July 11-12:BILLINGS, MONTANA: Annual show; Billings Gem and Mineral Club; Sat. 10-5, Sun. 10-4; Free admission!
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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 12:36 pm 
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Hey, now there is one I haven't done either!

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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 1:48 pm 
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Lefty wrote:
I can only imagine it! Not much white water here. You can add "experienced white water rafter" to your CV. Talk about extreme geology. And it came with the added bonus of contracting a dangerous tick-borne illness. If you ever want to top that you could try fossicking on the side of an active volcano :)

For those who haven't seen it, this is a bit of a treat:

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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 10:18 pm 
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Ha! I love those guys. Top Gear BBC that is. Not much of a fan of the US version. Then of course I like dry humor.

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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 10:46 pm 
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Not every prospecting trip memory I have is a near disaster, although they seem to be more easily remembered. I will bet you have had a trip like this one.

NO DRIVE

I'm waiting, just laying awake listening to the sounds of the night outside the tent. Really hoping they sound more like morning sounds. Just crickets, a katydid, night noises always sound so much bigger. Looking out the screen I can hear an animal of some unknown size coming into the camp, but I cant see what it is. Rustling leaves, breaking sticks, then chewing on something hard. I hit the flashlight and shine it in the direction of the noisy visitor. Huge eyes stare back at me blinded by the bright light. A flying squirrel stops chewing on his pine cone for just a minute. Leaps into a tree and disappears. Quiet again, except for the crickets. Just get up and make some coffee, I'm not sleeping anyway. I swear that tree root wasn't there when I set the tent up, but it's certainly under my hide now! Start up the Coleman and brew up a pot. Not so much as even a faint glow in the sky, it must really be early. Only a couple of mosquito's for company as I sit in my camp chair and drink my cup dry. Turn off the stove and save some propane for later. Mr sunshine finally decided to put a little glow in the sky. Good only an hour or so before its light enough to do something. Woke up to a blazing sunbeam right in my eyes. Got one hell of a kink in my back, both legs are useless. Waiting for the tingling in my feet to go away so I can stand. Stumble to the coffee pot for a cup of hot coffee. Nope, ice cold, crap! Find the aspirins, pack up the tent. Not sleeping in that spot again anyway. Started to pull out the gear, just got no energy. Sit behind the wheel and tip the seat back. Took a nap, woke up, drove home. Some days are just going to be like that.

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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2016 7:04 pm 
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Sabotaged by a tree root before you could even put a pick to the ground - sounds like you were being punished for something :)


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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2016 1:48 am 
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October already! Wow I missed September completely.
October always signals the end of my prospecting season. Time to clean up everything, put away the tools, and process the concentrates. Back in '98 Dave was having a tough season. Trucks wouldnt run, kids were all sick, the gal he was with went back on the streets. Just an ugly year. He was strapped for cash, plain and simple. He was up to the house in a particularly foul mood airing out the days issues over a few glasses of whiskey on the porch. I offered to give him whatever flour gold I had cleaned up and there was another bucket of concentrates to go through. He grumbled about not taking handouts until I reminded him he probably dug as much of that dirt as I did. His mood changed a little for the better but he still fired off his usual all you ever dig is worthless fertilizer for Sallys roses. Well I said take whats there, it might get you a couple hundred bucks.
I instantly caught the if thats all I get you can keep it look. You know Dave Ive got terrible luck with a gold pan. Then, he says ok, but once Ive got this cleened up I'll show you a little trick i use when its tough like this. I hate to do it but If I dont get those kids some drugs they will be in the hospital.
Next evening we sat in the garage finishing up the last of the concentrates. Dont think we got more than 2oz. prices then werent $220 an oz. Not a single nugget. Dave cranked up the burner and we smelted down the flour. Instead of pouring an ingot like we usually did he pulled out a half burnt, beat up diamond willow stick. All gnarly, full of little recessed knots and poured the gold over the stick and poured black sand over it. a few minutes later he throws it all in a bucket of water and the gold pops out of the knots and falls in the bucket in ugly little rough chunks. After 2 or 3 rounds of this with a variety of sticks Dave puts the whole works in a tumbler with small rocks and sand for 20min and says cant have them too shiny.
Next morning He borrows the car and brings his "nuggets" to the one buyer we never go to because we never got a fair deal on what we brought in. This guy had fat thumbs on the scale every time... Dave comes back after the trip to the drug store and the clinic with another kid and returns the car. Couple days later he's back up at the house feeling a bit better about things and says I'll get you paid back in a week or 2, I had to use what I had left for a new alternator. I told him not to worry about when and we talked about kids and crap luck over a cup of coffee. As Daves walking out He says you know I got even with that crook for all the times he short changed us. I got $700 for that 2 oz of gold. Laughed that big laugh half way down the street. Things were back to normal.

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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 11:13 pm 
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Andamooka opal

While visiting the out-laws in their home in the tiny, defunct iron ore mining town of Iron Knob in South Australia (they now live back in Queensland) we decided to take a trip up into the desert to see an opal mining town first hand. Been around sapphire mining communities, but never opal. Coober pedy was still a bit far off but we reckoned we could get to Andamooka and back in a day if we left early. We headed from Iron Knob to the tuna fishing town of Port Augusta and then north up into vast expanse of nothing in particular. Passing the large sign at the base of a hill with a radio tower on it that said "Tune in to radio nowhere", we headed on up into that nowhere.

It was the day after boxing day, which means midsummer down under and the thermometer on the outside wall of Spud Murphy's roadhouse registered 50 c and climbing. Reluctant to leave the airconditioning but knowing it was time to push on, we jumped back in the car after some refreshments and headed on to Woomera, a former base for the rocket-testing facilities in the 50's and 60's. Interesting to see that Rolls Royce made rocket engines.

Headed on past a lavishly-decorated Christmas tree - the only tree as far as the eye could see - and onto the town of Roxby Downs. Built fairly recently in partnership between the South Australian state government and BHP to service the Olympic Dam uranium mine, I was surprised by what I saw. We rounded a red sand dune (mostly it's not sand dunes in that area, just baked black dirt and wind polished rocks) and there in front of us was what appeared to be a section of a mall from a capitol city, freshly sliced from the Central Business District and laid down neatly in the middle of nowhere. A clean, brand-new and totally modern outpost of civilization with much of what you would expect to find in downtown Sydney clustered along the main street. Even a nice little waterslide park for the kids.

But we were here to see an opal mining town and Andamooka wasn't far away. About 20 minutes later from memory, we were there. We got out of the car and stood on a low ridge overlooking the township, taking in the ambience as we surveyed the post-nuclear holocaust looking landscape. At first glance there did not appear to be a single living thing, an utter moonscape of sterile rock and earth. Look a bit harder and you could see that there was in fact the odd low bush and occasional six foot tall shrub here and there. As for the town itself, well - it kind of resembled a rubbish dump in the middle of an atom bomb crater :) . Somebody was burning a pile of old tires and thick, black smoke was billowing over the roofs of the tin shacks.

I had always thought that living on the sapphire field back in the day would have been tough, we were only regular visitors. The heat, the flies, the isolation - all that paled in comparison with what I witnessed. Get lost on the sapphire field and there are still trees for shade, bushes bearing berries (if you know what to eat without poisoning yourself) and creeks that may only flow once or twice a year but usually have pools of water along them somewhere - you would probably have stood a reasonable chance of survival. But get lost around Andamooka in summer and I doubt you would last a day.

We drove down into the town and walked into the only store in the place. Along the wall was a display case containing some stunning looking opal (as wella s some ordinary stuff) - the only reason anyone could possibly have for coming here. Beautiful and valuable stuff - but would I come and live hear in the hopes of striking it rich? I'd be doing it on my own, that's for sure! No way Marjorie was even going to visit the place, let alone live there. It'd be a tough life, that's for sure.

I'm a mad keen prospector but I think if I want opal I might save up my bucks and buy it - going to places like Andamooka is for the extremely tough/insane :)


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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2016 11:11 pm 
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Lost Prospector

For the last 3 days I have found myself in a world of unfamiliar surroundings. I arrived in some old stomping grounds in southern California, but instead of heading up into the hills I find myself near the beach. The smell of pines, manzanita and fresh dirt has been replaced by perfumes, the sound of high heels clicking down polished hallways. Gone are my bibs and work boots, gone are my shovels. Replaced with computers and cell phones and sandals. Gossiping young ladies in their dress to impress clothes, and equally chatty young men doing their best to impress the ladies. I wonder how we expect to get anything accomplished! So I pulled up my spot in the classroom and wondered what planet Ive landed on.
Then the world of gems unfolded in front of us and it felt like home, but in a more polished form. I brought a few rough sapphires with for a comfort. But this world of shiny eye popping gems is what we dig for but rarely see. So here I sit in a class full of sales associates, and family lineage jewelers mostly out of place and uncomfortable in my new jeans and pressed shirts. Our instructor a charming lady of vast experience in the gem industry started right in. Tamed the gossiping girls and boys with classroom rules and break times and things that went right over my head. 30 years since I sat in a classroom but fortunately there were still pens and paper. After 3 days I think we all gained enough insight and practical knowledge to confidently grade a loose gem.
Tomorrow I continue onward in my education with pearl grading and the following week I spend 5 days learning to grade diamonds.

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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Thu Nov 10, 2016 11:11 pm 
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Lol! That would be me too Dan, a bit of a fish out of water. They'd probably think I was a cross between Ugg the caveman and The Beverly Hillbillies :D

Good to see you're getting right into it though, congrats! really wouldn't mind doing it myself, maybe one day....

My mate the jeweller phoned me last night, he seems to be getting interested in sapphire mining again. He hasn't mined in about 7 or 8 years, since his partners working the machinery lease found that work got in the way of their drinking time and things fell apart.

Often thought I wouldn't mind doing it for a living. Then I think about how my job is a reliable, stable source of income while precious stone mining is hit and miss.

Keep us updated on how the course is going
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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2016 6:03 pm 
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Christmas and prospecting don't usually go together well here in the north. The temps are usually below Zero, the snow is deep and the ground frost is 4 - 6' deep. Not exactly great for prospecting! However, this is the time of year I go through all the concentrates and stones that were collected during the season of warmth and happiness. This year being no different I sat down at the table and started sorting sapphires. First for size, then color and last for shape and clarity. The first day went all right punched some holes in cardboard with the leather punch for a improvised sieve. That got me to .5mm increments. Close enough for rough. The next day I sorted for color. After I dumped the tray for the 3rd time I gave up. Cold weather and broken hands said stop. Finally I got through it all and managed a good sort for heat treatment and cutting. Out of maybe 1500 stones worth sorting about 30℅ will burn blue. The rest are a crap shoot. And that's fine, they are what they are. Only maybe a dozen I might cut as naturals, but as luck has it they were all very small .
Clean up of the agate hunt will have to wait for spring. It rained just before freeze up and filled my barrel of stones with water which is now solid ice. April sounds good. So back to the maps and notes and try to find next year's prospects. This could take all winter!!!

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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2016 3:36 pm 
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Hey Dan, do you facet? Sounds like an ideal time to do a heap of cutting since you can't get out prospecting.

Heat, humidity and torrential rain would normally put paid to prospecting here at the moment but the heat hasn't been all that bad and it's been bone dry, almost drought conditions. Of my three prospecting buddies, one has been too busy and two have had surgery so are laid up at home. So haven't really been anywhere. Day after tomorrow we head up to visit the in-laws for a week. Hopefully we'll head out to Mount Gibson and get some topaz. Also, father-in-law has discovered garnets on a family members farm just down the road from where they live so we'll see how we go there.


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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 10:28 pm 
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Not faceting yet Lefty, in fact had to turn down a graves mark IV. Had a good deal but my son decided to move his business so there went my cash for a few months. Did manage a used 10" wet saw and a cabbing machine. Going to be interesting paying for those. Seems like every time a good deal comes around one son or the other finds a way to suck the cash out of my wallet before I get a chance to use it. Boys,. They are my world and I feel like Atlas.

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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2017 5:41 am 
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Well, after three years of going up to FNQLD at Christmas time and getting away with it, the monsoon was finally on time this year. It rained every single day, the first four or five days it was just brief (but heavy) showers but by the second half of our visit the monsoon was setting in and it was bucketing down much of the day and night - our topaz fossicking was scuttled :(

Visting the little mining museum at the tiny former tin-mining settlement of Herberton about 10 miles from the in-laws house at Atherton was as close as I got to any kind of prospecting (didn't rain much that day). Herberton was a major producer of tin in the late 1800's/early 1900's, also producing gold, copper and wolframite. Touching these big old quartz crystals was the extent of my prospecting.

Image

Wandered down to the Herberton historical village, looked at all the old stuff from the days of yore. Watched a blacksmith working at the forge, all equipment used was 19th century for authenticity. The only modern thing was that he wore a pair of safety glasses and that glove is probably some modern heat-resistant material rather than the great leather gloves they once wore.

Image

Father-in-law was disappointed that we couldn't get out and do any prospecting but we hope to get back to the far north in the middle of the year when the weather is a bit cooler and nearly always dry.


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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2017 5:52 am 
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In the old drugstore at the historical village - much like the 19th century US, 19th century Australia was a haven of quackery. I have to wonder just how many people ended up poisoned by taking these usually ineffective and sometimes dangerous concoctions! :shock: I don't know how much strychnine is necessary for a lethal dose or whether it is cumulative (maybe Arya can enlighten me ) but I wouldn't touch the stuff with a barge pole.

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 Post subject: Re: Tales of the Roaming Prospector
PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2017 6:03 am 
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Also, father-in-law has discovered garnets on a family members farm just down the road from where they live so we'll see how we go there.


Oh yeah, forgot - yes we went there but it was raining. Wife's uncle pulled out the stones that he and father-in-law had found previously - yes, no mistaking they are pyrope garnets. Unfortunately, they were all as dark as the ones I find down here. A couple were around 30 carats but not gem grade. One is around 10 and is clean enough to facet but so dark, no chance in hell of passing a white paper test. Might possibly be some lighter ones there somewhere, maybe next trip up there we'll get to have a proper look.

Wife's uncle says they had apparently discovered diamonds nearby although the legalities of mining them in that spot make it unlikely it will be done.


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