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Steve's 2011 Australia Gold Adventure

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 I dunno IP.

22 minutes ago, IdahoPeg said:

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.

Seems like losing a journal would be the perfect excuse to go back and write a replacement.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Another huge concern if spending a long time in Australia is the question of transportation. Options include both renting, or buying at the beginning of the trip and selling on departure. Renting is very expensive and so the buy and sell option is popular. There is a great thread on the subject here on the forum at http://www.detectorprospector.com/forum/topic/2182-renting-a-caravan-or-motorcoach-for-queensland/

In our case once again having JP as our guide paid dividends, as he had friends who were willing to rent us their Toyota 4-Runner for the duration of our visit, and with Chris and I splitting the cost it was extremely reasonable. Better yet I own a 4-Runner myself and so I am familiar with the vehicle. However, the driver seat is on the right hand side and the side of the road you drive on in Australia is reversed from what we do in the United States. Tips for driving in Australia

We had a tight schedule on arriving in Perth. The first night we went straight to a hotel to rest up from our flight. The next day was slated to pick up the truck and do our shopping for supplies. Jonathan also had Chris and I lined up to do a little speaking engagement at Reed's Prospecting Supplies.

Perth is the capital of Western Australia and with a couple million people is a large, vibrant city. Wikipedia entry about Perth. Since Perth is on the coast it has a warm and moderate climate not unlike the California coast though a bit wetter overall.

Our hotel in Perth

Downtown Perth, Australia

Reed's Prospecting Supplies -  Photo courtesy Jonathan Porter of Aurum Australis

We had our little visit at Reed's which ended up being the subject of a Minelab Treasure Talk blog. The blog mentions me talking about snakes in Alaska but I was talking about being warned about them in Australia - no snakes in Alaska to worry about! The chats went well and I was able to pick up a Walco pick, which had become unavailable for general purchase in the U.S.

Our shopping completed and truck loaded up, we were ready to head out early the next morning. We had a long drive to the Meekatharra area that with an early start should put us in camp that evening.

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We were up before dawn for a long day of driving ahead with about 400 miles to our first camp site. JP was in his rig and Chris and I in ours. I was designated driver and settled into driving a vehicle with everything reversed and on the opposite of the road from what I am used to. I would hate to do this in busy city driving but the leisurely pace of cross country driving made it easy going.

The countryside started out as green farmland and forest that slowly turned to desert as we headed northeast towards Meekatharra. Except for stops to fill up on fuel and top off water supplies the drive was quite uneventful. The sun had set as we finally turned off the main road and followed a track in the dark to our first campsite. JP got his rig set up and Chris and I pitched our small tents. A long day and our first night of many in sleeping bags.

We were up again before dawn and putting our loaner GPX 5000 detectors together. The machine was a new model at the time, and Jonathan gave us some recommended settings he had been using with success. Find Gold Timing, Gain of 14, Motion Slow, Stabilizer 8. I rarely strayed from these settings for most of my stay in Australia.

JP gave us a brief idea where to look for gold in the area and he used a term we would hear a lot in the next month - "scattered gold". I wandered off to a likely looking spot and got my detector up and running and scanned away. My detector was only on a few minutes when I got my first signal, and what do I dig, but my very first Australian gold nugget! It was just a small piece of gold but the ease and quickness with which I found it seemed to bode well to me. Gold in the first few minutes, a month ahead and an expert guide. I just knew we were going to find a ton of gold!!

Steve's First Australian Gold Nugget -  Courtesy Jonathan Porter of Aurum Australis


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My leisurely pace with these posts had a purpose as I continued to look for my Australia notes. And I found them! Along with the notes was my Miners Right certificate, which I just scanned and added to the post above on the subject.

Now I can pick up the pace a bit.

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17 hours ago, Steve Herschbach said:

...Australia notes. And I found them!...

Glad you found your Aus trip notes.. Specifics of location's geologic makeup etc will definitely enhance your sharing of the adventure with us..

As you discovered on the trip, and thanks to the GoldHound's sharing of vid, I also have a new understanding & respect for ironstone.. Now totally understand and appreciate why they went / go to such extremes in order to work contact zones..


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  • 3 weeks later...

Chris and I knew we would be tent camping our entire trip in Australia. Since we had no detectors to take room in our luggage Chris just went ahead and packed a tent he already had. I did not have any small tents at the time, so not knowing just how expensive things were in Australia I figured I would buy one on arrival for use on the trip, and then haul it back home.

We did our shopping in Perth at a sporting goods store. I made a big deal to Chris about how I wanted to have a tent I could stand up in since I would be living in it for a month. There was a nice looking tent set up in the store, and a bunch more were stacked up inside it. I grabbed one and off we went.

It turns out the store had stacked a pile of small pup tents inside the larger tent I thought I was buying. The small packed size should have been a clue, but the high price seemed right for what I thought I was buying. In the end my little tent ended up being smaller than the one Chris had packed! Your basic crawl in and out backpacker tent but after I got over the initial surprise it worked out just fine. It did eventually make the trip home with me.

The camp revolved around JP's fantastic custom truck and trailer combination. The truck features ATV space in the middle, a design I had not seen before that allows easy drive on and off ATV stowage. The trailer has an easy rear flip up access for sleeping and well thought out kitchen facilities that pull out of the side. There was a separate pop up field shower. All fine tuned by years of prospecting experience with everything a person might need in the field.

We pooled our money for food for all. JP offered to be camp cook for the trip, with Chris and I alternating on cleanup duty. JP is a great cook and camp entertainer and the three of us proved to be good camp mates.

Jonathan's Truck & Trailer

Chris' Tent -  Photo courtesy Jonathan Porter of Aurum Australis

And My Little Home Away From Home

At other times of the year this may have been uncomfortable but the weather was very pleasant, with daytime highs in the 80F range and nighttime lows in the 60F range. Great for sleeping!

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Australia was suffering from a years long drought while we visited, but there had been some rain before we arrived and the desert was in full bloom. Still, JP told us wildlife populations were decimated by the drought, and so Australia tourist items like the kangaroo were actually very rare sightings. Not good news for a camera guy like me. However, we did run into an Argus monitor, more commonly called the yellow-spotted monitor. This could also be a sand monitor - I am not a lizard expert. Male specimens of this lizard species can grow up to five feet long! There are 25 species of monitors found in Australia that as a whole are locally called goannas.

This one was only a couple feet long but was kind enough to pose for photos before taking off like a rocket. Those things can move!



I did see a few kangaroos on the trip, but it was usually just a glimpse as they disappeared into the bush. Here is the only photo I managed to get of one from across the valley....


A very common sight in Australia is the termite mound, an amazing structure that can reach considerable size, though all the ones I saw were just a couple feet tall.


Here is the first week of my notes. You can see we wasted as little time as possible but still lost a small chunk of time just in travel and logistics.

From my notes:

Wed Aug 24, 2011 - Leave Anchorage in morning for Seattle. meet Chris in Los Angeles. Fly all night to Melbourne, then on to Perth. Meet JP and his friends (not mentioning names in case they do not want to be named). Check into hotel - no shampoo or hair dryer but they give you a small container of milk. Day lost in flight, now Friday.

Sat Aug 27 - Go shopping (sticker shock!) and then do meet and greet and Reed's. More shopping and get loaded up, then dinner with JP's friends.

Sun Aug 28 - Drive 400 miles west, set camp in dark.

Mon Aug 29 - Refine camp, get detectors together, start detecting. I go 30 feet, find first nugget! Total for day 1.8 grams.

Tue Aug 30 - Hunt old patch downhill of large quartz reef. Wander all over, see kangaroo and lizard. Weather 50s at night, 80s by day.

Wed Aug 31 - Hunt banded iron reef, got three nuggets, one weighs 2.3 grams.

Thu Sep 01 - Hunt flats, get 4.9 gram nugget, 5.9 grams total for day.

Fri Sep 02 - We play with Gold Bug 2 on granite exposure, get tiny bits. Big rain storm chases us back to camp, passes quickly.

Here is a photo of that 4.9 gram nugget found on Sept 1, 2011...

Steve Finds 4.9 Gram Nugget -  Photo courtesy Jonathan Porter of Aurum Australis


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Wild Goats Seen In Old Mining Pit

I have a tendency when detecting to want to "go big". My thought process on this adventure was that we were going to be spending a lot of time on known patches. That is great as it is almost a promise of gold. However, I was very doubtful that multi-ounce nuggets would be found in ground that has seen a lot of searchcoils. The reality unfortunately is the big ones are usually easy to find. You rarely need a super detector, you just need to be first over the nugget with your coil.

That being the case, I made time almost every day to wander off on my own. If JP took us to a new location, I would hit it quickly in a cherry picking fashion. After about an hour though I would just wander off in a large loop intended to eventually bring me back to our location for lunch with Chris and JP. We would compare notes, and depending on what happened in the morning, an afternoon game plan developed. I very often would wander off on another walk about. My Rino GPS was a huge aid in doing this. The terrain was often hilly with scattered bushes that made it easy to get turned around when detecting for hours without paying diligent attention to my whereabouts. On at least one occasion I found myself looking at the GPS and not believing that it insisted I was heading in exactly the opposite direction than I thought I was.

Lots Of Country To Get Lost In!

My goal was to find some small patch or large nugget off the main diggings. It also just love wandering and exploring and so this type of detecting works for me whether I find gold or not. I always made sure to hit the main area again at the end of the day which usually meant gold found on most days.

This go for the proven locations but also try new locations strategy was also something we worked into our overall game plan for the trip. Jonathan's friends had arranged access to a private lease that had seen few if any detectors, and which had at least some decent geology going for it. The idea was to spend so time exploring this relatively unexplored area in hope of making the big find. From my notes:

Sat Sep 03 - I got skunked but JP finds his first gold with Gold Bug 2. Decides he likes the little beast.

Sun Sep 04 - Australian Father's Day. I find only gold of day, 1.1 grams.

Mon Sep 05 - Hit hilltop scrapings with Gold Bug 2, Gold Bug Pro, and Minelabs. Get four small nuggets. Quit early and head for Meekathrra for supplies, then meet new crew at camp at end of day.

Chris Ralph Using Gold Bug 2. Note Surface Rubble Pushed Into Piles And Rows.

Tue Sep 06 - Drive to lease location and set new camp.

We now had a few ATVs at our disposal as the amount of area to explore was very large. One ATV was outfitted with a drag coil for really covering some area looking for new patches. The rest of us scouted around in pairs on other ATVs looking for likely locations to hunt. The results....

Wed Sep 07 - No gold.

Thu Sep 08 - No gold.

Our hosts really wanted to keep the entire crew on task but at this point Chris and I were ready to move on. Our time was limited and this big gamble was not paying off. Nobody was finding anything at all, and after seeing the geology a couple days Chris was pretty doubtful of the potential. We made our apologies and offered thanks for the opportunity, but with not one nugget found by several teams so far it was not looking good. If even a single nugget had been found we would have stayed on.

JP knew a spot he had always wanted to try but had not, another blue sky idea. We headed there.

Fri Sep 09 - No gold.

Sat Sep 10 - No gold. But JP finds spiny anteater!

Five days no gold, with Chris and I feeling the days slipping by. The decision was made to spend the remainder of the trip back on the known patches eking out what gold we could in the time we had left. No regrets however as you have to constantly be doing some of this blue sky prospecting if you have hopes of finding that patch of gold that still lurks out there somewhere, undiscovered.

Big Find Of The Week - Spiny Anteater

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This is magic, I mean your sharing of your notes, your diary. Tis reality, takes out that "romantic myth" that it is just laying around in OZ and makes that spiny anteater and other such finds the real treasure of OZ. But having said that, it was just laying around and still is but not as plentiful and where???????? Many thanks for sharing Steve, not just with us your current members but for the future readers, perhaps we should leave some evidence of "living in the electronic gold detector age". We are very privileged to live in this era. 

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