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Reinforcement work at the Corvette Museum, USA

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On February 12, 2014, a sinkhole opened under the National Corvette Museum, causing a portion of the floor to collapse and swallow eight one-of-a-kind Corvettes. Decision was made to salvage the cars and to repair and reinforce the ground that was damaged by the sinkhole.

The total repair includes 72 micropiles, drilled to an average depth of 42 m (140 ft.)
Water-powered DTH drilling was the optimal choice when drilling in the sensitive karst formation.

The Corvette Museum

The National Corvette Museum, located in Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA, showcases the American sports car Chevrolet Corvette. It was constructed in 1994 and displays 28 unique Corvettes.

On February 12, 2014, a sinkhole opened under the floor of the Ø 41 m (138 ft.) Skydome area of the museum, causing a section of the floor to collapse. Eight one-of-a-kind Corvettes fell into the sinkhole, causing serious damage to some of them.

The reason: Karst formation

The underlying reason for the sinkhole was the karst formation; a landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks including limestone, dolomite and gypsum. These soft rock types are prone to sinkholes, caves and underground drainage systems.

Acidic rainwater drains into fractures in the formation, and the rock begins to dissolve. Over time, a network of passages is created as the water continues to erodes the rock and the passages enlarge. Yet more water can then be transported and erosion speeds up. This process of dissolution leads to the development of the caves, sinkholes, springs, and sinking streams that are typical of a karst landscape.
Regions with Karst formation and higher probability of sinkholes can be found in large areas in the USA, particularly in the eastern parts.

Drilling and grouting in karst formation

Decision was made to salvage the cars and to repair and reinforce the ground that was damaged by the sinkhole. First, 25 micro piles were installed at regular intervals around the exterior of the Skydome, stabilizing the construction before the cars could be salvaged. After the vehicles had been rescued, the formation below the floor was inspected. It showed yet more voids below the visible sinkhole that needed to be filled.

After filling the sinkhole, 46 more holes were drilled and micro piles installed on an approximate 6 × 7 m (20 × 25 ft.) grid to a depth between 24-75 m (80-245 ft.) inside the Skydome. Compaction grouting was also performed to fill any remaining voids in the formation.

Karst formations are known for being unstable and sinkholes are common. Therefore drilling in them presents a major challenge. Drilling with air-powered DTH possess a great risk as it introduces compressed air in the already heavily fractured zones with large cavities and caves. This can lead to severe damage to the surrounding infrastructure.

The Wassara drilling

Wassara’s DTH hammer is powered by water at up to 180 bar (2600 psi) pressure, providing a unrivalled performance. But when the water leaves the hammer, the pressure is reduced to atmospheric level as it is an open system.
This ensures a low up-hole velocity, still powerful enough to bring any cuttings to the surface and to clean the borehole. The risk of pressurizing the formation is therefore minimized, making Wassara the optimal choice for drilling in sensitive formations, like karst.

A pleased contractor:

We drill in karst formation with Wassara whenever possible, as it has proven to be a technology that minimizes the risk of pressurizing the surrounding formation. As karst is such a sensitive formation, you really don’t want to drill with anything else.
Craig Smith

Senior Project Manager with Hayward Baker

Installing micro piles with Wassara around the exterior of the Skydome
(Photo courtesy of Hayward Baker Inc.)

Casing advancing with Wassara inside the Skydome
(Photo courtesy of Hayward Baker Inc.)

DTH drilling without risk for pressurization the formation is best done with Wassara

Areas of United States with formations in which sinkholes may occur

Equipment used

DTH hammer Wassara hammer W120
Drill bit Ø 203 mm (8")
Pump Boatman 490 l/ min (130 gpm) @ 172 bar (2500 psi) 
Drilling fluid Municipal water 
Rig Comacchio MC 8 D 

Ø 203 mm (8") 

Bore hole length 43 m (140 ft.) in average 
Scope of drilling 3 000 m (10 080 ft.) 
Drilling formation Karst formation (soluble limestone)
Project year February – March, 2014 (first phase)
February – March, 2015 (second phase)