Shallow Exploration Drillers Clinic History

by Vern Bump, South Dakota Department of Transportation

In the early 1960's exploration was booming. Highway departments, soil conservation services, private geotechnical firms, materials laboratories, geological surveys, utilities companies, and mineral exploration firms were just a few of the groups actively engaged in shallow exploration. Unlike other fields of endeavor, such as professional societies, no forum existed where shallow exploration people could meet, share experiences, and learn new techniques as they were developed by industry or private groups.

In 1965, following several discussions pertaining to the lack of an organized training program for drill technicians, Duane Eversoll, a geologist with the Nebraska Department of Roads, and Dick Putney, a representative of Mobile Drilling Company, conceived the idea of a drillers' clinic. After contacting and receiving support from associates in Nebraska and surrounding states, the Clinic for Shallow Exploration Drilling Technicians was formed. The first meeting was held in Lincoln, Nebraska, on February 17, 1965.

Old drilling rig

The original committee consisted of:

  • Duane Eversoll, Nebraska Bridge Department
  • Otto Griess, Nebraska Materials Department
  • Kenneth Doe, U.S. Soil Conservation Service
  • Dick Putney, Mobile Drilling Company, Inc.

The first program presented several speakers who saw a need and a future for this type of a gathering and joined the steering committee. Virgil Burgat, Kansas State Highway Commission and Ray Burchett, Conservation and Survey Division, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, became the 5th and 6th members of the committee.

By the time of the 2nd Annual Clinic, Ted Welp, Iowa State Highway Commission, Dick Bruce, South Dakota State Geological Survey, Harold Elijah, a Nebraska well driller, Dan McCarthy, Nebraska Testing Laboratories, E. Harlan Gellhaus, Western Laboratories, and Richard Dickinson, Vice President of Mobile Drilling, were also committee members. The clinic was well on its way to a successful future.

Shallow Exploration Drillers Clinic attendees

Over the years, the clinic has moved yearly between Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, Iowa and Oklahoma. An attempt was made in the early 60's to hold the clinic in conjunction with various states' water well association meetings. Conflicts in scheduling have, in general, made this concept impractical. The present name, Shallow Exploration Drillers Clinic (SEDC), was established in 1967. Many of the original organizers of the SEDC are still active participants at every clinic. Approximately thirty men have served on the steering committee at various items. In 1971, Duane Eversoll was appointed Executive Chairman, and has continued in this position to the present day.

The economic structure of the clinic is also rather simple and unique. The SEDC was organized as a self-supporting, non-profit group. This is, of course, easier said than done. Mobile Drilling quietly underwrote the clinic through its infant years. The economic support was, as it turned out not large, but the moral and physical assistance by Mobile's administration and staff was very important. Dick and Bob Dickinson, Hank Davis and Dick Putney are recognized for this support. In theory, the SEDC is sponsored by a group or agency from the host state. Usually the group is a federal or state agency, either of which have various controls denying direct financial aid. Sponsorship by the host is then confined to salaries, printing, postage, attendance, etc. Many groups are supported by training programs. All other direct costs must be made up from registration fees and commercial donations. A fee is normally charged for commercial firms to display at the SEDC. The object is to break even. Any profit is turned over to the next host and they set fees accordingly. Fees have ranged from $1.50 to $35.00 per clinic. The original one day clinic was extended to one and one-half days in 1990.

Shallow Exploration Drillers Clinic vendor display

The structure of the SEDC is simple and informal. It has been suggested that this is the reason for its success. The steering committee, comprised of about 15 members, meets during the annual clinic, and if necessary, in the fall preceding the next host's meeting. The second meeting is for planning the next clinic. In recent years, the second meeting has usually not been held because of travel costs. The annual steering committee meeting schedules the next clinic and handles all of the past year's business. The annual SEDC meeting is completely the responsibility of the local chairman (a steering committee member). Assistance is available from the steering committee. Proceedings of the annual meeting are not published.

Shallow Exploration Drillers Clinic attendees

The purpose of each meeting is to present information that will assist all those engaged in exploration drilling in keeping abreast with new techniques and reviewing or perhaps even hearing for the first time "old tried and true methods". An attempt is made to keep the meeting informal and on the technician level. A panel discussion is held to stimulate the attendee and stir participation. Every attempt is made to make the technician feel welcome and that his questions and discussion are important and solicited. Along this same line, commercial displayers are encouraged participants. Many of the attendees have never had the opportunity to visit with an experienced drilling representative and view the numerous variations of drilling tools and other related equipment.