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ground penetrating radar

Gerald Steding pushing ground penetrating radar on sand dune in cemetery.


We have been using our Ground Penetrating Radar (Easy Locator) to record unmarked graves in cemeteries, along the coast, and in the bush, for many years. Over time, our recording methods have been tried and adapted to suit most terrains and environmental conditions in the search for missing persons.

Images of individuals and objects appear as hyperbole on the radar screen. They are referred to as anomalies until the data has been interpreted and burials are identified physically and by experience. The image to the right shows a burial at a depth of 1.8 metres in Hartley Vale.

Hyperbola on grey background depicting the depth of a human burial using ground penetrating radar. Cold case.
Ground penetrating radar on base line in cemetery. Headstones in background.

Our Ground Penetrating Radar at its Baseline

In a fairly typical 2-D recording of unmarked graves in a cemetery, base lines are laid out for the GPR. As anomalies are encountered during this grid-survey, flags are used to mark possible burial locations. Using a total station, all findings are then plotted onto a plan. 3-D recordings are described under Data Visualisations.

Marked and Unmarked Graves

Use of the radar is most effective on flat surfaces with a consistent soil matrix, in dry conditions. For our search purposes, we tested the usefulness of GPR in rough terrain at Sydney's Quarantine Station Cemetery No.3.

Here, both marked and unmarked graves were recorded.


Despite the rugged topography and dense vegetation, the accuracy of data recording and interpretation was estimated to be 78%. 

Some individuals were then identified using surviving headstones, cemetery records, and interpolation.

Dr Louise Steding demonstrating the use of ground penetrating radar in rugged coastal terrain.
Annotated radar diagram showing the hyperbolas of graves.

Human Burials in a Row

Two words, cold case, in metallic font with handcuffs and a chain. Chain links. This is the logo of cold case..

From Pioneers to Cold Cases

Ground penetrating radar used in the search for unmarked graves at Tambaroora Pioneer Cemetery.

Searching the bush for pioneer burials. 

Dr Louise Steding discussing the use of GPR in the search for Samantha Knight.

Discussions about the use of GPR in the search for Samantha Knight.

Aboriginal people discussing the return to country of Baby Michael.
Coffin decoratons from Baby Michael's exhumation.

Return to Country

One of the highlights of our work has been joining a family in their search for the grave of an Aboriginal child, baby Michael Nicholls, in Rookwood Cemetery. 

Also shown are the plastic flowers and a cross. These decorations were located by Dr Steding during the subsequent exhumation.

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