Friday, January 1, 2010

Treasure Hunting Tools: Ground Penetrating Radar

(Top: Hand-drawn GPR unit. Bottom: Radar images of 3 buried storage tanks. [Images courtesy of GeoModel Inc.])

This is my first post of the New Year (2010) so let me wish all of you out there a very Happy New Year and much success for the future.

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GPR Units Can Be a Valuable Asset

There's been a lot of talk in recent years in treasure hunting circles about ground penetrating radar (GPR) and its applicability and usefulness as a treasure hunting tool. Overall the consensus seems to be that GPR units can be a valuable asset, especially when it comes to locating medium-to-large sized caches or troves buried deeply underground.

A recent television program about a treasure hunting team searching for Jesse James/Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC) treasure sites may have introduced many of you to GPRs as treasure hunting tools. The above-mentioned team used a GPR unit to locate a possible KGC treasure trove somewhere in Kansas.

About GPRs

Like its above-ground radar counterpart, GPR generates ultra-high frequency (UHF) or very high frequency (VHF) electromagnetic energy waves that, when reflected off objects, create electronic images of those objects or anomalies (as they are called in GPR imagery). As treasure hunters this can be a valuable advantage in determining the precise location and depth of potential treasure troves.

Obviously, the basic GPR unit consists of a transmitter, a receiver, and typically a monitor or printout that provides visual or recorded data of various underground anomalies. Some GPR units are small and compact and can be hand carried or hand drawn (like the GPR unit pictured above), or they can be drawn or pushed as larger units mounted on a chassis with wheels. Other are configured to be drawn behind vehicles or ATVs.

The depth range of a given GPR unit is somewhat limited by the overall conductivity of the ground being searched, transmitter frequency, and the power generated by the unit itself. These three factors can adversely affect search data and imagery in smaller, cheaper units but tend to have less detrimental effects in higher quality units (not unlike the variances in metal detector models).

GPR is Very Accurate

If you take a look at the second image at the beginning of this post, you can see the visual return from a GPR search for 3 old buried storage tanks. These tanks were buried pretty deeply underground, by the way.

As you can see in this example, GPR won't provide you with detailed physical representations or descriptions of buried objects per se (like an X-ray). However, GPR is very accurate in locating these buried anomalies, providing accurate depth readings, and giving you a general idea of the basic shape and form of buried objects.

GPRs Don't Come Cheap

I think by now you can see the tremendous potential of employing GPR units out in the field. This is especially true in treasure search and recovery operations where substantial caches or troves are being sought.

On the flip side, GPR units don't come cheap. Some of the larger "push-pull" wheeled models can cost more than $50,000 used (yep, you heard me right...used!). Rentals are cheaper (if you can wangle one) but then you are faced with learning how to effectively operate the GPR in a "crash course" environment. However, if you're really onto something out there a GPR may pay for itself if you hit the "big one."

Word of Caution

Now a word of caution. Using "exotic" gear like a GPR out in the field is bound to draw attention to yourself and generate undue interest in your activities.

If you don't believe me just stop and think about the times you've metal detected for coins or jewelry in some old park or along a beach. How many times have the "Curious Georges and Georgettes" come waltzing over to see what you are doing? (I rest my case.) Granted, the farther away from prying eyes you are the better, but some searches do take place in locations where people are out and about.

Treasure Hunting

Bear this in mind because the last thing you want when on a treasure search and recovery mission is lots of "looky loos" hanging around or asking questions that don't concern them. So take steps to minimize this factor (as you should in all your treasure hunting pursuits) if you decide to go the GPR route.

That said, good hunting to you!

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Nevada's Lost Ross Mine (Part 2)"