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The July 2016 issue of the ICMJ magazine contains an article I wrote reprising my 2011 trip to Australia to hunt gold with Chris Ralph and Jonathan Porter. Subscribers can view the article online at http://www.icmj.com/article-notloggedin.php?id=3479

There was of course a lot more to say about the trip than was contained in the article, and in particular I have a lot more photos to share. I kept a diary while on the trip, and this thread is intended to provide a much more detailed look at the trip. I will keep posting on this thread in a serial fashion similar to what I did with my Alaska gold adventures with my diary providing daily details.

It all started in 2010 at the old AMDS Adventure Forum when I made this post on a thread:

"Hi murph,

You know, for many years it was my dream to go hunt nuggets in Australia. I got Doug Stone's books and read everything else I could and dreamed of those monster nuggets.

But as years went by I read between the lines and figured it is a tough go to find the big nuggets in Australia these days. The fact is you only read about people making finds, but plenty of visitors to Oz find no gold. There is always the home team advantage. It is not so much what you know as who you know, and I'll always have a tremendous advantage in Alaska just because I've lived here all my life. Though I do have a few contacts in Oz that might give me a leg up on the average visitor. Still, it may be that my chance to visit Australia is coming as my circumstances have taken a turn for the better. So maybe in a couple years?"

That in turn generated a response from famed Australian gold prospector Jonathan Porter:

"Steve I will tell you this, if you ever decide to visit Australia it would be my pleasure to show you around. There is still plenty of potential here in Australia, the auriferous areas are just too extensive and in some cases very inaccessible so there just has to be good nugget patches waiting for someone gutsy enough to come along and swing their coil over that first lump. I intend to get into some tiger country this year and could do with a good partner who doesn't need a gold fix every day, interested? - JP"

It turns out that JP and ICMJ Associate editor Chris Ralph had been discussing the possibility of a joint prospecting trip in Australia. I had met Chris previously when I had invited him up to visit my Moore Creek pay-to-mine operation several years earlier. A few messages were passed back and forth offline, and I was fortunate enough to be invited to join in on the adventure. Trying to pick the best time as regards weather was a big priority, and it was decided that the fall of 2011 would be the best bet for putting a trip together. Australia is in the southern hemisphere, and so the seasons are the reverse of what we experience in the United States. Our fall is their spring and we timed it to hit cooler temperatures that would be warming while we were there. Jonathan's advice was critical here. We wanted several weeks to give it a good go and decided the entire month of September 2011 would work well. That gave us plenty of time to plan and make arrangements so we put it on our calendars.

To be continued....

Photo courtesy of Aurum Australis

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OK, travel to Australia and back. First step - get your passport if you do not have one. Other than that it is just jet travel, though halfway around the world. I found my old email from Chris with the flight we both ended up booking. Since we were headed for Western Australia around Meekatharra the flight destination is Perth, which requires flying across the entire continent of Australia from the initial touchdown in Melbourne. We would then drive out of Perth to the Meekatharra area.

Depart Wed 24 Aug. 2011 23:30 from Los Angeles Arrive 08:20 (Fri) Melbourne Qantas flight QF94  
Depart 10:45 (Fri) from Melbourne Arrive 13:00 (Fri) Perth Qantas flight QF475

Depart Wed 28 Sept. 2011 23:10 from Perth 05:20 Arrive (Thu) Brisbane Qantas flight QF652  
Depart 10:55 (Thu) from Brisbane Arrive 07:00 (Thu) Los Angeles Qantas flight QF15

Flights on  Sale Economy for  $1,432.38

The same flight booked just now five years later is $1340.33


Notice the nearly 24 hours spent in the air so longer than that with time in airports, etc. The nice part is on overseas flights even the cheapest seats are more like first class. Fifteen hours crammed in typical coach seating would probably lead to rioting in the aisles.

Travel was helped a great deal by JP providing nearly all the detecting gear including loaner GPX 5000 detectors. Except for a couple nights in Perth all our time in Australia was planned to be camping. I basically just took desert clothing and boots along with misc personal effects and picked up a small tent and sleeping bag in Australia, which came home with me. Chris packed a tent and bag, which I would do now if I had it to do over. Getting anything in Australia proved to be very expensive. It was not so much the exchange rate as the fact that an Australian dollar simply bought half in Australian stores what a U.S. dollar would get in U.S. stores. I tended to think of terms of a dollar being a dollar and that an even trade would be good. Nope, $100 Australian does not get you far at all in Australia. Look not just at the exchange rate but the actual cost of goods at your destination.

Chris was in Reno at that time while I was still living in Alaska. I had the extra flights from Alaska and met Chris in Los Angeles for the flight to Australia. Kudos to Quantas on everything - flights were nice, no issues.

Our flight arriving in Perth, Australia. Photo courtesy Jonathan Porter of Aurum Australis


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Great timing on this thread Steve, as I've been toying with a "bucket list" trip to the land down under next summer! I know I could probably find more gold plugging away here in the west and southwest, but the adventure appeals to me! Looking forward to your continued posts! :-)

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Well worth the trip Peg! It surely is not all about the gold. The first time going anywhere is great just from the seeing new country perspective, and the Aussie people are simply tops in my book. And gold luck can strike anywhere - there are still huge nuggets lurking in Australia, you just need to put your coil over one.

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dang 5 years already...my last trip was in 2010...time really is flying by!

I never made any money hunting gold in Oz...

I would do it all again, the gold isn't everything. Just a good reason to go hunting.


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Very cool following along with your thoughts outside the confines of magazine space constraints as Chris needed to deal with..


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This thread fits in well with Freds post for anyone thinking to go to Australia as it would be good to have a good contact there or be on a tour such as the one Fred posted.  I can't imagine it being anything less than awesome than to travel to Australia and have a chance to find some gold at the same time.  

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Good to see you had a good trip downunder.

Next time you will have to do a stint with the Goldhounds crew Steve!

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Ok, in the first post I mentioned how I kept a journal on the trip with daily notes. I had intended for it to provide lots of tiny details about gold finds, etc for this thread. After starting the thread I realized I had no idea where the journal was and so started two weeks of looking through boxes shipped from Alaska to Reno and never opened. I found lots of stuff and have done some much needed cleanup work leftover from our move to Reno, but the notebook never did come to light. I am afraid that because it just looked like a nondescript notepad (picked up at last second in store in Oz) that it may have got thrown out when we were packing up to move from Alaska. Or I still have not found it. Whatever, the show must go on! I will do the best I can from memory.

There were a couple things everyone that goes to Australia looking to bring home gold needs to know. First, depending on where you go detecting you may need a permit or license. In Western Australia you need to obtain a Miner's Right. From the information page at http://www.dmp.wa.gov.au/Minerals/Miners-Rights-2427.aspx

"A Miner’s Right must be obtained prior to commencing prospecting activities. This allows the holder of the Miner’s Right to pass and re-pass over land, in order to gain access to Crown land for prospecting purposes. A Miner’s Right can be obtained for a fee of $25 at the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP), Mineral House, 100 Plain Street, East Perth, or at any Mining Registrar’s office, upon presentation of proof of identity. An application form is available within the attached Miner’s Right pamphlet."


These were obtained in advance for Chris and I. From http://www.australiasgoldenoutback.com/things-to-do-australian-outback/Outback_experiences/Gold_prospecting_and_fossicking

"This gives you authorisation to prospect on:

  • Unoccupied crown land that is not covered by a granted mining tenement.
  • A pastoral lease that is not covered by a granted mining tenement – provided prior notice is given to the pastoralist.
  • A mining tenement - providing you have permission from the tenement holder. 
  • A granted exploration licence, after having been granted a three-month section 20A permit.

It is important to note that gold prospecting and fossicking cannot be carried out in national parks, nature reserves, on Aboriginal land and heritage sites, within townsites or other classified areas such as cemeteries. You must seek permission from the landowner to enter private property, such as farmland."


OK, you find some gold, now what about taking it home? I have never heard of anyone having trouble taking gold nuggets from Australia to the U.S. unless they are extremely valuable or historic in nature. Unless you are talking pounds of gold you just put it in your carry on and take home. Still, I tried to find some legal guidance and there is not much out there. This is from https://www.border.gov.au/Exportinggoods/Documents/111026volume12version5.2.pdf (pages 143 -145)

Class B Objects – Export Permit Required
Class B objects, include:

• Natural Science Objects of Australian origin as prescribed in Part 3 of the control
- any palaeontological object;
- any mineral object (not otherwise referred to in this item) with a current
Australian market value of not less than AUD$10,000;
- any gold nugget with a current Australian market value of not less than

- any diamond or sapphire with a current Australian market value of not less
than AUD$250,000;
- any opal with a current Australian market value of not less than AUD$100,000;
- any other gemstone with a current Australian market value of not less than
- any meteorite; and
- any type specimen of present-day flora or fauna, a palaeontological object or a
mineral if:
- it is not lodged in an Australian collecting institution; or
- a permit or an authority issued under the Environment Protection and
Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is not in force.

Unless you have an extremely valuable find there appears to be nothing to worry about, but if anyone can add any clarification or details I would appreciate it. In any case, rules do change and anyone traveling to Australia will want to seek out the latest information.

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Bummer about your journal.....hope you find it. But I'm sure you'll still be able to share lots of useful info etc! Thanks.

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    • By GB_Amateur
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    • By GB_Amateur
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    • By KS Stick
      Freezing Rain here in Kansas thought I would share my story if it's ok with Steve.
      Two Gold Coins
      It was July in 1985 I had been Metal Detecting since the early 60’s. I started with a Heath kit from Radio Shack than 2 Compass detectors Judge and Judge-2 , in 1983 I bought a Teknetics 8500 and converted it to a hip mount .
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      The next day I was early at the site it was getting hot already  There were a few coins found Indian heads, a seated half, and liberty head nickels, early Wheat's and I was getting overheated when a front came through with a cool breeze that could only come from heaven.
      Then it happened a hit and 1880 $5 gold coin appeared in the dirt, my worries were over I gave my brother his half of the Gold coins and I kept the rest of the coins that I had found.
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      KS Stick.
    • By Johnnysalami1957
      I only ever owned a White's product. I started in1970 in high school with my 1st machine and tried to "earn" my way up the detector ladder so to speak. The only problem I ever had was a coil that went bad and I got a replacement right away. Let me tell you a little story. I live in Northern NJ and before the interweb there used to be a little metal detector shop called Geoquest on Rt 46 in Saddle Brook NJ. It was owned by a guy named Harry and his wife Leola. His shop had metal detectors hanging all over the place on pegboards. He had piles of them on the floor. Harry was a servicing dealer for White's back in the day. Anyway Harry was a short round man that always wore a shirt that was at least one size too small and the button buttonholes were screaming for mercy! He had display cases crammed with finds from all the local treasure hunters and I was hooked in an instant! Well those things weren't cheap and I could not afford to buy one right away and so I used to go hang out there and see if I could "help" out and maybe learn something. Well after a couple of weeks of being a pain in the a** Harry told me to come in the back and he handed me a machine. It was blue and primer grey weighed like 50 lbs and he told me to get lost for a couple of weeks. I didn't know what to say I was really happy to have a chance at trying this cool new thing. Well back then not many people had metal detectors and the ones that I know lived near the beach. I lived in an old town, Hackensack NJ and it was ripe for the pickin. I just didn't know what the hell to do. My first time out at an old park I most of the time trying to figure out how to tune the machine. I think it had a red button sticking out of the end of the handle to pinpoint with but I'm not sure. I started finding coins, lot's of coins, SILVER COINS!!!!!! They were only worth face value back then or maybe a little more but I was happy. I was doing something nobody else was doing. By the end of the summer I had enough coins to cash in and almost buy a nice middle of the road Whites machine. Harry recommended a Whites machine because he was a servicing dealer and they were very reliable. Harry was a mad scientist! He used to repair down to the component level on the boards and had all kinds of test equipment in his "lab". He used to see common problems like resistors and potentiometers going bad but he actually found weak links in the circuits and changed components to a different value for a permanent fix. Harry taught me lot's of things but the thing that sticks in my head is persistence and education. And how to solder really good! Harry let me have a brand new White's detector and told me to pay for it a little every week when I could. Back then people were trusting and honorable. Your handshake was your contract and bond. I studied HVAC and became an industrial chiller service technician and did well in that trade for 20 years. After that amount of time I wanted to change careers and I became an HVAC instructor at the school I graduated from 20 years before. I actually replaced my retiring instructor and was very proud of myself. I always stopped by Geoquest at least twice a month and took care of Harry's heating and cooling needs for free. Back then that's what you did to payback your debts. Not the monetary ones, the ones that really count the kindness caring ones, the personal ones. Harry's health was failing. He had bypass surgery and was doing well for a few months. The next time I visited Geoquest I had some bagels with a smear of cream cheese for Harry and Leola and coffee. I walked in and Leola looked like she was tortured. She told me that we lost Harry. I thought he was really lost I didn't realize he had died or I just didn't want to believe it. I stayed there the rest of the day helping Leola try and organise the shop and keep her busy but eventually we sat and cried. Harry was gone and Leola had to close the shop. There just wasn't enough money in selling machines to support the bills without Harry. After the store closed I tried to stay in touch with Loela but we never really kept on after the store closed.  Harry lived his life with passion. Something most of us will never even realise what passion is. I laid off metal detecting for awhile while raising a family and got back into it about 6 years ago. I bought a White's V3i. I wanted the top of the line and I could afford it, I still can't really operate it well!  That same day I got the V I found a 14k mens wedding band in a park. Thank you Harry I miss you.  
    • By strick
      If you asked me about buttons two years ago I would have probably smiled and walked away.  Put a Metal detector in anybodies hand (especially a Deus) and you dig lots of buttons...and  If you take metal detecting seriously (like I now have) you are forced to take a good look at them. I am privileged to know people that own or have rights to big tracts of land. So when a client of mine told me last week of a place on his fathers property that was and old homestead I could not wait to go there. All that remains of the place is a small depression in the ground probably about 5 foot in diameter. This they tell me was the cellar. There is nothing else to indicate that this was once somebodies house. It's back in the sticks and has never seen a detector.The old man (now in his eighties) that took me up there is a walking book of local history. His fathers father bought the property from a Frenchman that was married to a Miwok  Indian.  So while the old man sat in his side by side and told story after story  I turned on the XP Deus......and the place came alive with iron sounds.  My first target was a wedding band marked W.L & Co The gold plating on the outside  was worn down to the silver lining....which made me appreciate how easy we have it in our day and age. I detected there about 20 min and found the first button and several other targets ....but the old man had other ideas and wanted to show me another spot down the road which turned out to be a bust. I spent the next hour driving around with the old man in his Polaris while he told story after story...my only regret was not having a tape recorder as my memory has never been that great. I asked if I could come back and he said yes.... so yesterday In the pouring down rain I hiked up a very steep hill and detected for about 3 hours unhindered...and had a Blast.