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Core Drilling in Biscayne National Park

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a diver works the coral drilling rig
Above: Core drilling on Alina's Reef within Biscayne National Park.
Below: Map showing the location of Biscayne National Park and our well-cluster sites (red dots).

borders of Biscayne National Park overlain on a satellite photogrpah of the area
A project that has been in the works for several years and is one of Biscayne National Park's (BNP) priority projects finally got underway. From June 3rd-17th, a small group of personnel from the USGS St. Petersburg office spent long hours in Biscayne Bay and on the BNP reef tract at the north end of the Florida Keys core-drilling and installing water-monitoring wells. Don Hickey and Chris Reich played the role of 'tool pushers' for the full two weeks but were refreshed with the rotational assistance of several 'roughnecks:' Bob Halley, Nate Smiley, and Russell Peterson. This fieldwork would not have gone as well if it were not for outstanding assistance and guidance from Richard Curry (BNP Science Coordinator) and Brenda Lanzendorf (BNP Associate Science Coordinator). They were instrumental in supplying fresh SCUBA tanks and other materials, personal expertise of the BNP marine landscape, and a much-needed NPS boat for our use when the motor on the USGS boat gave out—twice.

This study is being undertaken to investigate the potential for transporting contaminants in the groundwater system out into Biscayne Bay and nearshore coral reef environments. Historically, offshore springs were common in Biscayne Bay. Fresh ground water once boiled to the sea surface and seafarers used these offshore springs for collecting drinking water. The forcing factor for offshore flow was high water levels in the Everglades. After installation of the multitudes of levees and canals in the 1940s, however, subsequent lowering of the water level has substantially altered the Everglades plumbing system. The springs now serve as sites for salt-water intrusion.

Four drill sites were completed as clusters of multi-depth wells. The site locations ranged from mid-Biscayne Bay seaward to the mid-reef tract (Alina's Reef). Monitoring-well depths were completed from 4.5 to 19 m below the sea floor. Two sites were located in 0.5 to 1.5 m of water near Elliott Key and the other two (middle Biscayne Bay and Alina's Reef) were in 3 m of water. The latter two sites required the use of SCUBA to complete the coring and well installation. Several hours per day were spent working underwater to accomplish our goals. Alina's Reef was a site of particular interest because it houses a hydrolab that has in the past recorded low-salinity (fresher) waters. It is thought that 'fresher' ground water is seeping up through the permeable patch reef and is being recorded by the hydrolab instrumentation. After the wells have equilibrated, we will return to collect groundwater samples to determine if this is a site of groundwater discharge.

On a side note, June 15th turned out to be an exciting day as we core drilled at Alina's Reef. Russ and Chris were drilling and Don was working in the R/V Halimeda when it was noticed that a distress signal was coming from a nearby vessel. It turned out the vessel was taking on water, their radio was out and bilge pumps were not working. Don immediately took the NPS boat over to the sinking vessel and called the BNP visitor protection officers to come and assist. Don got the people (including two little girls) off the sinking vessel onto the NPS boat and helped stabilize the situation until the BNP officers arrived (in about 20 minutes) with a portable pump. We heard later that the vessel was successfully towed to the dock and everyone was fine.

Related Web Sites
Biscayne National Park
U.S. National Park Service
Center for Coastal & Regional Marine Studies—St. Petersburg
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

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Mapping Puget Sound

Biscayne Nat'l Park

Glacier Bay Cruise

Tripod Deployment

Outreach GIS Group Teaches Science

Juneteenth Celebration

Meetings Geochemical Processes

Geologic Discipline EMAC

Wetlands Meeting

Awards Closing the Circle

Staff & Center News Eric Thompson

NAGT Summer Interns

Woods Hole Interns

Jerry Parker Memorial

Gaye Farris Re-Elected to STC Exec Board

Publications "Natural Gas Hydrates" Book

July Publications List

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