CCAV conference presentation

On Saturday, I presented at the Cemeteries and Crematoria Association of Victoria’s Country Conference in, Fingal, Victoria. I was preceded by two interesting presentations – one on the implications and responsibilities upon cemeteries during bush fires, and the other concerning insurance for cemetery trusts. My presentation, naturally, concerned the detection of unmarked graves in cemeteries.

At present, there are three methods for detecting unmarked graves:

  1. Sending down a metal probe into the ground to feel the firmness of the soil, or to hit a coffin itself.
  2. Scraping off the top-soil and examining the colours of the soil, and
  3. Geophysics (in which Hunter Geophysics specializes).

I believe geophysics to be a far more reliable method than the other two for the following reasons:

On metal probing-
A) The metal probe may hit a rock, giving a false-positive.
B) The coffin most likely will have decomposed, thereby meaning the grave will not be detected.
C) The soil density (and, therefore, firmness) will vary due to natural processes, meaning that it is possible that a grave may not be detectable.
D) It is difficult to send a metal probe down six feet into the ground to hit a coffin.

On scraping-
A) Natural soil movement and ongoing chemical processes change the colour of the soil, meaning that graves may not be noticed due to the fact that they may have the same colour as the surrounding soil.

Geophysical methods are not susceptible to these downfalls as the physical properties examined by geophysics generally remain static over extended periods of time – often thousands of years.

While it is true that each geophysical method has its own Achille’s Heel, a geophysicist with experience and appropriate training can apply complementary geophysical techniques to overcome the shortfalls of any specific geophysical technique. Each geophysical technique is sensitive to the environment where the survey is being undertaken, as well as a host of other potential issues, and it is for this reason that Hunter Geophysics does not provide a survey proposal without assessing the site beforehand. We don’t want to provide a poor service, we don’t want an unsuccessful survey, and we don’t want our clients to be wasting their funds (and I’m sure our clients agree with me!).

It is for the reasons I have outlined above that I believe geophysical methods are ideal for the detection of unmarked graves, but only if geophysics is applied responsibly and by someone with appropriate experience and know-how.

Our site assessment, performed prior to providing a survey proposal, allows Hunter Geophysics to determine the best geophysical method to use at a particular site, thereby ensuring a successful project.

In addition to the above, my presentation also covered our work at the Creswick Cemetery, performed last year.

The slides from my presentation are available here.

Stay well,

Creswick Cemetery – report

Just a quick blog post this time, but it’s accompanied by a lengthy survey report, which – I am sure – more than makes up for this post’s brevity.

Before I go on: Happy Easter to everyone. I hope you all stay safe and enjoy the long weekend (or holiday, for those lucky enough to get more than the weekend off!).

I have uploaded a copy of the report I wrote for our geophysical survey at the Creswick Cemetery. The survey, of course, sought to detect any unmarked graves in the Cemetery. Ground-penetrating radar (GPR), magnetic gradiometry, electrical resistivity, frequency domain electromagnetics (EM or FDEM) – specifically, ground electrical conductivity – and aerial photograph analyses were thrown at this site and have revealed a great deal of information not only regarding the unmarked graves present, but also of the former Sexton’s cottage and natural soil processes, as well as old geological features such as palaeochannels.

This was a very interesting survey and has yielded some fantastic results. We have also learned a great deal regarding the applicability of various geophysical techniques to the detection of specific types of buried features.

The full report can be downloaded from our website. Note that it is a thirty megabyte file, so it may take some time to download.


Best wishes to all for Easter.


Update: fixed report download link – sorry about that!

Merry Christmas!

As Hunter Geophysics draws down for the end of the year (sort of), I would like to wish everyone a happy, relaxing and safe Christmas.

December has been a very busy month for Hunter Geophysics; we have spent the last three weeks at the Creswick Cemetery, conducting ground-penetrating radar, magnetic, electromagnetic, topographic and electrical resistivity surveys in search of unmarked graves (this survey was very successful, but more details in the new year), and in the week following Christmas, we are back into the field again to look for unmarked graves at the Ballangeich Cemetery (just northeast of Warrnambool, Victoria). We have a busy January and February planned as well.

Stay tuned to our Facebook and Twitter accounts for more frequent and detailed updates over the next few weeks.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Dave ‘the grave’ Hunter.

P.S.: Despite our recent and upcoming scheduled works, don’t forget we also provide the same geophysical and GIS services to archaeologists.