Yellowstone Volcano Observatory

U.S. Geological Survey
Open-File Report 2008-1014
version 1.0

Taming of a Wild Research Well in Yellowstone National Park during November 1992

By Robert O. Fournier and Michael M. Moore


Photo of well with steam gushing out of it

Much of our current understanding of Yellowstone's geothermal areas comes from research drilling by the USGS during 1967 and 1968. Thirteen wells were drilled in thermal areas around the park. Scientists collected waters and rocks, measured temperatures and pressures and performed other tests to characterize the shallow subsurface at Yellowstone.

Most wells were plugged and abandoned, but a few were left open for future scientific tests and sampling. One of those wells, the Y8, was located at Biscuit Basin, 2 miles north of Old Faithful. In November 1992, a valve at the ground surface failed, leading to a blowout, an uncontrolled eruption of steam and hot water.

The USGS and Yellowstone National Park worked with a drilling contractor to control the flow and plug the well. The lead scientist, Robert Fournier, used video taken by the drilling contractor, Tonto Services, to create this fascinating 28-minute-long film. It is followed by a short news story by CNN, also from November 1992. Fifteen years later, we felt that the video was of sufficient scientific and historical interest that it was worth publishing as a USGS Open-file report, where it can be accessed into the future. Enjoy!

More information on the drilling program can be attained by looking a the following book (not yet available online):

White, D.E., Fournier, R.O., Muffler, L.J.P., and Trusdell, A.H., 1975, Physical results of research drilling in thermal areas of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 892, 70 p.

Another publication with data from the Y8 well is available online:

Keith, T.E.C., White, D.E., and Beeson, M.H., 1978, Hydrothermal alteration and self-sealing in Y-7 and Y-8 drill holes in northern part of upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1054-A, 26 p.

Photo of Bob telling story while steam spouts in the background

Download this 28-minute video

Large version

Download full 640x480 video (of2008-1014_large.mp4; 326 MB)

Small version

Download full 160x120 video (of2008-1014_small.mp4; 20.3 MB)

Download just a 9-minute trailer

Large version

Download full 640x480 video (of2008-1014_trailer_large.mp4; 94.2 MB)

Small version

Download full 160x120 video (of2008-1014_trailer_small.mp4; 6.7 MB)

For questions about this report, contact Jake Lowenstern.

Suggested citation and version history

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