Novembr 16-18—COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA: Annual show; The Columbia, SC Gem and Mineral Society; Fri. 10-6, Sat. 10-6, Sun. 12-5
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 Post subject: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2016 11:56 pm 
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This is the place those great stories/tales of adventure or misadventures that happen during the mining and prospecting for gems. I plan to post a different tale each month so I dont overload the thread and I would invite you to do the same. Its a big world out there with lots of tales to tell.

At the turn of the century I had moved my family to Plymouth California. Not far from the start of the California gold rush. Of course this meant I should look for gold in the local streams. We enjoyed many weekends of camping, fishing, hiking in the mountains around us. One early fall trip seemed typical for us. We camped in an old logging camp on the edge of the Calaveras creek. My boys were quite small maybe 5 and 7 always exploring somewhere. I had gone down stream to fish and prospect a bit and left Sally and the boys in camp for an hour or so. When I turned around to head back I found a boulder of quartz laced with veins of something metallic. Gold! or maybe silver, I wasnt sure. So I picked up the 75lb rock and headed back to camp. I didnt think I had gone that far but it was downstream and now it was upstream. I had put the few fish I had caught in my pocket and managed to juggle the rock and the fly rod as I trudged my way back to camp. Finally I had made my way to the clearing and out of the stream full of slippery boulders but camp was empty. Disappointed no one was there to see my great find, I took the small trail that lead out of camp to a clear cut to see if I could find everyone. Sally was on her way back with the boys walking on logs and hopping on stumps as they came down the hill behind her at some distance. I waited for them to catch up as Sally went on ahead and I stood waiting on a particularly large log. As the boys would be boys they had to walk on the log I was standing on and I followed behind. I was only ten steps behind when they jumped down off the log and onto the stump. I noticed a bit of dust puff out of the stump as the first one landed. Just as the second jumped I realized it was not dust but a cloud of very angry wasps. I covered the ten steps in one, grabbed one boy off the stump and the other a step later. I tucked them under each arm and plowed through the thick brush at a dead sprint for the creek and jumped for the pool. The wasps didnt follow far but managed to plant about 5 or 6 stingers in each of the boys. We took advantage of the icy cold mountain creek and pulled stingers as we dried off on a large rock. 5 hours later after quickly throwing everything in the truck we were back home and very glad no one was allergic to the stings. Days later I met up with my mining partner Dave and asked him to take a look at my prize. After telling him the story he took a minute and looked at the rock I had carried that mile upstream. He busts out in his big booming laugh that you could hear 4 blocks away. I knew I was in trouble. Yep, thats a prize alright! That pound of silver you carried uphill both ways in that 75 lb rock is worth about $ 12.50 at .25 cents an oz. After you crush the rock and screen the powder and smelt the ore. You really need to start a rock garden for Sally. I could hear him laughing all the way back to his house. I still have 26 vials of finely powdered silver ore I never smelted. I have no idea what ever happened to the fish in my pocket.

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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2016 10:41 pm 
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Smelt it anyway Dan - then you can make it into something that will forever remind you of that trip. Sentimental value can be greater than money sometimes.

Check your trousers carefully for a 16 year old mummified fish :)


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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2016 6:09 am 
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Location: New Zealand
1968 I was making a living shooting deer for the venison industry. I lived on the west coast of the south Island Barn Bay and Gorge river at least 35 min flight by small plane from the closest one horse town Haast. A 2-3 day walk.My nearest neighbour was 6 hours walk.
I spent many hours walking the coastal beaches and found old maori campsites with the middens their old cooking ovens. This Area was used by the Maori on there journeys to find Greenstone (pounamu) Nephrite which they coveted for making tools.
I would find part made tools and a lot of argillite which they used as a shaping tool.
At this time a company Nickel Spoon brought a bull dozer an HD5 through the bush, hills and rivers an incredible journey which took several weeks.There objective was the Red Hills a rather unique landscape very mineralised and very bare of vegetation.
You guessed it they were looking for Nickel.
They built an airstrip on the coast and a hut which they let me use (I was living in a tent)
Before this my venison was picked up by plane pyper cub landing on suitable beaches at low tide.
The cost to me was looking after their gear and assisting the geologist. This where my interest in geology and minerals started.
The geologist would pan the black sand and find small amounts of nickel on this they floated shares on the market.
As I had driven bulldozers before old Dick got me to doze a face along along the river bank right in the tidal area i told him I needed to go 2 blades wide as the tide was making and waves were coming over the bar.He said no 1 blade wide righto.
Yep a wave came up washed away the gravel under the tracks and me and the dozer disappeared into 9ft of water I could swim but the dozer couldn't. Dick flew out and sent in a turfer winch which I and Arthur the geologist used to retrieve the dozer. Once on near enough dry land a mechanic flew in to fix the motor.
This dozer was left in the red hills for years as the company collapsed the only nickel they found was what was panned in the black sand on the beach which also showed lots of garnet pin head size I never found a bigger piece.
There is a lot of interest in the Red hills It is now in a National Park so probably no go for mining
The dozer was recovered years later and is still being used in Okuru
The exploits of the dozer and many an interesting story about its journey are subject of a book being written about this area


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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2016 3:44 pm 
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Wild country there mate. Queenstown is the only place I've been to so far.

Don't mean to derail this thread but being so heavily vulcanized, I'm amazed that New Zealand isn't much more heavily mineralized - I would have thought the place should be a treasure trove of gemmy things.

Yet nephrite jade and ruby rock are the only two things I am aware of.


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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2016 9:22 pm 
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Location: New Zealand
NZ was part of Australia at one point we share the pacific ring of fire with the pacific and tasman plates hence our shaky Isle.
There is minerals here in 1866 prospectors found Rubies in the olivine area and sent them to Europe where they were confirmed as good quality.
The letter from these prospectors exists confirming this. There was three prospectors and one went missing believed murdered. There is a book written about this.
Looking for this claim has been the search of many parties with no success this is wild country
and now like most of our wilderness National park.
There is a paper written by Dr Lori kiefert Chief Gemologist Gubelin Gemlab. on NZ Sapphires.
Which were found in The 1990's by a gold mining company unfortunately the company were not interested and buried all the tailings when the mine closed due to excess water.The land is now all dairy farming.
The find had many beautiful Pinks and oranges and some were cut in Australia.
Unfortunately a lot of land here is either under huge mining leases with little done or good farming land.
Lefty you know all about that
Glass earth were finding small zircons in there core drills I showed them My aussi Zircons and they offered to take me to their mulloch heaps as they were only processing the fines. This company did a magnetic survey which showed old volcanic vents long covered over.
The company was sold and I am trying to make contact.
I have in my possession a 2.5ct sapphire given to me by a gold miner it is good blue c axis an light blue a b, among the find was a lot of corundum.
There is papers on corundum found here in Otago.
Access is the hinderance but I will keep looking.
Of course gold was the big find here in Otago in 1870 the shotover river was said to be the richest river in the world early prospectors were panning 12oz to the pan from the beaches.
Gold is still produced from this River and this was only one of many rivers here.
A Diatreme was found near Oamaru and very small diamonds were found there is papers on this. Nothing of significance was found.
NZ it may be there to find.


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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2016 2:33 pm 
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That's what I thought - good stuff has to be hiding there somewhere. Maybe you'll hit the jackpot if you keep on looking :)


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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2016 11:07 pm 
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Gemfields ale

And then there was the time we turned up at Russian Gully one afternoon to find an important part of the shack's "furniture" missing.

The shack had a bathroom of sorts, an L-shaped tin wall with a curtain across it. The bath itself was one of those big, old galvanised tubs, just big enough for an adult to squeeze into, though most of them just sat on a board across the back of it with their feet in the tub and scrubbed themselves down. Us kids actually fitted comfortably inside it. The bath water was heated in a big copper on a fire, ringed by billy boulders outside the shack. A hot bath at the end of a day's digging does wonders for your aching muscles.

But on this occasion, as they unpacked the cars and began putting stuff inside the shack, dad noticed that the bath tub was missing. Whoever had taken it had left the kerosene-powered fridge, the cast iron stove and other stuff desirable on the field. A quick search around the place - nope, the tub was definitely gone. Roughing it for a week in the dirt would have been rough indeed without the bath and the best alternative was a muddy, cold dam nearby (even though the Anakie gemfields sits right on the Tropic of Capricorn, evenings in the inland can still fall to freezing in winter). Dad decided to wander up to Inky's shack and find out if he had noticed anything suspicious going on down at our place while we weren't there.

As he reached the door, the sour smell of fermentation hit his nostrils. Inky met him at the door, saying "you'll be looking for your bathtub - don't worry mate, I just borrowed it for a while, didn't know you were coming today". On the floor inside the shack was our bathtub - a thick, white head of foam was bubbling about a foot over the top and dripping down the sides. Inky continued "I didn't really have anything good enough to make my home brew in so I thought I'd just borrow your tub for a while." He wandered out the back and came back inside with a box of bottles, caps and a bottle capping press. He scooped the foam - complete with a large number of dead bugs and cockroaches - off the top and began filling the bottles from a jug, priming them and capping them as he went. "Did you want a few bottles?" he asked - dad quickly declined the offer :)

I often wonder if he even boiled the thing out before he put his brew into it - all I could think about was how often sweaty bottoms had sat on the bottom of that tub. Not that such things would likely to have bothered him.

No one else ever sampled the Gemfields bathtub ale - I swear this tale is true! :D


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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2016 1:53 pm 
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I like beer, it makes me a jolly good fellow,... :smt002

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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2016 2:00 pm 
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Great grandfather made stills for almost everybody in these parts. Was a self taught boilermaker and obviously had some experience with the workings of a still. Can't say he ever used a bathtub, but a copper cauldron? Absolutely!

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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2016 3:27 pm 
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You could smell the whiskey burnin' down Copperhead road! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 12:37 am 
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On one of the trips to the Orion Claim my old bud Dave decided we should try to access a level through the air shaft since the main entrance had been blasted shut years ago. It was always a pleasant drive up the mountain, it had been quite dry and hot so a trip underground seemed like a good idea. The shaft was never very wide maybe enough for you and a pack on your back but not if you are a stout fellow. So we decided to send the pack down first and repel in behind. Dave forgot something at the truck and in the ten steps it took to get there he found a hole to step into and twisted his knee. Not willing to give up the day even for a swollen knee we decided to tie off the ropes to the trailer hitch and make the repelling easy. Dave would stay on top and I would ride the foot loop elevator. I had forgotten what Dave actually went back to the truck for with the change of plans and stepped into the loop for the assisted ride to the lateral shaft and Dave backed the truck down slowly until I reached the bottom some 70 ft later. Flipped on the lamp and found the pack we had dropped in earlier. About that time a burlap sack and a stick with a fork in the end came down with a note. Said fill her up with rattlers and we’ll make a stop on the way home for beer. I hollered up the shaft something profane and just got a laugh in return. So as I walked down the shaft looking for signs of gold bearing quartz I kept an eye out for snakes on the ledges and timbers. Most of the quartz veins were small and played out on this level but about every third timber a snake would try to hide from the light. Just Rat snakes, then as I stepped over some rubble on the floor I saw a tail with 8 buttons sticking out from under a large rock. Cold enough down there it didn’t hardly move as I pried the rock up with the stick and flipped it out of the way. And the first rattler was in the bag. 20 minutes later I had 6 in the sack and was finding way too many to be safe with so I carefully walked my way back to the shaft and called up on the radio for a ride. The sack and the pack came up ten feet behind me tied off to the tail of the rope. You would have thought Id struck the mother load when Dave saw the sack full of rattlesnakes. The sound of the buzzing in the backseat was a bit un nerving on the ride down the mountain but soon enough we turned off into a little dive bar. Dave met the owner around back with the sack of rattlers and sold off the catch for $150. and bought the beer as promised. Not exactly what I was looking for when the day started but it paid pretty good and I got a cold beer or 6.

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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 12:17 pm 
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No gold but a bunch of venomous snakes sold for $150 as a consolation prize - day wasn't a total waste then :)

So what was this guy actually going to do with a sack of rattlesnakes? Eat them? Milk them?


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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 3:55 pm 
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No idea, lots of uses for rattlesnakes. Hat bands, boots, wallets, supper, surprise live gifts to your local enemies.

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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 4:29 pm 
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Dan&Sally wrote:
No idea, lots of uses for rattlesnakes. Hat bands, boots, wallets, supper, surprise live gifts to your local enemies.


Ah yes, that all makes sense - especially the last one :) I reckon a good craftsman could come up with multiple uses for that little rattly bit on the end of them.


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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 4:36 pm 
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A nice hand-made rattlesnake tail rattle for a child's first birthday - or would that be a bit creepy? :)


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