A UBC graduate student thinks he can solve the mystery of Prince Rupert's missing time capsule.

The four-foot long capsule was buried on a hill overlooking the harbour in July 1971 and is supposed to be unearthed March 10 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the city's incorporation.

The capsule contains memorabilia, artifacts and sealed letters from politicians of the day.

But the location of the capsule was never marked, and for the last few months city officials have been appealing to the public for help in finding it.

"We're feeling the pressure," Michael Curnes, Prince Rupert's director of community services, told ctvbc.ca.

Enter Rob Eso.

Eso is a Prince Rupert native and PhD candidate in geophysics at UBC. Upon hearing of the city's capsule conundrum, he immediately offered to help.

He has a background in searching for mineral deposits and underground water buried deep in the earth.

His plan is to bring in a hand-held metal detector called a Geonics EM-31, a common instrument used by geophysicists.

The instrument has a coil that sends an electromagnetic signal into the ground, and any metallic objects in the ground will get an electric current induced in them.

It can detect objects buried up to five metres below the earth.

But there could be a hitch.

City officials say the capsule was buried in muskeg, an acidic soil common in the north coast of B.C.

Muskeg tends to have a water table near the surface and is not very stable, officials say.

The fear? The capsule might have slid deeper into the ground.

Each year, the local cemetery hires volunteers to search for head stones that have completely sunk into the earth.

What started off sounding like a simple task may not be so simple after all.

"The thought of finding a buried capsule seemed easy, but now that they've had a go of it, and now that there's a potential it's buried deeper, and now that there's a lot of media scrutiny, it's definitely making me realize the pressure's on," Eso said.

Still, Eso is up to the challenge. He plans to head up in late January.

Hawk Air, a local airline servicing Prince Rupert, has agreed to fly Eso from Vancouver.

City officials say it won't be the end of the world if the capsule can't be found in time for the centennial celebrations.

"The party definitely goes on," Curnes said.

And, he said, there are plans to bury a new time capsule near City Hall.

But this time, Curnes said, the GPS coordinates of the new time capsule will be recorded so the same mistake won't happen again.