Apologies but this is long! I seriously contemplated something like Klunkers 1000 word essay! 🤣
After 4 re-scheduled attempts last year that were all thwarted for travel restriction reasons, the W.A trip finally happened earlier this month.
The trip was with my brother-in-law (we’ll call him Bill (for Brother-In-Law)) who lives in Perth and has been doing some prospecting himself over the past 2-3 years for some decent success.
Flew from Melbourne to Perth, stayed one night at Bill’s place and then left at sparrow’s fart for the 9 hour drive to a super secret location somewhere near Meekatharra.
The plan was to prospect 2 locations for a few days where his research suggested there might be some detectable gold and then, depending on success or otherwise, move down to his ‘patch’ where he has had most of his success. He found his patch earlier last year and over the past 12 months he and and a few friends in Perth had gathered nearly 500 grams of gold from it. Biggest piece being just shy of 9 ounces.
Bill had organised access to stations, access to some live tenements via agreements and access to some pending ground. All up, we had about 5 rough locations that we were able to hunt and he knew would keep us busy for the 10 days we were out and about. Very thankful to Bill for organising everything as the W.A. system is a little complex for a newbie running a fly in/fly out, hit and run mission.
All tenements and areas that we were allowed to utilise were loaded into the Trilobite Solutions Geology Travel maps and this would prove invaluable over the next 10 days making sure I stayed where I was supposed to be, logging prospecting walks that we did, logging finds, logging dry blow piles, etc. It is a great little app (for Australia and Canada).
After a smooth run on both black top and good dirt roads we rolled into what was to be the first night’s camp at about 4 p.m. The camper trailer and swag were set out and the detectors were fired up. After such a lengthy build up to the trip we were finally into it!
Bill wandered reasonably close to camp and I wandered a little further off. After 45 mins or so and a few short bursts of detecting I found my first little bit of W.A. gold. Easily a sub-grammer but it was a start - and day 1 was not a skunk! Couldn’t find anything more in a close area around that first piece and headed back to where Bill was as it was getting close to dark. He had found 2 small pieces and had another 3 signals marked for me to check with the 6000 (he was running a 7000 with stock 14” coil). I could hear 2 signals and felt the other was ground noise. He dug them up - 1 gold, 1 trash and 1 ground signal.
Bill went off to start a fire and said for me to have another quick look around close to camp before it was really dark. Headed 30 metres west of where we had chatted and found a signal just down slope of an iron stone band. Another sub-gram piece of gold. Again, nothing more in a close area around it and started heading back to camp. On the uphill side of the iron stone got another signal - another sub-gram piece. This was quickly followed by 4 more sub-gram pieces and a signal left in the ground as now it was proper dark. Considering we arrived at this spot not knowing if we would find anything, it was a welcome start.
Day 2 was, as all of them were, a start before sunrise. Straight back to the signal that was left un-dug the night before - gold. And day 2 was not a skunk! Bill left me to it and headed south from camp as my little patch turned into an approx 21 gram day for me. All little bits but the first 24 hours pretty much had my trip cost covered - everything from here on in was pure cream!
Bill had also found himself a little patch with larger pieces but a lower total weight. I think about 7 grams was his biggest bit and total weight was approx 16 grams. Bill even ran the 19” coil on the GPZ 7000 over this area as it was flat and open but he could not eke out anything further.
Day 3 saw a final clean-up of my little patch for a few grams (and day 3 was not a skunk!) and then several kilometres of walking, detecting, searching for new ground. We walked separately but the end result was zero.
Bill had felt that if we were to find anything at that particular location it would have been quite concentrated - and he was right! Both small patches were barely 40 metres from camp.
About mid-afternoon we felt the area had played out and we would be best served to head to the next prospect, set camp, have a quick search and then have a proper look the following day. The day ended with a new camp ground, no gold from a quick 30 minute look and a nice meal around the fire.
Day 4 was a big day of walking. Again we targeted a concentrated area to begin with but when this proved fruitless the search was markedly widened. I headed east several kilometres and Bill headed north. The country is mostly devoid of low ground cover with the main vegetation being low shrubs and the occasional larger but stunted tree. It is a harsh environment of black rocks, red dirt, some areas littered with quartz and very, very little water.
Something that amazed me for the whole trip were the dry blow piles that are assumed to be around 100-120 years old. They are barely noticeable in some areas due to their age but once Bill had shown me what to look for they were easier to spy. The sheer number of piles over a vast area is testament to the hard work those old boys did in such a harsh environment.
Unfortunately location number 2 proved completely barren for any detectable yellow and we made the decision to cut the losses and move to ‘the patch’ that I had heard so much about. I guess sometimes it is hard to stay away from an area that has provided some good colour in the recent past.
A couple of hours before dark allowed a little look around at where previous pieces were found, the lie of the land, a quick detect and the formulation of a plan for tomorrow. The evening detect found a couple of small sub-grammers for me and 2 just over a gram for Bill. Day 4 - no skunk!
Day 5 saw Bill head north and myself head east for what was probably my biggest walking day. The plan was to spend the morning prospecting and if no success, to spend the afternoon around the ‘patch’ trying to avoid a dot day. Saw some good ground with the type of geology we were looking for. At likely areas I would set the detector and zig-zag slowly across and up a slope and sometimes check a small drainage or two. Very, very little rubbish in these areas which is a pleasant change to the usual Victorian rubbish areas. But on that day, also no prospecting gold.
For all of the prospecting and some of the cleaning up thus far into the trip, the 17” had been the main choice of coil for the GPX 6000. It provided great area coverage when out prospecting and also allowed a decent area to be covered when going over old ground, with the hope of a deeper piece than the 11 might provide - although I am not sure if the depth advantage is that great.
The afternoon again saw some hunting around the patch and a few small pieces coming from under bushes that hadn’t been searched quite so well or were just outside of the intensely searched area. Most under a gram but a few sneaking over. Later in the day I decided to put the 11” coil on to finish the day with a lighter machine and really scrub out an area in the middle of Bill’s patch. The plan was to see if there were pieces the 7000 had simply missed due to the different technology and coil sizes. A few small pieces popped their head above the threshold noise but honestly, not as many as I had thought. The move to the 11” coil also dulled out most of the conductive ground signal that had been coming through on the 17”. It wasn’t terrible with the 17” but the smaller coil certainly improved things. And day 5 was not a skunk 🙂
Day 6 brought about a different plan. I chose to finish off the scrubbing area that I started the evening before and Bill hooked up the 19” coil to look for some deeper nuggets and play with some settings. One was more successful than the other!
Covering an area of approx 10 X 20 metres really thoroughly with the 11” I had marked 4 targets that were all soft. I felt 1 was probably ground noise but the others seemed like definite signals, although quiet. By this time Bill had ditched the 19’ coil due to no joy and came across to check my targets with the 14”. Bill really felt that he had scrounged every piece of gold out of his patch that the GPZ 7000 was capable of finding so he was keen to cross reference any targets that the GPX 6000 found.
Bill felt the same as myself - 1 X ground noise, 2 X targets (very soft) and 1 that he could not hear at all. The 2 that he felt were likely targets were very soft and the area over the signals had just had the layer of small iron stones and quartz brushed off it - probably allowed his coil to be 1/2 an inch closer to the target than mine had been when first heard.
Target 1 - ground noise.
Target 2 and 3 - small pieces of gold.
Target 4 - you beauty! This was a target that Bill’s GPZ could just hear and after taking 3-4 inches off it brightened with the GPX 6000. Another few inches and it brightened again. Was surprised that we had not actually dug the target out at this stage as it very much sounded like a small, shallow target on first detection. Another few inches and the detector was starting to really ramp up and we knew we were onto something decent.
At over a foot deep the GPX 6000 was screaming in the hole and we moved to the Profind 35 and a little more delicate pick work and a broader area of excavation. Slowly, slowly dirt was removed and a final clump of ‘Kinder Surprise’ was removed from the hole. Bill broke it all up carefully and popped out the roughest, prickliest little personal best piece of gold that I have seen.
A bit over 16 grams once properly cleaned at home and a few days in acid.
A quick check of the hole revealed a further target which ended up being another very prickly but much smaller piece.
Bill was excited by the really prickly nature of the pieces and was wondering what else might be in the vicinity, either slightly out from those pieces or slightly deeper. With some fairly decent enthusiasm he started to excavate an area approx 6 feet across and about 1.5 feet deep. The funny thing about this area is that it is not the real, hard pack ground that you might expect. It is actually reasonably soft digging once through the first inch or so with lots of rocks amongst soft, fine, red dirt. A swing around in the excavated hole provided a grand response of…zero targets.
Bill is going to mull over that prickly piece and his whole patch for quite some time. He is thinking a dry blower might be useful but this requires a new type of application through the mines dept which may just not be worth it.
The days start to blend a bit at this point but I think the day was finished with scrubbing and very little further gold. Oh well, it was still memorable for what ended up being the biggest and most unusual piece of the trip.
Day 7 will be remembered for a long time to come…
The day started with a combined walk south from camp to an area that had some adjoining rock structures that we thought was worth a look. About a kilometre from camp we split up with Bill wandering off a little further and myself starting at a small drainage. Moving about 20 metres downstream from where we had split, the GPX 6000 was fired up with the 17” attached, a step was taken and…bbeeeeeooooWWWWW. “Must be rubbish” I thought to myself as I scraped a few loose upper level rocks from the wash. Checked again and it hadn’t moved, scraped a few more inches and the target was moved. Definitely rubbish. Except that it wasn’t! 😀 A nice, solid, golden little ‘colour’ with some iron stone inclusions. Maybe 5 grams. “Hey Bill! You still nearby?” Well, Bill had moved off a little and with headphones on he only just heard me. Perhaps it would have been better if he hadn’t? 🤔 🤣
“What’s up?” was the reply. “You better come back here”.
Bill came back expectantly and I showed him the prize. You beauty!
We made a game plan of him moving upstream in the wash far enough that the detectors wouldn’t interfere with each other - maybe 25 metres. As he briskly took off I put the approx 5 gram piece (ended up just over 6 when weighed) in the keeper bottle, grabbed the GPX turned to start detecting and…bbeeeeeoooWWWWW. What the…? Another piece of gold! This time a larger surface area but really thin piece - about 2 grams. Bill’s readying up got a little quicker. Gold in the bottle, grabbed the detector moved 1 step…yep, you guessed it, gold!!
Well, suffice to say that the next hour or so was a blur of digging targets, moving wider to try and get an idea of the area to be worked and stopping frequently to dig another target.
Somewhere in that hour Bill dug his largest target for the trip - a 14 gram reefy bit with a nice solid backbone. Also during this time some idiot (currently typing a trip report) made a dumb comment in excitement of something like “We’ve got 4 days to clean up this patch”. Well, in 24 hours the smoke had cleared and we holstered our weapons. The patch was beaten. 55 grams was the total from an area of about 30 metres X 50 metres. The odd thing was that many pieces were reefy and were found really close to each other and most were about 5 metres out of the wash. The others were quite rounded and found in that 5-50 metre range from the reefy bits. We assume a large column of reef, broken down in stages with the earlier shed pieces moving a little and the later shed pieces having moved very, very little. And the reefy pieces were thin, really thin and like nothing that Bill has seen in that area before.
So, the new patch took us through until about lunchtime on day 8, we scouted out for about another kilometre, detecting as we went but could not find ground that looked right or that brought up a target. It also took us to the limits of the tenement that we were allowed on.
Bill had some other spots he wanted to try on the way home so we made the decision to pack up camp and hit the road. Moving a few hours further south would also cut some time off the final return trip to Perth. A full 9 hour trip and the end of some long days was not something either of us wanted.
I can make the last bit short. Some further scouting at a location about an hour south proved fruitless and further detecting and an overnight camp another hour south only showed up 1 small piece on an area that Bill had previously found some multi gram pieces. About 4 p.m. on our last day the sky looked a little ominous and the last thing we wanted to do was pack up a wet camp in the morning. It meant that we probably lost 3-4 hours of detecting in the morn but we packed up camp and high-tailed it back to Perth, arriving just shy of midnight.
With a total of 78 grams for me for the trip I was super happy. My goal had been to at least pay for the trip and that was covered many times over. Bill got 46 grams for his troubles. His goal for each of his trips is 5 grams per day. The distance he has to cover, time away from family, etc, means that he really sets a decent goal to make his trips worthwhile and well and truly pay for themselves as well. Being able to halve fuel costs with another person makes covering trip costs that little bit easier.
A huge thank you has to go to my brother-in-law. Without his vehicle, knowledge of the areas we went, research he had put in prior to the trip, preparation with food, provision of bedding/sat phone/camp kitchen/EPIRB, etc, etc, etc, the trip would either have simply not been possible or at least would have been much, much more of a headache for me. And also not likely anywhere near as successful.
Planning has most definitely started for next year 😀