Dave the Grave Hunter, who runs Hunter Geophysics, is often found at lonely country cemeteries in the pitch dark, working hard to help rural communities with their “grave” problem.
Cemetery trustees often contact Hunter’s company when they can no longer locate all their graves. Even when there’s a forecast for 40-degree weather or a storm during the day, Hunter and his colleague Rod Hitchcock work at night, sometimes until the early hours.
On one such night, while shining lamps across the graves at Colbinabbin Cemetery, the men discovered an army of spider eyes that looked like moving stars.
On another occasion, Hitchcock saw a big brown snake on the edge of a grave 1.5 meters away from Hunter, but it turned out to be the skin of two snakes that had recently shed. Ghosts are not a concern for them, but they do say hello and goodbye to cemetery occupants at each end of the day.
Hunter and Hitchcock, both qualified archaeologists, use ground penetrating radar to find unmarked plots and open ground, rather than shovels or excavators.
They push a machine that resembles a lawnmower over the plots and evaluate the radar images later. If the ground has been disturbed in the past and has the distinct shapes of plots, they can direct cemetery staff to mark them so they do not dig there. If there is no disturbance, the plot is deemed vacant, and the ground can be sold for burials or built-on.
Hunter says without this technology, cemeteries’ staff may have to dig to see if a grave is vacant, which can sometimes result in the discovery of coffins, which is traumatizing.
Cemetery staff would have to dig to see if a grave is vacant if not for the ground penetrating radar technology.
De Jong, the president of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Association of Victoria and CEO of Ballarat Cemeteries, notes that there are nearly 500 cemeteries in Victoria and ground penetrating radar is “a great tool to give you an idea of where you might have land that you can use.” Hunter has worked at around 100 cemeteries across Australia in his 15 years of helping rural communities.
Volunteers of Colbinabbin Cemetery, like trustee Carmel Turner, appreciate the work Hunter does as they can now be confident in selling plots in a few areas of the cemetery where they were unsure if someone was buried there.