Workers try to repair the sinking sea wall at the Jefferson Memorial

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The brown goo oozed from the drill hole like a primordial porridge -- from 60 feet beneath the Jefferson Memorial, it was some of the muck that's under the Mall and part of the stuff that has been slowly swallowing the memorial's sea wall for years.

Centuries of Potomac River sediment and layers of dredged fill, it is the material engineers are drilling through to reach bedrock and anchor the famed memorial's sea wall, for the first time, on a solid foundation.

On Tuesday, crews working in a dewatered section of the Tidal Basin prepared to demolish the old concrete sections of the sea wall as part of the $12.4 million repair project that the National Park Service has been planning since it realized the wall was sinking in 2006.

The work is expected to keep the photogenic north face of the memorial partially obscured by construction equipment through the rest of the tourist season.

In a bit of engineering detective work, experts have discovered that the wall has been slipping away from the memorial's north plaza because the timber pilings that were used to support the wall were probably not long enough to reach bedrock when the memorial was built in the 1930s and '40s....

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