Will GPR Uncover Jimmy Hoffa’s Remains?

A man on his death bed confessed to the police that he saw some men bury a “black bag” in a yard approximately 35 years ago in Roseville, MI. shortly after Jimmy Hoffa was reported missing. This is not the first time someone has claimed to know where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.

potential site of Jimmy Hoffa's Remains

Burial spot? This driveway in Roseville, Michigan, is the place where a tipster said could be the final resting place of missing Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa.

However, this time the Roseville Police Department brought in the Michigan State Police Crime Lab who used ground penetrating radar to scan the subject area for anomalies. The GPR technician did find anomalies in the area where informant claimed to have seen the burial.

The forensic pathologist from Michigan State University took a core sample under the concrete slab where the body is reported to be buried. This is to ascertain if there are human remains present before digging up the entire area. These soil samples are currently being tested at Michigan State University.

Once the results are made public we will let you know who or what they found.

GPR Helping Restore History

During the past few weeks there has been news of ground penetrating radar being used to restore history on 2 different parts of our planet.

ground penetrating radar restores historyOne project takes place in Stony Point New Jersey where Dr. Alexander Gates , professor of Earth and Environmental Science, along with a group of high school students used GPR to locate fallen soldiers. They have found what might be the burial site of several soldiers who died during the Revolutionary War Battle of Stony Point.

Dr. Gates was reported saying that it looked like in one spot two soldiers were buried together and another spot where another six maybe have been buried together.  They came up with six to 10 target areas that are very good candidates for where some of the bodies may have been buried.

The other project takes place in England where the University of Leicester is using ground penetrating radar to locate the remains of King Richard III. The subject area is under what is now the city council office’s car park. King Richard III was said to be buried in the church of the Franciscan Friary, known as Greyfriars, after he was killed in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

GPR used to restore history
The archaeologists are now starting to excavate the areas, identified by GPR data as potential targets, hoping to find the foundations of the Greyfriars Church.  They will begin by digging two large trenches. This excavation is expected to be completed within the next 2 weeks.

Last month I reported on how our company was able to locate gravesites of fallen pioneers in Midland. With these two new projects on the way it’s exciting to see how ground penetrating radar is being used around the globe to restore little pieces of our history.

GPR Locates Gravesites of Fallen Pioneers

The Town of Midland and the Heritage Committee are committed to uncover the past. A release from the town, as reported by the Midland Free Press, says ” The Cemetery is a source of great local heritage and lore, dating back to 1855 and the passing of William Wilson’s wife and her burial on the family property. Wilson, employed by the Naval establishment at Penetanguishene, is also buried on the property as are several other family members and travelers of the Penetanguishene Road who perished in the area.”

To begin putting the pieces together, Global GPR Services was hired by the Town of Midland, to conduct a GPR cemetery mapping survey of the one acre site. The goal was to try and identify any subsurface anomalies (bodies, caskets or tombstones) that may be buried in this pioneer cemetery.

cemetery mapping

Don Johnston, left, and Steve Watson of Global GPR Services of Toronto work a grid format with the ground penetrating radar machine over the abandoned William Wilson Pioneer Cemetery in Midland while, from left, Sue McKenzie, chair of the Midland Heritage, Andrea Betty, Midland town planner, Sher Scott, Midland heritage summer student, and Bailey Loverock, Midland planning summer student look on. GISELE WINTON SARVIS Midland Free Press

A crowd started to gather at the William Wilson Pioneer Cemetery in Midland Ontario while Global GPR Services collected subsurface data using ground penetrating radar. The onlookers included the Town of Midland Mayor, the Town Planner, representatives from the Midland Heritage Committee and some summer students. The media was represented by the Midland Free Press newspaper, 104.1 The Dock radio station and even the local cable TV station.

locating buried body

Courtesy of 104.1 The Dock

Although it is suspected that William Wilson, who died in 1870, and his wife, Henrietta, who died in 1855 are buried on the property no one is quite sure how many other people may be buried on this site because there were no detailed records kept. A neighbor to the property remembers six or eight tombstones standing at one time but now there was only one fallen over head stone. It belonged to Esther Wood who died in 1866 at the age of 33. Some suspect that as many as 23 bodies may be buried there.



map gravesites

Courtesy of 104.1 The Dock

Rumor has it that William Wilson is said to be buried in the middle of 4 oak trees. The closest match, the GPR technicians could find, was an area with 4 large maple trees in a perfect square. Thinking the myth may have gotten the type of tree wrong they scanned that area and were not able to confirm on site anything buried there. The data will be analyzed in more detail in the lab, to make sure that nothing is missed, using more advanced software than what is available in the field equipment.


Further analysis of the data collected is currently being interpolated in the lab at Global GPR. The final report of the analysis will be sent to the Town of Midland shortly. With the location of the final resting places of the fallen pioneers identified they will be properly looked after now that it is an official historical site.

GPR Helps Locate Mammoth Bones

A few years ago an Iowa farmer came across a very large bone while out looking for berries near their home. The family continued to dig and found additional bones which they kept in their living room. They kept it a secret until recently when he asked a geosciences professor from the University of Iowa to help locate the rest of what has been confirmed to be the bones of a Mammoth.

gpr used to find mammoth bones
The scientists from the university used ground penetrating radar to scan the ground in the subject area in a grid form to identify potential targets subsurface. As a result of the excavation in those areas 30 bones have been located including a femur, multiple ribs, a few toe bones and vertebrae.

To find the odd Mammoth bone in that area is not all that uncommon. However, an almost complete skeleton would be extremely rare. The fact that the bones are buried in soil which may contain other information about that period of time is even more unusual. This can help the scientist determine valuable information about the environment in which they lived and died.

The scientists and students from the university plan to continue scanning and excavating till they find as much of this historic beast as possible.

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Ground Penetrating Radar Used to Locate Evidence

Like a scene from a TV crime drama a dozen FBI agents swarmed Robert Gentile’s home a few weeks ago. The 75 year old reputed Connecticut mobster was believed to have some involvement in a 22 year old art heist from a museum in Boston.  Thieves are said to have stolen $500 million dollars worth of art making it the largest art heist in history.

Although agents had searched the premises previously, this time they returned with a warrant to look for guns that allowed them to use ground penetrating radar (GPR) to locate evidence on the property behind the house. The GPR survey resulted in locating a buried gun and silencer but the stolen art was nowhere to be found.

He is currently being held in prison on drug charges. Gentile faces as much as 20 years on the drug charges. Since he is a previously convicted felon these weapons charges could result in an additional 10 years in prison.

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811 Call Before You Dig Spoof!

Most people who read our blog know that Ground Penetrating Radar is an essential tool used for utility locating. Everyone knows digging, before you have the excavation area surveyed to locate underground utility lines, can be a risky proposition. Although utility locating is a very serious issue, this month I thought I would post a funny video I found on the internet about this subject.

First a little background about the video. You have various resources for utility locating. In most areas in the U.S. and Canada there are one-call services that dispatch utility locators to mark the location of public utilities. For all other buried utilities you can hire a private utility locating service. In the U.S. the FCC has designated 811 as a national one-call number.

To promote this 811 service they have partnered with a very enterprising and entertaining group called iwearyourshirt.com. They recently release the video below I think you may find very funny.

Hopefully this put a little smile on your face. I think what they are promoting is important. If by using humor, more people remember to locate buried utilities before they cause any damage or hurt themselves, it’s a great thing.

NEW Concrete Scanning GPR Systems

It seems the trend in ground penetrating radar concrete scanning systems is to go smaller, lighter and more portable. These are all positive benefits for these new smaller systems. However, these benefits may come with a few compromises.

The new “Mini” concrete scanning GPR systems featured in this blog are from two leading GPR system manufacturers Sensors & Software and GSSI. We have not tested these systems and the information here is what we have deciphered from the manufacturer’s marketing material and news releases.

From our preliminary observation the primary compromise appears to be a smaller screen size, from both companies, compared to their full sized brothers. Trying to identify small or faint targets on a compressed screen size could potentially be a bit of a challenge. The good news is, both of these new systems have maintained the great depth of penetration that is available in their respective full sized systems.

Conquest SL Features

The Conquest SL has an 8″ (20.3cm) screen size compared to the 15″ (38cm) screen in the full size Conquest. On the up side the new Conquest SL can run on battery power or AC. I’m glad to see they have incorporated the “Power Cable Detection” capability feature, available in the full sized Conquest, into this new system. We use this feature extensively to locate “Live” power conduits in concrete slabs.

For more information visit Sensors & Software web site at www.sensoft.ca.


GSSI StructureScan Mini HD

The StructureScan Mini HR has a 5.7″ (14.4cm) screen size compared to the 8.4″ (21.3cm) screen in the full size StructureScan Standard. The great thing about this new Mini is the video display is built into the antenna and not tethered by cables to a separate unit.

For more information visit the GSSI web site at www.geophysical.com.

In technology everything is a trade off. You will have to decide for yourself if you are willing to trade off larger screens and possibly some other features incorporated in the standard concrete imaging systems for these smaller, lighter and more portable minis.

Click here for more information about Concrete Scanning.

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GPR Locates Voids Under Airport Runway

A potential problem with voids under a runway was confirmed after a Boeing 737 dropped through the concrete taxiway at the Mid Delta Regional Airport in Mississippi. It was reported the airplane sustained approximately $1.5 million in damages (OUCH!).

subsurface void

Ground penetrating radar was used to map any potential voids near the storm drain which crosses under a runway and a taxiway. These subject areas were chosen because geologists speculated the previous spring’s flooding of the nearby Mississippi River followed by current drought conditions may have caused the voids.

A geophysical firm based in Clinton, MS analyzed the GPR data and mapped the location of the void at a 40-45 cm depth slice and the pipe at a 95-100 cm depth slice beneath the void as shown in the images below.

subsurface void map

It is anticipated additional GPR surveys at the airport will be conducted in other areas of the airport to determine what caused the voids and if there may be any additional voids present.

Subsurface voids under roadways can cause significant damage to property and possible injury or death to those traveling on those surfaces when they collapse. Fortunately this time the collapsed runway only resulted in a very expensive repair to the aircraft.

(Information and pictures originally published by Sensors & Software in Subsurface Views newsletter.)

2012 GPR Conferences and Symposiums

As a reference I have put together a list of upcoming 2012 conferences and symposiums related to ground penetrating radar technology. There is a brief description and a link to their web sites for more information.


EEGS logo

Symposium on the Application of Geophysics to
Engineering and Environmental Problems (SAGEEP)

Date: March 25-29, 2012
Location: Tucson, AZ, USA
Web site: www.eegs.org

SAGEEP provides this symposium to geophysicists, engineers and geoscientists as an opportunity to meet and discuss near-surface applications of geophysics and learn about recent developments in near-surface geophysics. This symposium is organized by the Environmental & Engineering Geophysical Society (EEGS).

EGU logo

European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2012

Date: April 22-27, 2012
Location: Vienna, Austria
Web site: www.egu2012.eu

The EGU General Assembly will bring together geoscientists from all over the world covering all disciplines of the Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences to provide a forum where they can present their work and discuss their ideas with experts in all fields of geosciences. The conference will include a session entitled “Civil Engineering Applications of Ground Penetrating Radar”. This session promises to be a forum for discussion and a wide exchange of experiences and results related to the Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) use in civil engineering problems.


GPR 2012 logo

14th International Conference on Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR 2012)

Date: June 4-8, 2012
Location: Shanghai, China
Web site: www.gpr2012.org:81

The ground penetrating radar (GPR) International Advisory Committee will highlight the most recent technical advancements and case studies on ground penetrating radar for engineers, scientists, and all kinds of end users. The Department of Geotechnical Engineering and the School of Ocean & Earth Sciences of Tongji University will be the host of this year’s conference.


CINDE logo
NDT in Canada 2012 Conference
Date: June 18-21, 2012
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Web site: www.cinde.ca

The Canadian Institute for NDE (CINDE) is organizing the NDT in Canada Conference and 4th International CANDU in-service Inspection Workshop for members and the Non-Destructive Testing community at large.


International Technical Workshop “REmote Sensing Techniques
in Archaeological Research” (RESTAR)

Date: September 21-29, 2012
Location: Rethymno, Crete, Greece
Web site: www.ims.forth.gr

This conference and workshops is focused at introducing students, researchers and professionals to the capabilities of ground and satellite based remote sensing techniques, including ground penetrating radar, in context of an archaeological survey. The workshop is organized by the Laboratory of Geophysical – Satellite Remote Sensing and Archaeo-environment of the Institute for Mediterranean Studies / Foundation for Research and Technology, Hellas (F.O.R.T.H.).

Ground Penetrating Radar Helps Find Noah’s Ark

With the use of secret military satellite imagery and ground penetrating radar scientists are claiming to have found pieces of Noah’s Ark buried under ice near the peak of Mt. Ararat in Turkey. Two large sections of Noah’s ark are claimed, by Daniel McGivern and his team, to be resting about 350 feet below the peak of the mountain.

noah's ark satallite image

Digital Globe via Space.com: Satellite imagery of Turkey's Mount Ararat highlights an object within a red circle, with blue arrows indicating possible down slope movement. The imagery was captured by Digital Globe and made available through Shamrock-The Trinity Corp.

With the help of ground penetrating radar they discovered a large piece (24 feet x 123 feet long) embedded in glacial ice just 23 feet at one end below the surface and down to over 100 feet at the other end. A second large section has been reported in a glacier nearby.

Here is a GPR 3D Graphical Simulation of the discovered piece.

This discovery is completely based on imaging technology and will most likely remain buried under the ice. As McGivern explained, “There’s a huge problem with getting down to it, because of the fact that you can’t melt the ice”.

For more information about this topic visit Noah’s Ark Found (Daniel McGivern) web site.

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