USC academic aims to find lost time capsules

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USC academic aims to find lost time capsules

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Published on 29 August 2012

A University of the Sunshine Coast academic may hold the secret weapon needed to find two time capsules buried in 1912 and 1962 in the grounds of Conondale State School.

USC’s Lecturer in Science and Engineering Dr Adrian McCallum will use a Ground Penetrating Radar — a device which uses electromagnetic waves to detect structural changes beneath the ground surface — to look for the missing capsules on Friday 31 August.

Dr McCallum said USC’s newest piece of equipment, worth $23,000, was able to see through most ground surfaces including ice, soil and sand. He used a similar device extensively during recent research in Antarctica and the Arctic.

“In soil, you might see through depths of 6-10 metres depending on the frequency of the radar and the soil composition,” Dr McCallum said.

“With ice, you can potentially map the bedrock which might be 200-300 metres below you. I have used the radar in the Arctic to look at ice thickness and in Antarctica to find crevasses ahead of us, so when we are travelling in a vehicle, we don’t fall into them.”

“This machine should be able to pick up cables, drains and anything else that is beneath the ground at the school — including the time capsules.”

Conondale State School acting Principal Michael Cookman said information from the local community had identified the 1962 capsule as being buried near the administration building or on the school oval. The location of the 1912 capsule is unknown.

“With the school to celebrate its centenary next month, the school community is very eager to locate the capsules, to open them, and to view their contents,” he said.

“We are pinning our hopes on Adrian, his equipment and expertise to find them. We have tried divining, we have had an excavator in and we have dug numerous holes, all to no avail.”

Dr McCallum said there was great potential for the Ground Penetrating Radar to be used for teaching and research at USC.

“It’s a pretty versatile tool,” he said.

“It could be used to assess pavement integrity at USC’s proposed Queensland Functional Pavement Centre, and fourth-year Engineering students may choose to use it for their final year projects.“

“Ultimately, I’d like to use it to map glacial caves and drainage systems in New Zealand, the Himalayas and beyond.”

— Michelle Widdicombe

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