The recent mining incident, successful drilling and recovery of the 33 miners in Chile brought back memories of a drilling project we did near La Serena, Chile. La Serena is some five hours south of the mining incident.

In February 1997, I sent my son, Chris (Piglet), to Chile four days ahead of myself, as I was on another project in Colorado. I knew that it would take him several days to get the DeepRock DR-130 through customs, out of the shipping container, delivered to the job site and set up.

When I arrived in Santiago, Chile, some four days later, I called the Israeli client, Santage, on his cellular phone. He advised me that he didn’t need me, and wasn’t making arrangements to get me to La Serena. He told me just to go back home. I had already been paid, so I wasn’t just going back home. Piglet was with the Israeli on-site, and refused to work further until arrangements were made to get me on-site; our contract was as a team.

Upon my arrival on-site, I found that Piglet had the drill there, uncrated, set up, and had successfully drilled a 250-foot hole with a down-hole hammer on his arrival the very first day. With this success, Santage felt that I could just go back home.

Everything would go well until Santage would arrive on-site. He would start cussing out Piglet’s Chilean drill crew for some unknown reason, and Piglet would intervene, telling him to leave his drill crew alone. One day, after one such exchange, Piglet further said that if Santage had anything to say to the crew, to tell him, and he would tell his crew. Santage replied that he paid the drill crew. Piglet then told Santage, “Yes, you pay them, but they work for me.” At that point, Piglet drew a circle in the dirt around the drill with his shoe, and advised Santage not to step inside the circle. If he did, Piglet would shut down the rig. Everything went well after that.

Santage was supposed to bring lunch each day. One day, when Santage had not arrived, Piglet gave Paolo, our go-for-whatever person, money to go get everyone lunch. Paolo, being concerned, said, “But Santage?” Piglet said that Paolo wasn’t to worry, that he would manage Santage. Expressing relief, all the guys said, “Bueno!” (good).

We had to sign a secrecy agreement that we wouldn’t divulge what we found while drilling, and this wasn’t a problem as we were never told. We’d drill a hole, then Santage would run a down-hole camera, bag the soils, and then we would move to the next hole some six inches to a foot away.

We were concerned about the likelihood of breaking into an existing hole and getting stuck. Piglet drafted an agreement on site that we wouldn’t be responsible for tools lost in the hole due to the close hole drilling. He had Santage sign it without any objection. Then we asked him where he would like for us to lose the hammer. Luckily, we had no problems, and never broke through into any holes.

It was very hot, and there was no shade anywhere. That’s one reason Piglet had a seat and umbrella mounted on the drill at the factory. They also put up a few tarps for shade on-site.

It seldom rains on the west side of the Andes Mountains. Some locals told us that it only rains a little about every five years. Each morning, we would see clouds coming over the mountains from the east, but they would dissipate before they reached the summit. It was so dusty that you could see a vehicle coming for miles.

We were so busy and having a good time that we forgot to report into Bess at home. She became worried, and called friends at the embassy in Santiago, trying to locate us. Needless to say, when we did check in, we both were in trouble!

Our lodging was right across the street from the beach. Piglet usually kept the drapes open to have constant access to view the scenery. The strip along the beach was active day and night. While we were there, no crime was evident.

La Ma Pizza, the restaurant where we usually ate, was great. If they didn’t have a table available, they would round one up immediately, because Piglet always tipped them well. We were considered their American tourists.

We were stopped once while driving by the Chilean police. We couldn’t understand what they were asking. Finally, one of the policemen asked, “Papers?” Piglet handed them the rental car papers, and everything was OK. They said, “Buen día” (good day), and we went on our way.

We were the foreigners, but we were treated courteously and in a friendly manner. We felt safe and comfortable everywhere we went. I would like to return to Chile and La Serena one day, if only to vacation.  ND