21 July 2014
A team of USC scientists will visit Fraser Island this week to use ground penetrating radar (GPR) technology to help in the search for a century-old Aboriginal burial ground.
USC soil scientist Peter Davies said his research team would use GPR to assist elders from the Butchulla community, the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, South Pacific Strategic Solutions and Fauna and Flora International (Australia) in their bid to determine the exact location of the burial sites.
Mr Davies and USC Science and Engineering lecturer Dr Adrian McCallum will collaborate with visiting Coastal Geologist and Geophysicist Dr Allen Gontz from the University of Massachusetts in Boston on the project.
“The USC and UMB team is really looking forward to providing assistance to the K’Gari (Fraser Island) community in such a worthwhile and important project, and to shed some light on a fairly notorious part of the island’s history” Mr Davies said.
The Bogimbah Creek mission was established on the west coast of Fraser Island in 1897, but appalling conditions caused the deaths of over a hundred Aboriginal people, from illness and malnutrition. The mission was abandoned in 1904, but the locations of the burial sites were never marked and were lost to history.
Earlier this year, representatives from the Fraser Island World Heritage Area Indigenous Advisory Committee approached Mr Davies to ask for assistance in locating the sites.
“We will work with them using the GPR, to develop 3-D images of what lies below the ground surface.
“The GPR is the ideal instrument to locate disturbed ground, human remains and artefacts and has been previously used in locating Indigenous burial sites up to 20,000 years old.”
Mr Davies said Dr Gontz had previously worked with similar groups in NSW, and has also helped the Massachusetts state police to locate clandestine graves in criminal investigations in the United States.
Radar specialist MALA Geoscience provided the researchers with the latest radar technology to conduct the Fraser Island tests.
– David Cameron