Forensic archaeology, submerged bodies, forensic geophysical searches, side scan sonar, forensic water searches
While side-scan sonar has become a valuable geophysical tool for forensic water searches, controlled research is paramount to determine the best practices for searches in aquatic environments as it provides a structured environment in which to investigate variables that influence the effectiveness of the technology and provides valuable experience for sonar operators. The purpose of this research is to conduct controlled research in order to evaluate the applicability of side-scan sonar to searches involving submerged firearms and proxy cadavers. In addition, the best practices for employing this technology in forensic searches in freshwater ponds and lakes in a humid, subtropical environment in Central Florida would be developed. Five street-level firearms were submerged in a pond, and two sets of three pig carcasses (Sus scrofa), utilized as proxies for human bodies, were staked to the bottom of a pond for this research. Transects were conducted over the firearms and the pig carcasses utilizing side-scan sonar. The first set of pig carcasses represented a child size (30-32 kg) and the second set a small adult size (51-54 kg). Results show that firearms were not detected due to the terrain and small size. However, this technology successfully located small to medium-sized proxy carcasses on a flat, sandy lake bottom when experienced operators were conducting the search. Conversely, vegetation obscured submerged bodies. While the smaller carcasses were difficult to detect throughout the data collection, medium-sized carcasses were easily discerned. Moreover, the medium-sized carcasses decomposed at the same rate as previous studies and were visible throughout each stage of decomposition. Finally, employing a 900 kHz frequency with a 20 m swath-width provided the best search parameters. Therefore, in the appropriate conditions, iv side-scan sonar is an effective tool for locating submerged bodies in freshwater lakes and ponds in a humid, subtropical environment.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences, Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic
Healy, Carrie, "Detecting Submerged Remains: Controlled Research Using Side-scan Sonar To Detect Proxy Cadavers" (2012). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 2440.