Ground penetrating radar at St. John’s churchyard

Many folks in the preservation community are talking about the possibilities presented by ground penetrating radar, a relatively new technology in which pulses or waves are manipulated by a computer to reveal belowground shapes or features. This week, the St. John’s Church Foundation brought in Brian Whiting, a geologist on the faculty of Seattle University, to conduct a series of ground-penetrating radar readings in the old churchyard. Brian’s machine looked like a lawn mower with a small vertical antenna, all feeding data into a Samsung tablet. He did several test runs throughout the yard that showed us lots of squiggly black-and-white lines. He was encouraged by the initial readings. The next step is for him to take the data back to his computer for integration and analysis. The Foundation hopes it will give a better sense as to the yard’s contents and organization, and it may allow for new interpretive markers to be set. It shows the Foundation’s commitment to interpreting its entire historic site.

While I was watching Brian at work, about five or six different people stopped to ask about conducting such tests on their own family farms, burial grounds elsewhere, etc. Clearly there is a lot of demand for such applications, though the technology at present may not provide all the answers for which we are looking. It will be fascinating to see what Brian finds upon analysis.

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