Wednesday, July 13, 2022

SearchResearch Challenge (7/13/22): What is this rusty thing I found in the woods?

 As often happens... 

All photos P/C Dan. July 8, 2022

... I went for a run and spotted something remarkable hovering just behind the trees on the side of the road.  This time, I was jogging down a quiet country road in eastern Pennsylvania, in the middle of the Pocono mountain range, about 85 miles (136 km) due northwest of Manhattan.  It was a perfect day to run--cool, quiet, deep forest on both sides of the road.  Naturally, I had to stop for a few minutes, take a few pictures, and save my SRS for later.  

As you can see, this is a very large, very rusty, very old drilling rig that was abandoned years ago.  It's at least 60 feet (20 m) tall, and has several large wheels at the bottom. 

And, naturally, my curiosity was piqued:  What was this?  Why is it here?  How long ago?  

The pictures shown here are all of some kind of drilling rig.  These images are all from 41°16'52.9"N, 75°19'16.1"W (41.2813694, -75.323322).  

Those form the basis of the SearchResearch Challenge for this week.   

1. What kind of rig is this?  (Is it drilling for water?  Oil? Gas?)  

2. When was this drilling rig first setup?  

3. Who owns this thing?  And what's its current status?  (Obviously, it's not in operating condition--but it might still be a viable well.)  

Can you find out the answers to these mysteries?  The enquiring mind wants to know!  

It didn't take me too long to find out, but the process was--as we say here in SRS-land--really interesting!  

When you figure it out, please leave a comment in the thread below.  Let us know HOW you found out!  

Search on! 

P.S.  I'll be traveling over the next two weeks, so I might not be able to give the full and complete answer next Wednesday.  Hang on--I'll be back, and I'll return with even more interesting and exotic SRS Challenges for us!  



  1. There was coal mining in that area, so maybe a headframe?

  2. Can make a reasonable estimate of age given the size and species of trees growing through it.

  3. Funny enough, it wasnt super complicated. I just had to take some time to think instead of searching right away.

    I started by looking at the coordinates and could not get anything out of it, if I'm honest.

    So I went straight to Google and withou much thinking tried [drilling rig pocono mountains]. As expected, it didn't result in anything useful.

    I got to some thinking and from a suden moment of realization, finding a map of drilling in the whole state, to then search the rig sounded promissing. Indeed, it was. By searching [pocono mountains drilling activity map], I could easily reach a interactive map of oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania. ( This query wasn't great. The influence from my native language didnt make it easier. Still, it worked

    Once in the website, since I didnt know which type of well that was, showing every result was the way to go. Once done it, our rusty well was shown on the map. Isolated from every other.

    Clicking on it, gives all its details. So,

    (1) This is a Conventional Oil and Gas well. Though, it is considered a "dry hole", that is, a place not really promissing.
    (2) On the "Inspections" documents, it is said the start date of the last and only owner to be May 25th 1971. Sounds odd, because the permit expiration date is 1960. So, most likely is that the well was first stablished around 1959 or 1960. By who? No idea. Otherwise, it worked illegally for some time, not impossible, but less likelly. (More considerations about the story of the well below)
    (3) The operator is Transcontinental Prod Co, whose number is OGO-20167. Now, its current status shows that the well is "Active". Funny, since we can all see that this is abandonned for quite some time and is considered to be a dry hole.

    Questions relatively answered, back to ownership. As said, the permit expiration date is 17th September 1960, although the start date of the apparently only owner is mid-1971. Who asked for the permit, then? No ideia, I coudnt find any other documents about the site or the well.

    Another story that doesn't alling at all. The well records says that it was "temporarily abandonned; not pluged", that is, the hole wasnt closed. However, a A PA Geology report of 1960, says it was plugged and abandonned. Both documents were cited by the inspector of the one and only inspection made in 2017, who couldn't even find any "well or monument", which can only but make me think that there have never been any well, in the first place. So, we have three different sources — the well record, the state report, and the inspector — , each telling a different story. It was supposed to be a simple well, but I guess we found ourselves in the middle of one of Sherlock Holmes' case. Anyway, if you can find any document regarding the site or the well, please hit me up, I got really motivated to find what actually happened to our poor isolated rusky well.

    1. Excellent job, Gabriel. Thanks for the comment!

  4. My elder cousin worked the oil 'lines' back in Bradford, PA starting at least in the 1950's. He took me to the lines and there were dozens of these giant belts that powered the oil derricks, it was quite amazing! I wished i had asked more questions before he passed away. He was quite a character, and the belt pully brought back all those memories, thanks!

  5. Zoom to

    Spent wqay too long on this. Did see it in GooEarth. Too many discordant maps online. for instance this one has nothing for our area DEP Abandoned, DEP Orphan, and DEP Plugged Wells (7.6.2021) Gabriel made a good find with the map he used for which much thanks. But to contribute to the confusion the site ID'd here is about 500 ft from Dan's wreck according to GPS. Now I know nothing about the accuracy of these devices but I suspect its pretty good.

    Gotta stop now. Cheers jtu