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Case Study 19: Amityville Handgun

Jul 04, 2017

With the recent release of the latest reboot of the Amityville Horror franchise, we thought it’d be interesting to revisit this case study from a few years back.

Client Need: A documentary filmmaker was producing a three part series exploring the real-life case history of the 1974 homicide case which inspired the Amityville Horror franchise. Entitled Shattered Hopes, the series examined some never fully answered questions in the murder investigation.

After extensive research of police files, the filmmaker suspected a second firearm was never recovered from the crime scene. It was his belief that the gun, a snub-nose .38, was discarded in a nearby canal.

Solution: Aqua Survey performed a survey of the section of canal in question. Towing an EM (electromagnetic) array behind one of our vessels, 317 metal objects were located and mapped to within inches of accuracy.

Using advanced computer analytics, Aqua Survey’s geophysicists generated a small list of high-priority targets.
Using DGPS, an Aqua Survey vessel placed the recovery team over each target location. An EM-tipped probe was then hand-pushed into the sediment to further pinpoint each object. Once the probe was in close proximity to the target, a diver was splashed to investigate it.

Result: Upon diving on the third target, the remains of the trigger/receiver section of a top-break revolver, seemingly of .38 caliber, was discovered. The gun was promptly bagged and tagged by the Suffolk County Police, who supervised the recovery.

What If:
What if Aqua Survey was brought in to survey a crime scene that was only hours or days old? How would the retrieval team handle the recovery differently and why?

What If Solution: Great care would be taken by the diver to place the item and surrounding material into the evidence bag with minimum disruption. Not only could the item have trace amounts of DNA or partial fingerprints from its owner, but, in the case of a gun barrel, could actually have the victim’s DNA, due to a phenomenon known as blowback. When a bullet is fired, it creates a vacuum, pulling air into the gun. When used at close range, the barrel may contain blood and tissue from the victim. Additionally, sometimes even a single strand of fiber found on an item can be enough to trace back to a piece of clothing owned by a particular individual or even to his or her car’s interior carpeting.

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Aqua Survey Lunch and Learn Tour - Back with a New Twist

May 16, 2017

Question: What does the French Algerian War, Cleopatra’s Palace and Bomb-hunting ROV’s have in common?

Answer: They are all part of Aqua Survey’s newest Lunch and Learn.

Our mixed-media, informal presentations inform and entertain (after all, who said learning has to be painful). Travel around the world with us over lunch (or dinner).

Topics include:

-Sediment Coring
-Bathymetric and Side Scan Sonar Surveys
-On-Water Geophysical Surveying
-Environmental Toxicology Tests/Studies
-Unexploded Ordnance (Bombs) Surveys
-Geophysical-Based Treasure Hunting
-Globe Trotting Adventures
-And More

We can come to you with hot pizza, relevant information and interesting stories.

However, if you’d prefer, your company is invited to spend lunch or dinner at the Aqua Survey gallery located in Flemington, NJ, enjoying authentic Southeast Asian cuisine. Don’t forget, bring your own PowerPoint on your companies activities. We’d love for you to walk us through what you do so we can better work together when the time comes.

Our current display features antique traditional Lao silk textiles, some over a hundred years old.  Any or all of the above mentioned topics can still be covered if you’d like.

Schedule your Lunch (or Dinner) and Learn today.

908-788-8700 or

We’ll come to you or you can come to us.

Aqua Survey - Your Sediment and Survey Expert.

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CASE STUDY #38: UXO Unearthed During Construction

Apr 04, 2017

Client Needs: An engineering firm was in the process of refurbishing a relatively small ferryboat terminal in the Northeast.  In this process, an intact, massive (and potentially explosive) Rodman cannonball was unearthed by a backhoe.  To provide worker safety, the work zone had to be surveyed for other unexploded ordnance (UXO).

Services Provided: Aqua Survey utilized their customized military-grade electromagnetic induction (EMI) metal detection electronics (marine and terrestrial platforms) to locate ferrous and non-ferrous objects within the work zone.  None of the detected targets were UXO.  EMI was used because of its ability to detect both ferrous and non-ferrous objects.  UXO objects often have very little ferrous content and are often undetectable with a magnetometer.

Submerged UXO on or protruding from the surface can be detected by side scan sonar.  Terrestrial UXO laying on the ground can often be detected by eye.  However, when UXO is potentially fully embedded in the soil or sediment, invasive electronics, such as EMI, are required.

What If: The survey indicates the probability of more UXO? 

What if Solution: Aqua Survey uses RTK-GPS (accuracy within a couple of inches) to identify all target locations.  An Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team would evacuate all non-essential people from the area, reacquire the target and then carefully expose the object to determine if it is UXO or metal debris.  If underwater, an Aqua Survey EMI-tipped jet probe would be used to aid in reacquisition.  If it is UXO, the EOD team would determine the safest way to eliminate the risk, which could range from Blow in Place (BIP) to removal to be detonated in a safer environment or deactivating its fuse.

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CASE STUDY #37: 50 Mile Pipeline

Mar 21, 2017

Client Needs: A client south of the Mason-Dixon Line needs to pinpoint a 50 mile pipeline in XY&Z dimensions.  It’s a 16 inch, ferrous pipe believed to be buried under about 3 feet of sand.  The water depth is 3-9 feet.

ASI’s Solution:
Aqua Survey would trailer a shallow draft survey vessel to a boat launch near the survey area. Using Hypack software on our Panasonic Toughbook for track and control, a vessel-mounted RTK-DGPS system for positioning, we would tow a single Geometric 882 Cesium Magnetometer towfish to locate the pipe and follow it for the needed 50 miles. If the area is known to have bridges or other metal structures, we would use a Gradiometer Magnetometer configuration of two magnetometers. This arrangement reduces the interference caused by metal structures. With processed data in hand, a water-jet-probe would then be used to accurately determine the pipe’s burial depth at key locations along the survey route.

What If:
What if the client wanted to locate a copper cable?  Can it be found with a Magnetometer?

What If Solution:
Magnetometers can only detect ferrous objects. Therefore it will not be able to find a copper cable. However, an Electromagnetic Induction (EMI) Metal Detector can identify and map both ferrous and nonferrous (e.g., copper) objects. EMI systems are commonly used to detect unexploded bombs and gold. Processed EMI data can be mapped and, if applicable, safely jet-probed to determine burial depth.

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Jacques Cousteau and the Assassin

Mar 09, 2017

Whenever we deploy our inflatable Rossfelder barge, it’s amazing to think that Jacques Cousteau’s son, Phillipe, used to go bombing around the South Pacific with it tucked away in Cousteau’s seaplane, the Flying Calypso. When I watch our field techs using one of Andre Rossfelder’s vibracore units, I think about some of the James Bond-like stories Andre told me about his youth, including his attempts to assassinate Charles De Gaulle.

Andre was a fascinating man. If you have a few minutes, read on and watch the video above.

-Ken Hayes

August 15th 1964, Provence, France – French President Charles de Gaulle takes the stage and begins his opening remarks in commemoration of the Allied landings in Provence. Several feet away, concealed in an urn, are 30 kilos of plastic explosive, a radio-detonation device and another 3 kilos of TNT for good measure. It’s Andre Rossfelder’s latest creation.

With the previous month’s attempt having gone sour (an OAS agent failed to carry out his reconnaissance mission), one can only imagine what was going through Andre’s head at that moment.

Maybe it seemed like the perfect plan. A rare instant when the culmination of one’s life events came together in a manner that held meaning and for once felt fair and just.

Andre’s device was about to deliver the death blow to the man who had betrayed his homeland. Two students hidden within the crowd would activate the radio device, detonating the bomb and forever altering world history.

And then. Nothing.

One man orating to a quiet crowd. Perhaps the sound of birds.

No explosion.

De Gaulle had just survived his 29th assassination attempt and his second by Andre.

What had happened? Was the bomb a victim to a simple mechanical failure or did de Gaulle know? Was there a mole within Andre’s organization and, if so, how much did they know? Were Andre and his conspirators now in mortal danger?

Andre would make one more attempt on de Gaulle the following year, this time with two radio-controlled bombs. Unfortunately for Andre, a police informer had ratted him out. Two of his associates were arrested, but they never caught Andre.

In 1966, Andre Rossfelder was tried in absentia and sentenced to death for his role in the third assassination attempt.

Already an exile of his homeland of Algeria, Andre was now a criminal in the two countries he loved most and, from his perspective, had fought tirelessly for, for many years.

Andre resurfaced in Rome, a frequent safe-haven for OAS operatives, and took a job with the United Nations. Within the year, Andre immigrated to the United States where he took a job at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography focusing on marine geology and ocean technology.

In 1968, De Gaulle, a man known for bravado and who had weathered 31 assassination attempts by this point, pardoned Andre.

Andre went on to have many globe-trotting adventures with his old war-time buddy, Jacques Cousteau. He invented a specialized inflatable pontoon barge to be deployed by Cousteau’s seaplane, the Flying Calypso. The Rossfelder, as it came to be known, was used by Andre and the Cousteau family for mineral exploration among remote tropical islands.

Andre also became an award-winning author. Writing eleven books, topics ranged from his own personal history to a book on the 16th century explorer, Ferdinand Magellan. Magellan, an innovator in his own time for his contributions to the art of seafaring navigation, was one of Andre’s heroes.

Andre also developed the electro-vibracore, a dependable solution for sediment vibracoring. Aqua Survey owns and operates many Rossfelder vibracore units to this day. Aqua Survey also owns the original Rossfelder barge used by Andre and Cousteau all those years ago. The Rossfelder has been a proven workhorse for us over the years, allowing us to collect sediment samples in extremely remote areas, including the time a client needed us to vibracore in a remote pond located deep within Daniel Boone National Forest in Winchester, KY.

Andre’s complex and storied past leaves one feeling conflicted. On the one hand, he was a man who lived life on his own terms and with steadfast conviction. On the other, his associations with the OAS and Radio Algeria left him with a controversial past. Amazingly, the very man he tried to kill multiple times pardoned him only few years later.

Andre was also an innovator, providing important tools that facilitated the modern environmental industry into becoming what it is today.

Andre lived through a troubled time in history with no clear heroes. What is clear is that he lived a life of conviction and innovation.

Aqua Survey greatly appreciates Andre’s contributions to the fields of marine exploration and sediment sampling.

We continue to make use of his dependable tools to this day.

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Vibracore Assassin: the Real Day of the Jackal

Mar 01, 2017

Scene outside the government building on day two of Andre's Algiers radio occupation.

It’s been a couple of years since Andre Rossfelder passed.  Before he died, he shared with me incredible stories of his past life.  I had known Andre because of the sediment vibracoring systems he had invented and we found so practical to use.  Although Andre died recently many governments and individuals wanted him dead long before then.

Now if you don’t have a few minutes to read about Rossfelder’s many brushes with death and his amazing accomplishments, that’s ok.  But if you do, read on.

Ken Hayes

Late April 1961, Algiers
.  Andre Rossfelder had been holed up at the government building with the French Foreign Legion for days, manning a radio broadcast condemning the countless atrocities committed against civilians by the FLN (National Liberation Front) movement in their bloody quest to rid their homeland of all French ties once and for all.

Three days in, the Foreign Legion pulled out and the FLN had the chance they’d been waiting for.  Disguised as police officers, FLN agents stormed the building.  Hearing the doors being bashed in, Andre tucked a folder containing secret documents under his arm and made a beeline for the service elevator.  An FLN agent spotted Rossfelder and plunged a knife deep into his back.  As an unintended victim lay dying on the floor, the agent realized his mistake.  Rossfelder was in fact outside the building already, posing as a member of the press in order to get past security.  A friend had left an MG convertible parked outside for his escape. Realizing their blunder, the FLN gave the order to shoot to kill.  However, it was too late, as Andre made his escape to the peal of screeching tires.

The political turmoil and palpable danger of Algeria in the 1960s probably felt like nothing new to the young Andre, an Algerian-born man of French ancestry who came of age during World War Two.  By that time he had participated in the Battles of Vosges, Alsace and the Bulge, lost fingers to shrapnel, lead a major chapter of the French Resistance, been imprisoned in a centuries-old Algerian dungeon and survived a Vichy firing squad.

While fighting for the French Resistance in Algeria during WWII, Andre was captured by Vichy Loyalist forces.  Mistaken for a Jewish soldier named Cohen, he was sentenced to death by firing squad.  Rather than suffer the indignity of pulling his pants down to prove he’s not Jewish, Andre tells them to shoot him.  Refusing the customary hood, he’s tied to the firing post, staring his would be killers in the eyes.  Luckily, just at this moment allied tanks roll into town and in the ensuing chaos Andre escapes death.

By the end of WWII, Andre was a decorated war hero and part of the upper echelon of French society, counting philosopher Albert Camus, undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau and President Charles de Gaulle as part of his social circle.  A budding entrepreneur, Andre saw a unique opportunity in the Ebensee Hills of Linz, Austria.  The Nazis had built a series of heavily fortified tunnels deep underground to hide an oil refinery that was used to fuel Hitler’s war machine.  Using his connections within the French government, Andre acquired the facility and moved the entire oil refinery to French Algeria.  De Gaulle himself visited the refinery once Andre had it up and running.

However that budding relationship with de Gaulle would soon sour.

After WWII, many colonies demanded their independence. An initially peaceful movement within Algeria declared their desire for independence from France.  Andre, having had Arab friends since a young boy, initially supported Algerian self-governance and saw France’s imperialism as the problem.

In 1954 the French began to pull out of Indo-China.  Emboldened, the movement in Algeria becomes increasingly violent.  A new group called the FLN began amassing great power.  Between 1954 and 1962 the FLN is believed to have killed 16,000 Algerian civilians and made another 13,000 “disappear”.  Anyone with French ancestry or who was believed to have aided the French during the war became a target.

In April 1961, de Gaulle granted Algeria its independence, and took a hands-off approach to who will lead the country going forward.  The FLN is quick to fill the power gap.  Within days a section of the French Foreign Legion stationed in Algeria rebels against de Gaulle and joins ranks with discontented Algerians such as Andre, forming an opposition government that will become known as the OAS (Secret Army Organization), and bringing us back to the beginning of this story with Andre holed up inside a radio station.

Shortly after his escape from the radio station, Andre is forced to flee his homeland.  Eventually he finds a cargo vessel willing to assist him.  Smuggled aboard, Andre would remain hidden in absolute darkness.  There would be no romantic view of his homeland to reminisce…instead he stares into the darkness of a small closet.  His lifelong exile from Algeria, his home, had unwillingly begun.

With the FLN now the legitimate power, the OAS takes their place as the insurgents.  It’s a messy engagement with no clear heroes.

However, Andre and the higher-ups within the OAS believe their true enemy lies elsewhere: French President Charles de Gaulle.  The man who abandoned their country.

The OAS holds a secret tribunal where they find de Gaulle guilty of crimes punishable by death.

They also proclaim who will carry out the execution sentence: Andre Rossfelder.

Andre was to assassinate his former ally, a friend who once fought for the same cause and who also happened to be a major world leader.

To Be Continued…

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Master Inventor and Man of International Intrigue

Feb 23, 2017

Prepared to die: Andre Rossfelder played a key role defending his homeland of French Algeria during WWII’s Operation Torch.

Seventeen, tied to a post, firing squad ready, he was prepared to die for his country, but the fascists never fired.  Andre Rossfelder had dodged what seemed his inevitable demise. A life defining moment for many, for Andre it was just another scrape with death.

Question: What does a device considered to be the most effective technology to collect sediment cores and a bomb designed to assassinate President Charles de Gaulle have in common?

They were both the brainchildren of Andre Rossfelder.

The phone would ring.  A familiar, extremely confident voice with a strong French accent was on the other end.  It was Andre.  If there was a most interesting man in the world… I don’t think I would have chosen the actor from those Dos Equis beer commercials.  To me, Andre Rossfelder was “The Most Interesting Man in the World.”

Andre spent one of his lives in La Jolla, California.  It’s there he developed the electro-vibracore for collecting shallow and deep water sediment samples.  For Aqua Survey, using the Rossfelder was a game changer for reliably collecting sediment cores.  Goodbye Piston corer forever.

Aqua Survey purchased 11 vibracoring systems over the years, four directly from Andre along with an inflatable Rossfelder pontoon barge he used with Jacques Cousteau on many of his adventures.

Who was Andre Rossfelder?

He’s been called an Ideologist, Patriot, Marine Geologist, Novelist and Inventor, not to mention, depending on who you asked, an Assassin and Terrorist.

He was a complex and passionate individual.  Yet when you heard him speak so softly and lovingly about his wife whom he adored, it makes you ask the question.

Is this the same man that inspired the “The Day of the Jackal” movies?

How could this be the same man that was selected to assassinate President Charles de Gaulle? 

To get the rest of the story stay tuned…

Look for Part II on February 28.

In the meantime check out this video of us putting one of Andre’s inventions to work.

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