A Big One! by Janet
I was actually heading for another locality, but the sun was already setting and I was running late as usual. There was still a long way to go and because I hate driving in the dark with all the kangaroos and other animals about, I decided very reluctantly, that I had to stop and make camp for the night. I was annoyed with myself, as now I would have to put up a tent and make a camp only to pull it all down again in the morning.
The next day, being not far from the edge of a somewhat featureless looking salt lake, I decided to get my detector out anyway and have a quick roam around before packing up camp. Now, my quick roam invariable ends up with me walking for miles as I spot what appear to be items of interest on the horizon. These outcrops often turn out to be nothing more than piles of bleached bones from some poor animal that perished while crossing the lake most likely from sunstroke!
After about two hours of wandering, my legs were
beginning to ache as I made towards just one more interesting patch of shallow quartzy
ground. Making a circle around it I decided it was time to start heading back. Then I
caught a little signal. It was easy to pinpoint and dig up as it was only shallow and I
was amazed to find it was gold a little half grammer!
"Well" I thought, "Fancy that! Nothing to get excited about yet!". I did a few laps around it but found no more.
Still heading back towards camp I got another little signal a stones throw away from the last one yes, another tiny nugget! I am now starting to get a bit excited, after all, this is a virgin area. NO ONE has detected here before. There are no footprints, no quad or bike tracks, no old diggings and no rubbish. In fact, a very uninviting looking place for any prospector! I was still over a kilometer away from my camp and it was a long walk back. I knew what I had to do pack up camp and move closer to those two little bits I had just found and do some gridding. I was sort of dreading this in a way as it is not unheard of for me to wander on the only two bits in a 10-mile radius!
It didnt take me long to move the camp and
start my usual methodical and tedious gridding. But! ..... very out of character for
me.......after only half-an-hour without a signal, I couldnt resist breaking away
and wandering off again. I was only swinging the 10" mono elliptic coil, my favorite
coil for wandering on salt lakes as it is so light to swing. I knew it was not really
suitable for deeper areas, but I kept on going straight out onto the lake and soon could
feel my boots sinking into deeper mud. There was nothing of any interest to walk towards
but I kept going in the same direction, as if some unknown force was urging me on.
With nothing special to see or trigger my imagination, just a vast endless salt lake, I entered into my usual trance like state and started daydreaming. Thats what I like about salt lakes, you can walk and swing a detector and daydream without tripping over anything! My bungy cord keeps the coil skimming the surface without having to think about it.
Suddenly I stop dead in my tracks - and wake from my daydreaming! Something had triggered my automatic response mechanism! I back up, and yes, there is a strange signal, but dull and over a large area, nothing like the usual sharp signals I get from small nuggets on the surface.
"Must be mineralisation" I am thinking, but
I am compelled to dig it regardless. The lake is wet and the mud sloppy and sticking to my
pick, boots and hands, and I am cursing, but I make a rough hole and pass my coil over it.
This time the signal is stronger and more definite. I know there is no rubbish in this
area because there is simply no sign of the old timers ever having been here or anyone
else for that matter!
The thought hits me like a bolt of lightning this MUST BE GOLD!
My heart starts to beat faster as I throw the wide end of my pick into the mud and start dragging it aside. Soon there is mud all over me and Im kneeling in it and throwing it out of the hole like someone possessed. I point the elliptic into the hole and it is screaming. Then I come to my senses and realize that I am not sure where the bottom is and if I carry on like this I will damage the nugget. I take off my detector, throw my pick aside, bend over the hole and start pulling the mud out with my bare hands. My fingers are soon raw and cut from the sharp little rocks and gypsum crystals and numb. Then I touch something right at the bottom of the hole It is hard and cold! I know instinctively what it is! I look down the hole and there it is a bit of yellow shining up at me. My heart stops for a moment but my mind is racing because I know, at this depth, it must be a good one!
I start scraping away the dirt from the surface of the nugget with my torn fingernails hoping to find an edge to it, but there is no edge! As I scrape away frantically, the surface of the nugget is getting bigger and bigger and still no edge to it! I cant believe this! I am starting to have visions of a Golden Eagle!
"Its no use - I will have to make the hole wider right from the top down!" Mud is flying everywhere again!
I keep digging and widening the hole and groping down
to the bottom of it with my bare hand, scooping out the mud as it keeps on falling back
in. Then feeling around the nugget I finally find an edge to it and try to lift it, but it
is stuck solid.
"Hell! What does it take to get this thing out!" Im thinking.
More scraping of mud, more sore fingers, and my back is aching. I am losing patience.
I decide to throw caution to the wind and reaching down into the hole, I hook one finger under it and give it a big yank. This time it moves .. I stop breathing as I maintain a slow steady pull on it! The mud around it also begins to move and I realize it is a lot bigger than I thought! I watch with amazement as its full size emerges from the mud and I slowly drag it out of its ancient resting position.
Immediately Im aware of the weight. It is heavier than any previous nugget Ive ever pulled out!
I went straight back to camp clutching it in my sore muddy hands. Back at camp I hurriedly washed it in a bowl of water and held it up. I couldnt believe it! I was thrilled. I couldnt put it down and when I did I found myself picking it up again! I was totally awe-struck by its beauty! Finally, I remembered to take a photo!
Still covered from head to foot with mud I sat down for a well-deserved cup of tea. I needed to sit down after all the excitement and gather my thoughts together and ponder about what I had just found. Then I started to imagine what else might be lying out there. Yes lying out there for millions of years just waiting for someone like me to come by this way!
Here is the photo of it taken only minutes after pulling it out of the ground after the first initial wash. You can see that some holes in it are still full of mud and gypsum crystals. I guessed the weight conservatively to be about 12 ounces but it turned out closer to 15! It was about 10" deep. Only a few small nuggets were later found close to it!
Beginner's Luck! by Janet
persuaded my boyfriend to sell the secondhand business we had and go prospecting.
Metal detecting for gold in Australia was still relatively new . Ever since reading a book ( while I was still living in South Wales) about a guy that came out from England and had gone prospecting in the outback, the idea had been smouldering in the back of my mind. I had only been in Australia about 6 years then.
We bought two brand new Garret Groundhog metal detectors, lots of books on how to prospect for gold (most turned out to be useless!) panning dishes and other paraphernalia. It was my job to do the research on where to go and to do the map reading. My friend looked after the diesel landrover.
We set off on a very wet day from Perth, terribly overloaded with gear, with literally everything but the kitchen sink! Talk about being novices! I had worked out a route around the goldfields taking in what I thought were likely prospecting areas. After only a few days my friend found a 4 gram piece. I was a bit disappointed because I had this idea that all gold would be in ounce pieces! At this rate it would take for ever to 'make our fortune!'
My friend was not impressed with the small alluvial patches I was taking him to; I dont know what he was so anxious about, at least he had found something! I seemed to be digging lots of deep holes that turned out to be mineralisation. I remember going along digging a hole at each swing of the detector and it was only when I looked behind and saw two rows of holes that I realised I was lifting the coil at the end of each swing creating a signal!
The next patch I took him
to was one I had read about while researching in the Mines Dept library. It was known for
its fantastic reef gold, not alluvial, but for some reason the name had stuck in my mind
and I just had to go there. After a few hours of being lost, the usual argument about
where to camp etc. my friend was in a bad mood and had a headache. He was also in a temper
because he thought I had led him to another useless area. We had been prospecting for
three weeks by this time and he had only a couple of little bits to show for it - I had
nothing! I left him in camp to wallow in his tantrum and went off with my detector.
I saw this long ridge with big mine shafts along it and holes dug everywhere by the old timers, in fact there were piles of rubbish everywhere where they had been camping. Any normal detector operator would have avoided the area like the plague - but I was a bit of a greenhorn - to say the least!
I can still remember the moment I stopped walking up and down the ridge and thought -
'This is silly, if gold has shed down the hill then I stand more chance of finding it walking along the hill - less tiring too!'
So I started walking along the side of the ridge about half way down till I came to a huge pile of rubbish and decided to turn around. Just at that moment I got a little signal and dug up a small flat half gram piece of gold. My first gold! I was thrilled, but how I got it was a miracle because when I started to concentrate and work in a grid pattern down the hill, the ground was thick with small rusty bits of tin and I had walked right through it all! Small specimens started to appear and they seemed to fan out as I went down the slope. Suddenly I got a loud signal and looked down and there on top of the ground was a large lump of quartz with gold clearly visible right across it ( 2 ounces in fact!)
I couldn't believe it - how could the old timers have missed it? There was a sample hole only a couple of feet away!
I was really excited and raced back to camp with my
pockets bulging with specimens and the big rock in my hand. But my friend was still in his
sullen mood and not impressed - even though we were going 50/50 with the gold! Needless
to say, I couldn't sleep that night.
The next day I continued gridding and picking up specimens and my excitement kept mounting, in fact it was the most exciting time in my life. Even though I have found some amazing patches since then nothing could match the delirium I was experiencing at that time, I could sense that I was onto something special. I detected almost non-stop that day for seven hours and never felt in the least bit tired.
The following day I decided to grid up the slope from my original bit
and the specimens were getting richer and coarser. Then I got it - a loud signal over a
large patch of ground. My heart was racing, I didn't even dig down because I knew it was
gold. I had to fetch my mate - he wouldn't believe this!
Using a bigger pick (you wont believe this but I only had a plastic garden trowel while my mate had a proper pick!) we dug out lumps of ironstone thick and heavy with gold. As we dug deeper the signal narrowed down and went into a huge reef of blue quartz. With an old chisel and hammer my friend kept hacking at that quartz and pulling out lumps of sponge gold that was filling cavities in the quartz.
Bits of the quartz with gold were flying everywhere so while my friend did his best to chisel through the hard quartz, I detected up the scattered bits - we must have lost heaps!
His pick was gold plated in the end but soon it became too difficult
to chisel any deeper - we had barely gone down 12 inches and we couldn't get a signal from
the detector anymore so we eventually gave up. We both knew there was still
more deeper down but we simply didn't have the means to get at it. We panned a bit
of the dirt around the hole just to see what we would get and I'm not joking but there was
a thick ring of fine gold right round the bottom of each pan, something that most
prospectors can only dream about.
When I later decided to continue on detecting down the slope, right at the bottom I had a faint signal which I thought was mineralisation and I had actually kept on walking, then something made me stop and go back .....(my guardian angel!). As I dug down the signal got clearer, about a foot down I got to the rock giving the signal and it had gold in it alright. I couldn't get it out because the ground was too hard and I thought it was reef gold again, so all excited, I went to fetch my friend. It turned out to be an ugly 10 ounce lump of gold with some rock in it - still one of the largest nuggets I have ever found! Somewhere I have a picture of me holding that nugget, unless my friend kept it.
We put all the heavier
gold bits into a powdered milk tin but had no means to weigh it. We tried
counter-balancing using plastic buckets, a coat hanger and bags of flour but it was too
crude. In the end we went into town and in the butchers shop was one of those old
fashioned weighing machines that you step onto. Trying not to make it too obvious to
customers in the shop, I weighed myself holding the powdered milk tin and then without it
and estimated it was a couple of kilos. In all, when the rock was removed, we got about
100 ounces of pure gold out of that patch which we always referred to from then on as
'Janet's Patch'. ( The only thing I've ever had named after me!)
Some of the sponge gold was beautiful, almost crystalline, but we ended up just melting it all down - I really regret that now!
I had only been prospecting for three weeks when I found that patch. Although we continued prospecting together for a few years afterwards, we never found anything to equal it.
We covered that hole with tons of rubbish so no-one would find it and decided to go back better equipped - but that's another story!
I had been prospecting with my
boyfriend on short trips on and off for a few years, but it was hard to make a living from
it. My friend decided to go away and work in a mining town for a while leaving me alone to
look after and continue restoring the old house we had bought.
After he had gone, I started thinking (very dangerous - leave me alone with my thoughts and you never know what crazy idea I'll come up with!). If he didn't want to go prospecting any more, it didn't mean I couldn't.
The only problem was that he had taken the landrover and all I had was a beaten up old Toyota Corona 1966 car which I'd bought for $400. I have to tell you a bit about this amazing old car - it was so rusted out you could see the road between your feet and I had even started bogging the large rust holes with plaster of Paris and hand painting over them (to keep the police happy!) It had a few problems such as a faulty carburretor which would flood just when I was in the middle of peak hour traffic in the middle of Perth. Another problem was over-heating, but I found that if I free-wheeled down hills the engine would cool down for a short time! The brakes were always a problem, they were either non-existent or locked-on and pulled to one side, so I tended to drive very slow and tried not to use the brakes. I was a bit ignorant about mechanics then (not now!) and didn't do any maintenance on that car. I never did oil changes, never put in a new oil filter or greased any part of it, but the amazing thing is that I did literally thousands of kilometers in it without a single accident or major breakdown. The biggest problem with using it for prospecting was that it was too low to the ground for the rough bush tracks and I would frequently lose the entire exhaust system.
The engine was still going strong when I sold it for a $100 ten years later!
To get back to the story - I had never camped out alone in the Australian bush before, but, I had spent twelve months hitch-hiking alone around Africa and camping out every night in the bush - just sleeping on the ground with a mattress made of grass I had gathered. Many times I could hear the roar of lions at night and was often surrounded by hyenas - the Australian bush would be a breeze in comparison - so I thought!
It was November and getting hot
already, but once I've made up my mind, nothing can stop me. I took out the back seat of
the old car (never got put back again!) threw in a canvas tent, jerry cans, old detector,
a small suitcase full of clothes, minimum of cooking gear and set off for Coolgardie, only
a days drive away.
My first camp was at Dunsville Dam near the famous Wealth of Nations Mine. The first couple of nights I remember being very nervous ; I could hear someone riding around on a motorbike (probably a worker off the sheep station) and was scared he would find me. These fears soon vanished as I got to know the area and I have never felt scared about camping alone since.
I met Malcolm - he calls himself the Mayor of Dunsville - and he's a real aussie bushman. He showed me around the area in his old short wheel-base landrover without a roof, pointing out likely prospecting places and gnamma holes (aboriginal water holes). He was living in an old tin shack (still there!) and working a mine shaft on his own and had rebuilt an old 3 head stamper battery which he actually used.
The sky had been black for days and
the heat and humidity unbearable. I had found only small bits of gold but was quite happy
to have found anything on this first trip alone. Malcolm invited me over for tea (roo and
vegs in a camp oven).
As I got in the car to drive the couple of kilometers over to his camp, a violent storm hit. It was like a tornado! First came a blast of rushing wind creating a massive dust storm followed by torrential rain. I will never forget that drive. Fork lightening was coming down all around me; it was crashing and banging and I was absolutely terrified. I thought I would be hit at any moment and could hardly see where I was driving and just as I got to his camp the hail started. I dived into Malcolms shed and at the same time another guy with some aboriginal kids also arrived to seek refuge. The golf-ball size hail was beating down on the tin roof and deafening us and it went on and on. Within minutes, the creek at the back of the shed was running a banker and soon the ground around the shed was flooded. There was no way I could get back to my camp that night so we all spent the night in the little shack, three to a bed!
In the morning ( see photo of Malcolms camp), we looked outside and
the ground was still covered in hail and just like snow it had drifted into gullies. On
the radio came a report of the violent storm at Dunsville dam (guess who had decided to
camp right in that spot!), and the same storm had gone on to Kalgoorlie and caused havoc
bringing down power lines and trees. We walked down to my camp expecting the worst.
One thing I remember on that walk was noticing how all the leaves had been stripped from the bushes.
There were two dams, one higher up and one I had camped next to - (both empty before the storm)
..... A scene of devastation lay before us. Both dams had a metre thick of solidified hail floating on them (see photo right).
The top dam had overflowed into the second dam (one I had camped on) and this one had been freshly bulldozed and had burst it's bank at the top and a torrent of muddy water had swept through my camp. All the stuff I had left on the ground had been swept away and I was finding bits and pieces, jerry cans etc. days later strewn across a flat a kilometer away. If I had been 10 minutes later leaving for Malcolms camp I would not have made it because the ground would have been too boggy to drive on and my car would have been swept away.
Amazingly, the home made angle iron tent pegs had stopped the tent from being swept away and although it was torn and useless most of the stuff inside was there. The water level was still up to within a foot of the top of the tent (see photo) but my suitcase was floating on top of the muddy water and was okay but all my maps, sleeping bag and mattress were beneath the mud. I waded over and dragged the stuff out. Luckily there was an old abandoned miners shack not too far away which I moved into that night and I tried washing everything. The maps were carefully washed and hung up on lines to dry and I still have some of them today. The down sleeping bag which I thought was ruined I eventually took into a dry cleaners and it turned out okay, I used it for years afterwards.
The storms continued but I needed to go to Kalgoorlie to buy a new tent, food and replace gear I'd lost . I remember going flat out at boggy patches on the dirt track and skidding through the mud to get to Kalgoorlie. That night, in a Kalgoorlie caravan park, I was flooded out by another storm in my brand new tent! The next day I had to somehow make it back to my tin shack along the washed out tracks. After a few days some four wheel drive vehicles made it out to Dunsville Dam to see the damage and the thick layer of hail on the dams which took ages to thaw out. These guys couldn't believe that I had already been into Kalgoorlie and back in my old car!
That trip I went further and further
afield with the old blue car, even onto Siberia ( an area so named because of the heat and
isolation!). I ended up with 7 ounces in six weeks of prospecting including a 2 ounce
But what a trip! After many more years of prospecting and lots of violent thunder storms, I have never experienced another storm like that one, and I hope I never will!
Many more things happened to me on that first trip of mine alone but it didn't put me off, in fact after that trip there was no stopping me!
THE BLUE MOUNDS PATCH by Chris Hake
They were mates for 17 years, both socially and in business, when the urge to go detecting for gold overcame them. So they did all the right preparations and research, and bought two Garrett ADS Deepseekers, which were the state-of-the-art detectors back then in 1979, then they headed off to their chosen Goldfields areas to try their luck at this new nugget detecting game.
The game proved to be a lot more challenging than they had imagined and after a very disappointing few days at the site where the famous "Golden Eagle" was found, they decided to have one last foray at a place called Blue Mounds.
After setting up their camp, off they went swinging their Deepseekers over the very promising looking ground at Blue Mounds, but alas the old workings seemed to be pretty well worked out, and full of trash metal. While one stayed at the old worked area, the other went for a wander further to the south and came across a mass of rusty tin cans and old bottles where the "old timers" had obviously camped in a nice sheltered, shady area of gum trees. Detecting near the old camp was impossible due to the trash, but it was interesting nevertheless to inspect the campsite and its artifacts.
Then he noticed a bit of a gap through a very thickly vegetated creek wash and as it was heading back towards the main worked area, he realised it was the track used by the old-timers to walk from their camp to the diggings and vice versa. So he decided to follow it, while again waving his detector.
Right in the thickest section of the old creek his Deepy emitted a big, solid signal that didnt sound like trash and after digging down about 6" he saw what he was looking for. It was gold, about 12 ozs of it!!. The old-timers had walked right over it hundreds of times and in fact the ground was compacted by their boots!
Somewhat shocked while holding the treasure in his palm, he waited a minute or two to recover his composure before calling out for his mate, who was not within earshot anyway and he had to go looking for him. Soon they were both back at the hot spot, furiously swinging their detectors as best as they could in the thick scrub.
Now I would like to remind readers about the 17year friendship these guys had because it was about to go bust in a big way, such is the demon inherent in gold.
At the end of that first day on the Blue Mounds patch, the mates had 120 beautiful ounces of nuggets in hand and were relaxing in delightful exhaustion beside their campfire when one of them, the one who stayed around the old workings, suggested that as he had found most of the 120 ounce days total, he should get 60% of the haul! And he was serious!!
A friendship of 17 years duration totally disintegrated right at that moment beside the campfire and the rest of the Blue Mounds Patch story is a sordid tale of hate, legal challenges, death threats and numerous other good reasons why you must have a rock solid mateship when chasing gold with a partner.
The story of the Blue Mounds Patch itself unfortunately pales from here on because it was so dominated by serious disagreements. However, the first days 120 ounces was only the tip of the iceberg and in all my years of chasing gold I have never seen a patch anywhere near as good as it turned out. Very few of the thousands of nuggets were smaller than five grams! The biggest nugget was 56 ozs, while the average size would have been around 12 - 15 grams. In total, one of the ex-partners won 650 ounces and I believe the other won considerably more!
I ended up with a 50% share in the patch but unfortunately, due to the large average size of the nuggets, the Deepseekers had already cleaned out the majority. But there has never been any doubt in my mind about what I want for Christmas - just give me another Blue Mounds Patch thanks Santa!
© C J HAKE (2002)
In Tennant Creek people
used to say, 'That Jimmy Hooker, he can smell gold!'
I had this young bloke come up to me in the Goldfields Pub and he said,
'Excuse me, are you Jimmy Hooker? I believe you're working up there on your mine, can I come and give you a hand?
I was desperate for a hand at the time because the shaft at my mine, which was called the Dolomite Mine, was down about thirty feet. I was filling a wheel barrow at the bottom, climbing up to the top, then winching it all up on my own; so an extra hand would be great.
I thought, 'I'll put one over on this young bloke!'
So I let things ride along a little bit. I had just fired and I went down to hose it all out. I had a specie (piece of rock with gold in it) in me pocket - I always like to carry a bit of gold with me for luck.
When the young bloke wasn't looking, I put the specie on the ground where I could see it.
As I'm filling the wheel-barrow up, I'm sniffing rocks and chucking them down and he's watching me. Then he would winch the rocks up and run back down; he couldn't get back down quick enough, he didn't want to take his eyes off me!
Then, while he had his eyes on me, I picked up my specie and went
'This smells like gold!' I said, 'Look at this!' It was a bit dirty by then.
'Holy Hell!' he said, 'It's gold!'
So I put it back in me pocket and pretended to think no more of it and carried on shovelling into the wheel-barrow, but I was watching him out the corner of my eye. He's picking up rocks and sniffing them! He wasn't interested in little rocks - he wanted a big lump!
After a while, I couldn't help it, I just busted out laughing. Then
he realised I'd been having him on.
'You dirty rotten mongrel - you tricked me!' and we both fell about laughing.
Welshman's Dilemma (This story was told to me by Bryn Jones and then put into poetry by Jimmy Hooker)
She was detecking one day
Out on the salt lake,
She met another prospeckur
And said 'Hi old mate'.
Janet she ask him
To come and have tea,
And they talk and larf
Beneeth old mulga tree.
As they swoped yarns
Around the campfire lite
Bryn told this story
Of his caravan plite.
Bryn had a mate
Dave John was his name
He came from Leonora way
Of Goanna Patch fame.
Bryn said 'How ya goin,
It's good to see ya again,
I'm headin to Sandstone
If it don't bluddy rain.'
Dave John told Bryn
That the road's pretty ruff
Bryn said with half grin
'My truck and van's tuff!'
'I came to the sine
And to the crossroad,
Thick as shit as I am,
I went left with my load!'
Bryn said his old truck
Was battling up that hill.
He was towing a huge caravan
And thought it would spill!
I saw a couple of blokes
With hard hats and utes,
They stared at my caravan
They stood in steel-capped boots!
It was cloudy and miserable,
And starting to rain,
I gave them blokes a wave
As they stood in the drain.
The blokes were all waving
As I drove up the road,
The big trucks were passing me,
They were carrying a big load.
A ute came flashing by,
He pulls up right in front.
A big man got out,
He spoke with a grunt
He said ' Where ya goin?'
I said to Sandstone,
He spoke deep and slow
'you're not goin to phucking Sandstone!'
'It's the bluddy mine dump!
You've bin goin up a haul road,
Now turn and go back down
And watch the trucks with their load.'
I chuckled to myself
As I tried to turn round
But the caravan was sliding
All over the ground.
The road was bendy and steep
The men stood laughing at me,
It must have been funny
For the workers to see.
There was heavy rain,
It had broke the drought,
A semi-trailer was bogged,
The road was washed out.
Bryn made it to Sandstone
Where he once had a lease,
And still prospects alone
In quiet and peace.
So they stood around
By the campfire glow
And Bryn told his stories
Of long ago.......
. Jimmy Hooker
This is more about the size and power of the grizzlies we have here.
This friend of mine has a claim about half-way up McCullough Mountain, British Columbia,
in the same area I have my claims. Five years ago he took a 24 foot trailer
out there as a base where he would stay and live during the summer months
when he worked on his claim. He made up a foundation of sorts, built a
triangle run-off for the roof - this is so the snow won't build up on the
roof - they get up to 20 feet of snow in a bad winter and it will literally
crush a trailer.
The next spring I went out with him first thing, to help him get his
operation set up and running. When we pulled into his trailer it looked
like a tornado had hit it. During the winter a grizzly had come along and
literally stuck its paw into the side of this aluminum/wood trailer and
opened it up like a can of beans. It tore its way thru the side and
completely destroyed everything inside.
This is the scary part though.
Inside the trailer he has a cast iron stove that weighed over 300 pounds!
Any food scraps or cans that had contained food he would throw into the
stove after he was done with them. This way when he had garbage to get rid
of there would be no trace of food in it which is a prime source of
attraction for bears.
Anyway, I guess the bear smelled the food that he had been throwing into
the stove from the previous summer. The grizz stuck his head in the top of
the stove and got stuck. When we got there we found PIECES of this stove
scattered along the road for at least 100 yards. He had picked up this 300
pound stove with his head stuck inside and beat it against trees for that
distance till he finally broke free. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I
wouldn't have believed it.
Up here in the parks they ask the hikers to carry a whistle and put
little bells on their boots so when they hike thru the wilderness a bear
will hear them coming and avoid them.
Then they had a quiz on how would you identify and discern the
difference between black bear shit and grizzly bear shit.
Black bear shit is in a pile similar to a cow and full of the remnants
of leaves, berries, grass, etc.
Grizzly bear shit is in a pile similar to a cow and full off little
bells and the odd whistle!
. I've been placer mining in British Columbia for the last 25 years
and am at the culmination of working on an old river channel that was
buried by the glaciers 10,000 years ago.
When I first started prospecting up in British Columbia, I wasn't too worried about bears.
I packed into the top of McCullough Mountain, (the same area where my buddy lost his trailer), to the headwaters of Graham Creek.
There was a small old prospectors cabin there
and I threw a tarp I had with me, over the roof, which wasn't in too good
of a shape and cleaned out the porquipine shit from inside. I stayed in the
cabin for a couple of days while digging some test pits in the area. The
second day there, I noticed a bear up on the side of the mountain about
half a mile from the cabin, but I never thought too much about it. By the
afternoon of the third day I noticed the bear getting closer and closer. I
started towards the cabin as fast as I could and by then I knew that the
bear was heading for me.
I got to the cabin first, raced inside and slammed the door. There was a
piece of 2 by 4 lumber sitting up against the wall and I took it and propped
it against the door. There was a small window on the south side about 16
inches square so I knew he couldn't squeeze thru there.
He/she (I was too scared to check out the gender at the time), came up to
the cabin and gave the door a real hit. If he had hit it again that would
have been the end of the door and me in that order, but for some reason he
didn't. He went around the cabin woofing and hitting the logs with his
paws. When he got to the window, he looked in, let out a blood curdling
roar, then stuck his arm thru and looked like he was trying to pull the
wall out. Thank God whoever built the cabin knew how to notch logs deep
and square because the cabin gave out some loud cracks but she held. He
then went around to the front again and what he did next I don't know but I
think my teeth were chattering so loud it scared him off. After what
seemed like an eternity, I peeked thru a crack in the door and I couldn't
see him any more. Finally I caught a glimpse of him just as he had crossed
the creek and went up the other side.
It was getting late, so I decided to spend the night in the cabin rather than take a
chance on going out in the dark, meeting him on the trail and being his
midnight snack. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep that night and at
the crack of dawn next day I was out of there like a shot. Since then I
still don't worry about bears, but I have a lot more respect for them when
I am in their territory.
I met an old fellow and his nephew up on my claims in
1994. He was 82 at the time and told me a lot of interesting stories about
the area back in the 1930's and 40's when he used to run pack animals in
the area supplying the miners and loggers with the basic necessities. He
told me about two old miners that spent the winter of 1941, on the side of
the Columbia River.
They were alone together all winter in this small cabin and by the time
spring came, they were constantly fighting and totally hated one another.
The only way across the river to the nearest town was a canoe
that they had. Because they both owned the canoe and one wouldn't let the
other use his half, they took a saw and cut it in half. Talk about not getting
A couple of years later one of these guys was prospecting in at
French Creek and he was never seen again. They went looking for him in the fall
and all they found was part of a bloodied jacket - a grizzly bear had got him!
Chiggers, Chiggers, and yes more Chiggers! These
wonderful little pests are tiny wee bit bugs that get into the tall grass through the
summer in particular areas. When one goes tromping through the grass you receive
many little irritating bites for the rest of the day.
Now Edweenahs are another story! Pronounced as its spelled, Spanish term, these things are a nightmare! When in the jungles of Mexico, if you were not always watching the ground with hawk like precision, you can step on a nest that is very inconspicuous, your leg is swarmed with thousands of tiny, oh so damn tiny bugs, the size of a pin head. The wave of black moves up your leg and you scrape as many off as you can - yet later you pick them off with a flashlight and a friend that you're quite intimate with!
Needless to say, that girlfriend did not last long, the Edweenahs chased her off! ( I laugh as I write this thinking about the episodes of ridding these little bastards from my body!) That has now become my test of a great female companion - Chiggers and Edweenahs, if she can handle that, then life is bliss!
HAHA, hence the lack of a relationship!
A perplexing, maddening phenomenon occurs ever year around this timehundreds of prospectors line up to donate blood. On the surface, this appears to be rather noble. Well, this is not a standard lineup to give blood, but freakishly one that occurs deep in Northern Boreal Forestsfar from the prying eyes of the soft, cultured masses of pampered urban dwellers. This annual, insane, event seems to be a purgative catharsis, a deeply needed cleansing, one rooted in superstition and myththe ignorant call it stupidity.
However, if youve never been deep in the northern forests, I pity your inadequate ability to empathize with the True Northern Prospector, hereafter referred to as the TNP.
Try to imagine a region of consummate beautyone espousing all the elements of peace, tranquility, and Elysian possibilitya location accented by massive pine, cedar, tamarack, fir, and balsam forests, further enhanced by lush undergrowth. A site where crystal streams run free and unhindered, where lakes teem with trout, grayling, and arctic char. Visualize the boundless rolling carpet of green that extends in perpetuity to the majestic cloudless cobalt blue horizon.
But wait, whats that cloud that forms the minute you step from your battered 4x4? What pernicious evil is marring the idyllic vision of impeccable beauty? Its the bugs! Ha, bugs you sayany prospector worth his salt has faced down the lowly flying mossy vampire, more generally known as the mosquito. And what seeker of gold has never had an encounter with a galloping horse fly, or a prancing deer fly? Bugs indeed! Yes, bugs indeed . . .
As your vista becomes increasingly clouded, your dim brain frantically alerts the defensesthe arms begin a furious windmilling action, the detector is launched carelessly through the air, as if the price paid is an insignificant, annoying memory. As you turn to open the door to escape the brazen bullies, you realize your partner has locked the vehicle, and wandered off down some dim forest trail. Bug-eyed (no pun intended) you press your sweating face against the glass and take a panicked look at what you left on the seatyour first-defense mechanismthe potent, deadly, liberally laced DEET concoction known as Bug Dope! Panic, now deeply ripping at your gutin fact is widening into a chasm of sheer terror. With icy fingers clawing the back of your neck you turn to face your doomthe determined horde of famished bugs.
Instantaneously you are engulfed by a buzzing, hissing mass of wings and teeth. You valiantly conquer some by cleverly breathing in an entire squadronor was that just a reflexive gasp of stricken terror? Nonetheless, youve dealt the beggars a costly blow. You wish! The crazed blood-lusting cretins begin their ascent up your pant legson the inside. This, however, is not readily apparent, as the assault is led by the black demons of the northern underworldthose purveyors of unfettered horror, the dreaded blackflycasually referred to in Websters dictionary as any of various small dark-colored insects; esp: any of a family of bloodsucking dipteran flies. What a gentle misnomer this is for this incarnate-hell on the wing!
Besides, Ill have you know, some of those blackflies are into camouflage now, and theyre dressing in orange, yellow and redand theyre getting bigger. I saw a cloud the other day packing IV poles to the site of some poor wretch that was trying to bathe in the river!! Hyperbole you say? Youre rightI think hed only gone down to the river to get a drink, and when he saw those devilish minions advancing, he probably just dove head first into the riverthe bathing metaphor was my mistake.
Now, Id hate to leave you wondering about the demise of the bug-eyed TNP caught without his Bug Dopewhich reminds meIve often pondered on that annoying name, but one day it came to me, the name refers to the idiot that leaves his locked in the truck! (Any resemblance to the protagonist in this tale, and myself, is purely coincidental.)
Anyway, the blackflies ascent up the pant legs will not be discovered at all, as the obstinate devils carry anesthetic in their toothy kit of maliciousness. The bites will be discovered that night, while trying to sleep, but, sleep will never come, as the bites itch longer than it took the dinosaurs to become extinctand scratching them is much like taking a sharp knife to your throat, because when you scratch them, you wish you had a sharp knife to take to your throat!
Of a sudden, your ear begins to itch, but not on the outside, deep down on the eardrum. The little beggars do not follow the rules of warthey attack in diverse placesones impossible to relieve of that infernal itching, and ones quite private and sensitive, places that, if you choose to discretely itch, youd better be well hidden from inquisitive eyes.
Remember the horse flies I alluded to earlier, well TNP has been known to engage them with a ropenot to swat or slash at them, but to lasso them, and some have even bragged of saddling the smaller ones, and using them for bizarre northern rodeos, rodeos where the mosquitoes are let out of the shoot, roped, and hogtied. Moreover, some people exaggerate and say you can shoot mosquitoes up north with a shotgunthis is a blatant fallacya shotgun will not bring them down, but a 50mm cannon has been known to blow off a wing now and again.
But, seriously, the doomed TNP finally made it to his friend, who was leisurely swinging his detector over a patch of exposed graphite-schistthat hotter than the hubs of hell bedrock. Hearing a low moan, followed by a screeching sound, the nugget shooter naturally thought hed found a good target. Imagine his surprise when he looked up to see his partner bursting from a cloudbanka living blood bank more to the point. The pursued TNP, with a wild glazed look in his eye, appeared to lunge straight for the throat of his partner, but at the last second, he purposefully shredded his partners jacket instead, just to get the Bug Dope from his front pocket.
Now, this may seem like a simple matter. But once he stopped running, the bloodthirsty insects were upon him. So, he whipped out his Bowie knife, and cut a square hole through the bugsthey were that thickgrabbed the Bug Dope, and disappearedcloud in tow. Its rumored hes still holed up somewhere deep in an abandoned drift mine, where its dark and cool, far too cold for Bugs, but not Dopes.
Lanny in AB
Just a short detour! by Janet
I was doing my regular, but often horrendous 5000km trip, back to north Queensland from WA in January after 6 months of prospecting. My father was out from England and wanted to do the trek across Australia with me (I did warn him and try to make him change his mind!).
We crossed the centre on the long, hot, deserted desert tracks and took in the usual sites of Ayers Rock and the Olgas in the usual 48'C at that time of year (my father vehemently refusing to get out of the airconditioned vehicle to climb the rock! :o) ) Then as we entered Queensland with the start of the wet season, we battled the often flooded roads with the frequently bogged vehicle! This was all a bit of an adventure for my father but just the annual torture trip for me! (He wasn't doing any of the dirty work of course!)
Just to top off the trip I suggested we do a detour to Karumba which is a bit of a tourist spot for fishing etc on the Gulf. The only problem was there had just been a cyclone through that area and the flat lands were flooded for miles around as we drove along the raised causeway to the coast. The open flooded areas were swarming with wetland birdlife and it was just like Kakadu. We set up the tents in the local caravan park (we seemed to have it all to ourselves!) and headed for the beach for a spot of fishing. Ahhh - I thought, this is the life, out of the hot, sweltering, lonely outback at last, time to relax, enjoy life for a change!
There we were, casting out our lines enjoying a sea breeze and watching the boats. We had only been there for half an hour and the sun was setting serenely over the ocean, it was like paradise! Then the breeze suddenly dropped! I didn't know what it was at first but as the sun set a strange eerie change seemed to come over the place. There was a growing humming noise........
The biggest, blackest, meanest cloud of mosquitoes I have ever seen (and believe me I have been through some jungles!) descended on us and they were the size of hornets and ferocious. Within seconds they were upon us. We both ran for our tents chased by the black, hungry mass and quickly zipped ourselves in leaving the poor dog outside. They were so bad neither of us dared to go out to the toilet or to take a shower - we were imprisoned in our tents all night. We had no supper either as we daren't leave the tents for any reason, so that is some indication of the seriousness of the situation. These mosquitoes were so vicious they were squeezing through the fly net and attacking us all night. We got no sleep. All you could hear was a constant swatting from inside both tents as neither of us spoke well - maybe an occasional calling out from me to my father to ask him if he was still alive! It was sooo hot and humid in those tents that night it was like a sauna, sheer hell! We just sweated and suffered in silence, as there was no escape. The insides of the tents soon became covered in blood from all the squashed bodies. Poor old Harley (the dog) was moaning and pleading with me outside the tent so I unzipped a couple of inches to look at him. When I saw his nose was a mass of biting mossies I had to let him as I had visions of him being sucked dry by the morning! Having a large panting dog inside my small tent only added to the sauna effect!
The next morning we all dragged ourselves out of the tents feeling like death. Then I made an instant decision, there was a flurry of activity as, unlike my normal slow methodical loading up, I threw everything into the back of the vehicle in a frenzy, including my father and dog! My father commented he couldn't believe the speed at which I had loaded and accelerated out of that place and I didnt look back!
I drove and drove without stopping till I was sure I was clear of the coast and the flooded Gulf. As I was so tired and hungry and totally incapable of driving all the way to the Atherton tablelands in one go I decided we should stop at my favourite campsite by the side of the Einasleigh River and get a good nights sleep. It had slipped my mind (fatigue does that to you!) that I usually only stopped there in July on the way to WA!
What happened there that night is truly unforgettable. But that is another story!
The Greasy Wop by Steve
Here is a true story Janet that is really neat.
Where I grew up in Ontario there was an old guy, (Ozzie), that used to
work in the hardrock mines in Timmins, Ontario for 30 years. The mine is
underground and was very rich. Him and a bunch of other men used to work
at the tunnel face, drilling and blasting the rock to remove it and get out the gold.
He said lots of times they would be drilling and they would drill into a
vein of gold and there would be literally gold dust all around the rockface
and their equipment. The security at the mine was extremely tight and at
the end of every shift they would be checked to see that they didn't leave
with any high grade ore in their lunch buckets or on their person.
He said they used to work with this Italian guy who they called the
Greasy Wop. He was a nice guy, (Pasquale), and they used to tease him all the
time about how he plastered down his hair with grease.
Well after they retired, Ozzie went up to Timmins to pay this guy a
visit. He said when he walked in, there was Pasquale sitting at the table
with his hair all clean and not a hint of grease in sight. Ozzie then asked
him, "when did you quit using grease in your hair?"
Pasquale said," right after I retired from the mine." He then told Ozzie
the story. Whenever the drills bore into a vein and the gold dust was
everywhere, he would get some on his hands and then run his hands thru his
hair. He did this continually thru his shift and when he left at night and
was checked at security, the dust in his hair was so finely disseminated
that no one thought a thing about it. He would then go home, wash his hair
and recover the gold. He said that over the years he had payed off his
house and went back to Italy twice for a visit with the gold he had greased
from the mine!