulic rig introduced.
1955 - First drill ship launched.
1974 - Drilling depth of 31,541 feet reached in Oklahoma.
The deepest hole now is the Kola super-deep hole in Russia at 7.6 miles.

Sources: bot.htm and http://homepage.ntlworld .com/leslie.foster/drilling_history.htm. ND