By Ill Digger
I've returned from my second detecting trip to England and what a trip it was!!
I was lucky enough to be staying in the same barn as Steve Herschbach!!
The first day on the fields are a half day usually. After the 2 hour ride from London to the "barn" where we will be staying for the next seven days. The "barns" are actual barns that have been renovated into vacation rental units. We unload all of our luggage from the van, find our sleeping spot for the week, dig out all of our gear, assemble everything, jump back in the van, and head out to the first field! My best find that afternoon was a hammered copper Rose farthing. They are commonly dated 1636. (Look for the pattern here). And the usual buttons and lead. So that was a good start.
Day 2: Our first full day. A cool, slightly foggy, just perfect!
The day wasn't real eventful for me. We hunted two different farms. At the end of the day my better finds were 5 farthings and a wiped out copper token, plus some buttons and lead. The farthings were late 1700s-1800s. Here at home in the States, to find those 5 coins would be a day to talk about for months. It was funny for me while I was over there, knowing with so much history the possibilities make my hopes and expectations exhilarating! You truly never know what will pop up next. It could be 10 years old or 2000 years old! There were multiple milled, and hammered silver coins found and some neat relics dug throughout the day by the other team members.
Day 3: Things started to pick up for me a little on day 3. We came across a late Georgian/Victorian home site members of the team started popping some milled coins. Coppers and silvers. If I remember correctly one member found 3 or 4 silver 3 pence coins in that same field. A little silver 3 pence was one of the coins I was hoping to get while I was there, but it wasn't meant to be this trip. Shortly before lunch I switched fields and got onto my first bit of English silver for the trip! An 1844 Vicky 4 pence in nice condition. So after lunch I was headed back to the field were I got my 4P and we had to walk past a 1700? mansion to get back to where I wanted to be. So I slowed down and detected in front of the mansion along the way and got my first hammered silver for this trip! A nice "full" penny. Turned out to be a 1279 Edward I ! That was the highlight for my day three. But I did find plenty of buttons and lead too.
Day 4: This day was one of those roller coaster type hunting days. The morning was pretty uneventful for me other than some buttons and lead. Until while hunting near a 13th century church and villa when I popped a nice little cut quarter hammered silver and less than 10 mins later another hammered silver coin fragment. Kinda bang bang! We broke for a short lunch break and went our separate ways and as I was walking into a field through a tractor path I got a nice high tone. But real erratic at the same time. One you would figure to be either a coin or part of a beer can. But when I pinpointed the target it was a nice small tight pinpoint I figured I better dig it. Boy am I glad I did! Turned out to be a 1908 Edwardian decorated silver mount! Turns out it was in a place they usually park the van! The rest of my days finds consisted of the usual trash plus some buttons and lead.
Day 5: Today was another one of those days that I was digging lots of targets like buttons and lead... But not one coin all morning till around lunch. After lunch I decided to stay on that field determined to find one of my wish coins a "Bullhead". A King George III silver. And with the coins being found in the area one was definitely a possibly. Lo and behold it happened! A melted bulkhead six pence. Even though it was melted almost to the point of unrecognition I could make out a G III and a reeded edge. Mission accomplished! The only other "wishlist" coin I really had on my mind on my way over was a Roman silver coin. Not really expecting to ever find one. We all carried radios every day, and as a good find was made, we would put it out over the radio. Ron gave the 15 min count down to the end of the days hunt over the radio so we all started to swing back towards the van. Walking pretty fast, with 8 minutes left, I got a signal figured I had time to pop one more. Boom! A Roman silver coin! It has a bad "horn crust" on it that needs to be "cooked" off so it can be properly identified. Early id's put it in the 4th century! I'm really looking forward to seeing that coin cleaned up!
Day 6: The group split up in the morning between some rougher ground and some land that was nice and smooth. I went to the smoother field with a few other hunters. First hole out of the van 20 feet away I nabbed a hammie fragment! After that the first half of the day was pretty uneventful for me other than some buttons and lead of course. It was a enormous field. It has been hunted a lot over the years from what I understand. The lack of targets for me proved it. But it wasn't a total waste. You just have to walk over the stuff. With a half hour walk back to the van and only about 45 mins left to hunt I spun around and within or 3 or 4 swings later I got a loud high tone! As I was pinpointing I looked down and laying right on top of the ground was a complete silver thimble!! Sweet end to a pretty slow day.
Day 7: The day I dread. The last day. You know not only is it your last day of detecting heaven and the inevitable time you'll power down for the last time of your trip, plus the last day is usually cut a little short. That's so we have time to get back to the barn and get all of your finds from the week cleaned, bagged, catalogued, and photographed if you want to see them again before they leave your life for the next few months. To optimize our hunt time we decided to hunt some nearby land. Even though it's also the land that the club has had lasted the longest! Even after all those years there were many great finds found on it this season! The week before we came a gold coin and a beautiful Celtic gold "votive offering" were found on it! I walked across the road from that field to a field that was surrounding a 16th century two story mansion. After a half hour or so of slowly working around the old mansion I dug a small piece of a hammered silver coin. That coin put me in a tie for 1st place for the weekly "Hammy competition". So I slowed down hoping to get another one to take the lead and hopefully win the competition. It was 10:10 a.m. when I got the loudest, jumpiest, most obnoxious signal of my trip. Not being too far from a tractor entrance into that field I figured it was a beer can or a grease tube but I figured I'd dig it up and get it out of there anyways. I missed the target on the first scoop. Moved a shovel blade to the left, stepped it in and kicked the back of the shovel and pushed the dirt forward and a big yellow ..... egg looking thing rolled out to my left. As I looked at it half my brain said to myself " what is that?" And the other half of my brain was saying "HOLY .....!!!!! That looks like gold!!" When I bent over to pick it up and I was lifting it off the ground the weight of it made it fall out of my hand! That's when I knew it was definitely a big piece of gold!!! After Ron came over to shoot some video and take some photos I strapped back on all my gear took 2 steps and 3 swings and got a solid 19 TID on the Equinox 800. I told myself after just finding that thing I don't care what this is, I'm digging it up. One scoop, and I pushed the shovel forward and a 11.2 gram ancient solid gold ring was laying there looking at me!! I about started to hyperventilate!! I quickly got Ron's attention again and he came over to shoot more video and more photos. I can only imagine this will be the most amazing thing I will ever find! It's been over a week since I found it and I still can't stop picturing those two artifacts rolling out of the dirt in my head......
Thanks for lookin' & HH
Spring is in the air
The infamous Shotover River looking up to Coronet Peak ski field. Simons winter haunt. Running a little bit dirty with snow melt. Gold in that river.
A few Saturdays ago Mrs JW & I decided to head into a spot we had biked to quite a few years earlier where I carried in my Gp 3000. Getting to some old workings where I only found one piece of gold. I was actually very surprised to have gotten that. This time though the bikes had gotten their electric conversions & so made the trip a lot easier & quicker. On my bike I have geared down the front chain ring from a 46 tooth sprocket to a 28 tooth. Making steep uphill riding a lot easier but with a reduced over all top end speed. This I wasn't worried about as gravity dictates my top end speed coming down. And that requires a lot of slowing down with a lot of braking.🚲
So....all geared up & ready to head in.
It wasn't too difficult a ride as it pretty much follows a four wheel drive farm track to as far as we went. This is looking back the way from which we had come. Notice the sluicings in that little gully & below it down to & across the track.
This next pic is looking ahead in the opposite direction from the above pic.
Not much flat land. Just the very floor of the valley & the track. Glacial country......& deposits.
Mrs JW taking a pic. Notice a few small old high terraces in line with her helmet.
This is what she was taking a pic of. Some old worked turned over ground from the old timers on an old terrace on the other side of the creek. You will notice horizontal water race cuts in the hillsides above & out from that valley on the right.
Heading towards our detecting spot. The creek has a claim on it so I had to keep high up & away from it.
Then Mrs JW broke her chain......again. This was a brand new chain to.🤬 Lucky I had the gear to do the repair.
Got her back on the road.
Got to the spot...so time for some detecting. The weather looked like it was taking a turn for the worst so had to get cracking.
Mrs JW had one bar on her I phone so she was happy. She had a girly mag too....so she had plenty to do.
There was quite a bit of exposed schist bedrock....so I was happy. I ventured to the edge where I had scored my one bit those years ago with the 3000.
Not even one minute into it I had a pretty ugly signal. wasn't holding my breath. I had to be careful & not lose the target over the edge & down the bank.
Dragging the dig scrapes carefully up away from the edge. As I got deeper the signal improved. Then it was out.
My first little bit of gold. That was a surprise.
Things dried up for a bit on that edge so I hit that bedrock up behind the bikes.
I got a sweet signal where the detector is sitting. Another bit of gold
I managed another couple of smaller bits from this bedrock area but that was it. Stopped for a coffee break & a bit of time out. Went back to the bedrock edge on the drop off in the opposite direction of where I started. Got a very good hit down the slope a wee bit. Had to be very careful in digging this one so it didn't drop off down below.
It was a nice piece of gold. Just over 1 gram.
Mrs JW had heard the signal & showed a bit of interest, so I went & showed her. On getting back to back fill the hole I scanned the hole & the dig out dirt before backfilling. I got another little hit. It turned out to be in the ground right beside the last bit. Another small bit of gold. I didn't get a pic of that one. Mrs JW was making noises about heading out so I got about another half hour in before calling it quits. Got nothing more but there is still some ground to finish. I will be back.
All up 6 bits for 1.8 grams. That was a fun afternoon. Cheers.
Good luck out there
Two of us made the 5 day trip from eastern OZ to the Western Australian goldfields for a 8 week detecting trip.(armed with 7000,s and SDC)
We targeted remoter spots that are not really on the radar. We invested in a pile of permits and researched lots of available ground spots. Lots of walking and lots of barren gullies and creeks...... but occasionally we found the odd gully or slope not touched by a detector that yielded some nice runs of gold. We went 50/50 with our finds, sharing is the way to get a bigger tally when 2 or 3 of you (of equal ability) spread out searching large areas. All up we shared 45 ounces between two of us. There are many ugly specimens not pictured and we will have a big crush and smelt day soon. Cheers RDD
A comment I made on Jins post recently reminded me of how easy it is to walk over good sized gold.
We are all familiar with the horrible loud screams detectors make over big surface targets. Sometimes the cause is obvious, usually surface rubbish such as a visible piece of tin or squashed beer can.
Occasionally, when walking paddocks (which I mostly do) it turns out to be something useful, such as a lost spanner or fuel cap from a tractor - I have even found a grease gun lying concealed in the grass. These items I always return to the grateful landowner.
More commonly, however, it is something useless like an old horseshoe, worn out cultivator point and/or the sheared bolts which once held it to the plough tyne. After digging a number of these the temptation to keep walking (with ears still ringing) becomes ~almost~ irresistible.
Back in the Minelab SD2200 days I had permission to work a large Victorian property located on the Tarnagulla granite pluton to the north of Dunolly. This had a number of unworked shallow Tertiary palaeochannels crossing it, on one of which I located a 7 oz patch. Mostly the gold was smallish and reasonably deep, but the same location was also littered with shallow shotgun shells. These were very loud and nearly drove me nuts, and in my frustration I ignored one outlier - - -
Fast forward a number of years and, armed with later technology (GPX4000) I decided to check the patch once more and - - - WHUMP/SCREAM - - - greeted my ears over that same target.
I kicked the dirt in annoyance - and then spotted the 70 grammer I had ignored years earlier:
I had foolishly made the assumption that all the gold in that patch was deep and small, therefore loud shallow targets had to be junk - overlooking the possibility that something once deep could have been ploughed to the surface - - - I kept it to remind me of the old detecting maxim: "Dig your targets"
By Steve Herschbach
This gold prospecting and metal detecting story takes us all the way back to the beginning - my beginning that is. I was fortunate enough to be born in the Territory of Alaska in 1957. Alaska was still very much on the frontier back in those days. My father was a farm boy from the midwest who headed for Alaska in the early 50's with not much more than an old pickup truck. He worked as a longshoreman offloading ships in Seward, Alaska for a time. He decided to get some education and earned his way through college in Fairbanks, Alaska by driving steampipe for the fleet of gold dredges that were still working there. He spent some time in Seldovia, Alaska working the "slime line" in a fish cannery. He met my mom in Seldovia, the two got married, and finally settled in Anchorage, Alaska.
I came along in 1957. My father had taken a job as a surveyor but money was tight in the early years. I was raised on wild game and garden grown vegetables, and as soon as I was old enough to handle it, I was walking a trapline every winter with my father. Dad was a hard worker however, and Alaska was having one of its many booms at the time - the construction of the oil and gas fields in Lower Cook Inlet. This was the Swanson River oilfield, discovered the year I was born.
The state was prospering and my father along with it as a surveyor on the new Swanson Field. He got the bug for flying early on, and by the time I became a teenager he finally got his dream plane at the time - a Piper Super Cub, the classic Alaska Bush airplane. Super Cubs equipped with oversize "tundra tires" can land just about anywhere you can find about 300 - 400 feet of open ground. A great little airplane and the one I ended up flying to get my own pilot's license.
Super Cub N1769P parked on knoll in Talkeetna Mountains, Alaska
It was in this same timeframe that dad got me hooked on gold prospecting. In 1972 I saw an ad in a magazine "Find Lost Treasure" and had acquired my first metal detector, a White's Coinmaster 4. This must have got discussions going about gold, and my father did have some knowledge on the subject having worked around the gold mines in Fairbanks. He took me to a little creek south of Anchorage, Bertha Creek, and I found my very first flakes of gold! By the ripe old age of 14 gold fever was in the air, I had my first metal detector, and already wanted a gold dredge. My first dredge, a 3" Keene with no floatation, was on the way to me in 1973.
Keep in mind that the price of gold had only recently been deregulated from the old fixed price of $35 per ounce. In 1972 it was around $60 per ounce, and in 1973 made it to just over $100 per ounce. The money was not my motivation at all. I already just loved finding gold, and the connection to the prospectors of old and the historical quest for gold were more compelling than any dream of striking it rich. I just wanted to find gold!
My first metal detector and first gold dredge (my 3502 had the older aluminum header box & a power jet)
A young man with a new detector, new gold dredge, gold fever, and a father willing to fly him anywhere in Alaska on adventure. How great is that? Now there was only one problem - where to go? There was no internet then, so it boiled down to libraries and research. In short order I discovered the United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) bulletin series and the number one Alaska title of the series, Placer Deposits of Alaska, U.S.G.S. Bulletin 1374 by Edward H. Cobb. This one book and the references contained in it became my prospecting guide to Alaska. My desired target? Remote locations with large gold nuggets!
I read the book and certain places just jumped out at me. One was the Iditarod area and places like Ganes Creek and Moore Creek - tales told elsewhere. This paragraph of page 114 caught my eye:
"Placer mining in the Chisana district, first of creek gravels and later of bench and old channel deposits of Bonanza and Little Eldorado Creeks, has always been on a small scale with simple equipment. The remoteness of the area, shortages of water on some streams, and the small extent of the deposits all prevented the development of large operations. There has been little activity since World War II; the last reported mining was a two-man nonfloat operation in 1965."
Wow, that alone sounds pretty good. Nothing really about the gold however. The secret to the Placer Deposits series is not so much the books themselves, though they are great for getting ideas, like I did. The key is to use the references listed and in this case the main one is The Chisana-White River District, Alaska, U.S.G.S. Bulletin 630 (1916) by Stephen Reid Capps.
It turns out I had stumbled over the location of the last actual gold rush in Alaska in 1913. It was a small rush and did not last long, but it did mark the end of an era. The world was on the brink of war and the age of gold rushes was soon to be history. The history of the area is covered in the report starting on page 89. It is fascinating reading, but it was this note on page 105 that really sealed the deal:
"The gold is bright, coarse, and smoothly worn. The largest nugget found has a value of over $130, and pieces weighing a quarter of an ounce or over make up about 5 per cent of the total gold recovered. The gold is said to assay $16.67 an ounce."
Gold nuggets a quarter ounce or larger make up five percent of the gold? And that $130 nugget at $16.67 an ounce? Somewhere over seven ounces. That's all I needed to know. Very remote, worked by simple means, and large gold - I wanted to go to Chisana in general and Bonanza Creek in particular. Even the creek names scream gold - Bonanza Creek, Big Eldorado Creek, Little Eldorado Creek, Coarse Money Creek, and Gold Run. Now all we had to do was get there. But when I said remote, I meant remote. Chisana is practically in Canada 250 air miles from Anchorage.
To be continued.....
Chisana, Alaska location map