Looking for Gold - Travel Victoria
There's Gold in them there hills
Gold! It's been worshipped, plundered, fought over and traded for thousands of years.
In the Victoria of 1851 gold was literally oozing from the ground in almost inexhaustible quantities. Wealth was everywhere, and fortunes were being made.
It was gold that created the growth and power of Melbourne over its rivals and it was Victoria's goldminers who introduced Chartist principles such as male franchise and secret ballots to the politics of Australia.
The Welcome Stranger Nugget
Largest gold nugget in the world was found
Of all the forms taken by gold, nuggets generate the greatest excitement. The Welcome Stranger nugget was the largest in the world.
While nuggets have been found in gold fields in most Australian states, those from Victoria were particularly large and abundant.
The small town of Moliagul became famous when a 69-kilogram gold nugget was found in 1869 at Bulldog Gully. That's over 150 lbs!
This huge lump of gold had to be broken into pieces because there were no scales large enough in the whole district to weigh it. It measured 60 centimetres X 30, roughly 24 inches X 12. A big nugget indeed!
Today the Welcome Stranger would be worth over four million dollars.
Names on the Map tell the Story of the Gold Diggers
You can still see on the map names such as Murdering Flat, Chokem Flat, Drunkard's Gully, Cranky Ned's Reef and Dirty Dick's Gully, were these named after real people? What misfortunes were suffered in Deadman's Gully, Bung-eye Gully, and Burying Ground Flat?
Unlucky diggers bestowed names like Poverty Hill and Three Speck Gully to signify the meagre amounts of gold found.
Graphic Gold Rush Names
Signs tell the story
The Diggers gave names to almost every metre of ground on the gold fields.
"Shicer" is an anglicised spelling of "scheisser", a word miners used for a claim that produced no gold and derived from the German verb 'scheissen'.
Parties of diggers who were not having much luck would drink a toast "To our last bloody shicer!", in the hope that they would soon dig a successful hole.
There's a good time a comin', boys, a good time a comin',
Not a shicer shall be sunk, nor a digger ever seen drunk,
And there's a good time a comin'...
Getting the right tools
Blood on the Southern Cross
Sovereign Hill, Ballarat
Recreation of the Gold Rush Days
Sovereign Hill is an incredibly popular tourist attraction in Victoria, and certainly my favourite place to go.
I went first with my children, these days I take the grandchildren.
It's a fabulous re-creation of the hustle and bustle of life in Ballarat in the 1850s. Set on a former goldmining site, the compound has more than 60 buildings, while over 200 people volunteer to dress in period costume on a regular basis.
You can do all the traditional activities like pan for real gold, buy boiled sweets from the confectioner's, ride in horse-drawn carriages, travel underground on a tour of the Red Hill Mine, or simply observe the working and living conditions that existed last century.
Sovereign Hill Scene
Plenty of Gold left
Hidden gold worth $32bn
1000 tonnes of gold worth more than $32 billion could lie in a region north of Bendigo.
The estimates may be conservative because the study was restricted to gold in quartz veins and excluded deposits in river sediments and gravels.
Since the gold rush of the 1850s, more than 2500 tonnes of gold have been produced in Victoria with a current annual production of about seven tonnes.
Record Nugget found in January 2013
162 years into a gold rush and Ballarat is still producing nuggets - and big nuggets at that!
In January, 2013, a whopping 5.5kg gold nugget, just 60cm underground, was found in bush near Ballarat.
The find was unique with the nugget measuring at its longest 220mm, 140mm wide and 45mm at its deepest point. It's valued up to $300,000 AUD. The prospector wishes to remain anonymous..
The nugget was found with a state of the art metal detector called a Minelab GPX-5000, marketed as the best in the world.
Time to buy a metal detector!
Central Deborah Gold Mine
A visit down below
I went down the Central Deborah Mine, down, down, under the city streets and along the passageways of an underground working mine
I swear I could feel the weight of all that rock above me and I was pleased to get out again. How men worked down here in earlier times is beyond me, it's frightening enough now with modern lifts and lighting.
A very charming man, with the same surname as my mother's family, gave me a guided tour and although I was somewhat nervous down in the depths, I was intrigued to find out that, yes, he was a distant relation. The small world of gold miners!
Central Deborah was the last commercial mine to operate in Bendigo and it re-opened in 1986 for underground tours. Well worth the experience.
Legend of Lasseter's Lost Reef
A great mystery of the Australian Gold fields is the Legend of Lasseter's Reef.
Harold Lasseter was a man whose history and antecedents are shrouded in mystery. Even today debate rages as to the authenticity of his claim that he had found a fabulously rich gold reef, west of Alice Springs, Central Australia, somewhere near the Western Australian border.
To this day, the location of this fabulous wealth remains lost in the forbidding desert of Central Australia.
There are those who dismiss this whole saga, as being one of the great confidence tricks of this century. Others prefer to believe the truth of the legend. In recent years, several expeditions have been mounted to this vast area without success. Innumerable questions remain unanswered.
Perhaps in time, the secret of Lasseter's Reef will be discovered. In the meantime, the Legend of Lasseter continues.
Each and every comment is appreciated. You don't have to be a gold nugget to leave yours
© 2008 Susanna Duffy