Finding Gold Nuggets:

Related Articles:

  1. How metal detectors work
  2. methods for extracting alluvial gold

The best areas for finding gold nuggets are those which are known for producing coarse gold. The term "coarse" is used to describe gold pieces which range in size from a wheat grain to many grams. Scanning with a metal detector is the most common, practical method for finding gold nuggets and other forms of gold.

Coarse gold did not occur in all gold fields, even when some were considered especially rich. In some areas of Australia the gold is fine and concentrated in crevices in bedrock and any gravel wash overlying this. A metal detector cannot pick up this fine gold sprinkled through sand and gravel, nor can it detect minute traces of gold still enclosed in quartz reef material.

Miners were supposed to register the weight and location of all gold nuggets found over a certain size, although this requirement was often resented by the diggers who probably avoided the directive whenever possible.

There were usually several phases of activity for finding gold nuggets on an alluvial (gold) field. Following the initial discovery, the area was 'rushed' by diggers from near and then far. These early arrivals would work with great speed, sinking hundreds or even thousands of shafts as long as possible to the place of the first finds. Sometimes only a small proportion of shafts dug would produce gold nuggets or any other gold. Those which did indicated the direction of the rich lead, or perhaps the reef from which the material was shed.

Hundreds of holes were sunk by pick and shovel until gold yields dropped or lack of water made it impossible to remain on the field. When either or both of these things happened, the digger population packed its meager possessions and 'rushed' to the next discovery.

Following the first rush to the nuggety areas where men worked with feverish speed, there were those with some skill and better equipment. They searched for the reefs, the sources of the alluvial gold. Some built puddlers and with a horse and water they processed gold wash for themselves and others. Some puddlers were built after the rush to reprocess the mullock heaps abandoned on the field.

The Californians in particular were skilled at building dams, diverting streams and building sluices. They had a better water supply to process the wash and feed the crushers that separated the quartz or slate from the gold and broke up the conglomerate.

The Chinese introduced an effective method of processing large tracts of especially rich ground. They 'surfaced' or stripped all of the soil and rock above bedrock and carted it to a puddler to be washed. A 'surfaced' area indicates that once the ground was particularly rich.

On some Victorian gold fields where the ground was literally a bed of large nuggets, the first diggers simply dug up a shovel full of ground and bounced it up and down. If they did not hear the clang of gold they tossed the dirt aside. Sometimes the weight of the shovel full indicated the presence of a nugget. This method, adopted at Kingower on what were called 'potato diggings' obviously missed small pieces of gold.

The gold fields of Western and central Australia and northern inland Queensland are some of the driest and remotest areas in Australia. Early miners suffered incredible hardships and many died in their efforts to survive the droughts and isolation. Special techniques had to be adopted so that the rock and clay could be separated from the gold without the use of water. 'Dry blowers' developed in Mexico were used extensively in Western Australia. These consisted of a 'hand shaker', which jiggled the pay dirt down through a series of sieves.

The largest nuggets found were usually within one meter (3') from the surface. The Welcome Stranger, the largest gold nugget ever found, was lying only inches from the surface at Moliagul, Australia. Legend has it that the top was exposed by the wheel track made by a cart. Some of the first discoveries made in each area were large nuggets lying on the top of the ground.

Deep leads are ancient river gravels or silt beds that thousands of years ago received particles and nuggets of gold, washed down from nearby reefs. The riverbed was eventually silted over or covered by volcanic material. When relocated under basalt or soil, these olds beds can be dug up and their gold separated out.

Sometimes the gold has been cemented into stiff clay; sometimes it is encased in conglomerate, or loose gravel and sand. When cemented into a conglomerate (a rock of assorted river pebbles, sand and rock) the material has to be crushed or smashed up to extract the gold.

Because of the amount of overburden to be dug through, and the often-small quantities of gold contained in the deep lead (or wash) it took great skill to remove every particle of gold by sight alone. Without a regular water supply however, miners sometimes had no option but to simply 'look' for the gold. Small nuggets were often missed, or alluvium was tossed onto the mullock heap and covered by worthless material before it was noticed. When you recover your own nuggets you will be amazed at how similar in color they are to the surrounding yellow clays.

Wedderburn township is 225-km northwest of Melbourne. Gold was first discovered by Europeans there in August 1852, at the site of the old policy camp in Golden gully. The gold field now covers an area of 17 km by 66.5 km, with coarse gold being recovered from most gullies, hills and flats within the field. Between September and December 1852, 6000 to 7000 diggers rushed to the locality. With very little rain falling, by June 1853 only 100 or so men remained to work without water. The rains allowed 800 diggers to return in 1855.

In 1856 Capt. Smith discovered gold at what he called Smiths Gully. In 1859 and 1861 other small rushes occurred, but in August 1869 Alexander Clelland sank a shallow shaft outside John Paddock and found a 40 oz nugget at the bottom. The Government rewarded him 100 pounds for the discovery of what he called "Bervie" Gold field. This name was spelled incorrectly and became Berlin in the official register. By September 1868, 500 miners were at work, in October a 24-lb nugget was found at Fortunate Gully, and thousands rushed to the area.

In 1876 the Berlin Rush was renamed Rheola after a town in Wales. The Rheola area became famous for its beds of large nuggets scattered through the gullies. These nuggets carried in appearance from one patch to the next, some were bright and angular, with little evidence of abrasion, others were plate like, or smoothly eroded with iron staining.

The townships of Berlin Rush,Tylers and Johnstown quickly grew up to serve the diggers drinking and other needs. In 1870 it was estimated that a further 40 grog shanties were scattered through the various diggings.

On February 5, 1869 Richard Oates and John Deeson found the Welcome Stranger nugget, the largest ever recovered gold nugget in the world. It was resting upon red clay, rubbly rock and quartz, just below the surface, 55m on the down hill side of the black Reef. It was rumored at the time that the nugget was exposed in a rut made by a digger's cart. The nugget's gross weight was 2520 ozs, its net weight 2284 oz 16 dwt 22 gr. A monument now marks the place of the discovery. Much of the area surrounding the nugget produced gold and the Black Reef immediately above the Welcome Stranger was exceptionally rich. Crushing produced as much as 14 oz per tone of rock.

In 1867 Nicholas McEvoy and a boy went searching for his horses in the gully named No. 1, containing the Matrix reef, and situated above the town. They stumbled upon nuggets weighing 810 ozs, 805 ozs and 782 ozs. Fourteen days later they consigned gold parcels under escort from this place weighing 3324 ozs.

Possum Hill was rushed in 1875. Twenty-nine liquor stores were amongst the street of shops built, three were Chinese. In 1876 rains had failed and dysentery amongst diggers was common. Water for puddling always hampered the fields development, as the coarse gold was cemented into a hard matrix. In that year 4000 miners were at work. Chinese formed nearly half of the population at Possum Hill; antagonism towards their greater digging success led to riots against them in May 1876. In October 1877 the Possum Hill gold was diminishing and miners left.

The Burnt Creek valley was one of the richest nugget producing areas in Northwest Victoria. As many as 100,000 diggers and their followers rushed to the area to become rich in a day, or to face the drought conditions and lawlessness that made robbery and violence common place. In 1853 the lack of water forced diggers off the Burnt Creek diggings. In 1855, with rains bringing water supplies, diggers were able to puddle their stockpiled wash dirt and round it rich with coarse gold.

On Melbourne Cup Day, November 1906, J. Porter sunk a 19' (6m) shaft onto a 7 oz nugget. Immediately after an 88 oz nugget was found near the surface and a new rush was on. Porter named it Poseidon. After the winning horse that day. A canvas town appeared. On December 12 the Poseidon weighing 953 oz was found. This nugget was 10" (25 cm) from the surface and 2' (60 cm) from the bedrock. In this same patch, within a strip of ground 84' (25 m) long, and to a depth of 12" (30 cm) nuggets weighing a total of 3000 oz were found. Almost every nugget contained quartz and was angular, indicating that the reef shedding them was close by.

Mr. E. H. Hargraves announced on the 3rd of April in 1851 that he had found payable gold at Lewis Ponds (ophir) and Summer Hill Creek, and the Macquarie River in the districts of Bathurst and Wellington. By the 25th of May there were over a thousand diggers on a square mile area at Summer Hill Creek. The largest nugget found at that time was 4 lbs in weight.

In the 1850s Louise Creek produced several nuggets weighing in the vicinity of 6 lbs each, while in 1860 at Kiandra on the Snowy River, nuggets weighing up to 33 lbs or 400 ounces were found. A party of four found a mass of gold and quartz weighing 107 lbs, which yielded 1,127 oz of gold at Burrandong near Orange. This specimen was at a depth of thirty-three feet. An Aboriginal shepherd found another huge specimen on the surface at Meroo Creek on the Turon River. The blocks of quartz yielded 60 lbs and 106 oz troy of gold. Later more large, rich specimens were found nearby, as well as two nuggets weighing 157 ounces and 71 ounces.

The western gold fields on the Turon River attracted the first rushes in New South Wales, and perhaps the little town of Sofala produced the biggest and most plentiful nuggets. Sofala was rushed three weeks after the Ophir strike. In one of the first washes three hundred ounces were taken. A man named Crosswell sheltered in a cave during a severe storm at the junction of Big Oakey Creek and the Turon, found a 120 ounce nugget just at the cave entrance. Chinese diggers found a nugget at Spring Creek that took three men to lift. It was shipped back to China.

Two hundred and fifty pounds of coarse gold and nuggets were discovered by two men, named Knight and Gale, under an old German miner's hut. The nuggets came from just above the bedrock 3.3 m (10 feet) below. Nearby, Hill End also produced numerous fine nuggets, some of exceptional size.

In 1860 an 11 lb 8 oz nugget was found at the Tooloom diggings. Nuggets of 7 to 8 pounds were found at Parkes-Dubbo goldfield. Many pounds of coarse gold and nuggets weighing up to 6 lbs were found in the gullies at Gulgong and at Stuart Town.

At Gulgong a rich alluvium of quartz pebbles was overlaid with clay and in some places with basalt also. Within five years of its discovery in 1871 13 tons of gold had been sent away from the field. The greatest depth of sinking was about 200 feet. The Happy Valley lead was especially rich, with one pay full of wash producing 35 ounces of gold.

Pretty Gully
Pretty Gully, some 24 km (15 miles) from Drake, has alluvial gold derived from conglomerates concentrated in its gutters.

Tallawant
Nuggets up to 5 oz have been recovered from Tallawang, to the north of Gulgong. The gold was in sparse patches of conglomerates associated with coals.

Gundagai
On the New Diggings two boys in July 1861 found a 5 lb 4 oz nugget. Many other nuggets were found in the vicinity.

Teetulpa Gold field
Teetulpa is situated 24 km east of Waukaringa. Gold was first discovered in the area by Brandy and Smith in October 1886. These men were successful in claiming the 1000 pound reward offered by the South Australian Government for the discovery of a major gold field there. A rush from Adelaide soon occurred and eventually 5000 miners were working the field. The first nugget of any size was found by McDougall and Opperman and it weighed 8 ounces 14 dwt. The largest nugget reported from the field weighed 29 ounces 15 dwt.

Queensland gold fields did not produce the quantity or size of nuggets that made fields in Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales world famous. However, there are records of at least fifteen Queensland nuggets weighing over 100 ounces and quite a considerable number of smaller specimens.

Nuggets were found at Gympie in 1867-68, and the largest ever discovered in the state was taken from Gympie Creek in February 1868. Its gross weight was 975 ounces and it contained 906 ounces of gold. The second largest nugget came from Sailor's Gully at Deep Creek. It weighed 804 ounces.

A flat oblong nugget weighing 258 ounces was also found in 1868 at Mount Wheeler near Rockhampton. Many smaller nuggets were also taken from this place at the time. A 336 ounce nugget was found at Top Camp at Cloncurry, as well as a 17 ounce and 10 ounce specimen. From that same field on the Two Mile, they discovered an 88 ounce nugget.

In the 1880s a number of nuggets ranging from between 7 ounces and 80 ounces were taken from Nuggety and Moonlight Gullies at Mount Britton. Some sixty nuggets ranging in size up to 180 ounces were taken from the alluvial deposits of Green Hills west of Forsayth.

On the 15th of May 1851, the Sydney Morning Herald carried the sensational news that a rich gold-bearing area had been found near Bathurst. Since 1849 Australians had been tantalized by the news of unthinkable quantities of gold being daily found in California and many had sailed away to join Americans.

Of the 40 nuggets weighing over 18 kilograms recorded in Australia, 32 of those nuggets were discovered in Central Victoria.

The "Welcome Stranger" the largest nugget ever recorded in the world, was found just a few centimeters below the surface. It had a gross weight of 2520 ounces or 78.4 kilograms.

Nestled at the foot of the Pyrenees Ranges the Avoca gold field was discovered in 1853. A year later the population had swelled to 14,000. The names given to some of the leads, such as the Strip Me Naked Lead and the Linger and Die Lead will arouse the curiosity of visitors.

Years of experience have shown that there are certain formations which can safely be excluded from the search for finding gold nuggets. Such areas include the Great Artesian Basins of the interior of Australia and other sedimentary basins of varying depth in which coal, oil shale, and opal constitute the more likely items of mineral wealth. It is also possible to eliminate areas covered by unbroken sheets of volcanic rocks of Tertiary age.


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