Story and Photography by Jim and Cheryl Foster
The masses of wildflowers were a good enough reason to visit Outback WA but Jim and Cheryl also brought home a great souvenir - $15,000 worth of gold nuggets!
Cheryl found the
first gold nugget for our season on the Western Australian goldfields. As
she freed it from the soil it gleamed softly in the warm autumn sun. It
was a beauty, about five grams in weight worth at least $75, and it had
taken only half-an-hour to find in a very popular goldfield 15-minutes’
drive down a good track from the sealed road.
Unrolling our maps we looked for another site farther out, away from the crowds.
We use 1:250,000 geographic
maps printed by the Royal Australian Survey Corps. These maps show most
tracks, goldfields, and mines. They are available from NATMAP or from
your local Department Of Mines. They are easy to use and understand. We also use
geological maps from the same sources.
In conjunction with the
maps we use a GPS, a compass, and the vehicle odometer. It sounds complicated
but in practice it is easy.
Communications are taken
care of with a UHF radio that incorporates a scanner. Nearly all working
goldmines in WA use UHF radio and we could always hear someone wherever we went.
That meant that in the event of trouble we were never far from help.
Looking through our copy of
David De Havilland’s book Gold and
Ghosts, we checked out the maps and information. There are a series of these
books, two covering WA and another two covering Queensland’s goldfields.
My next find weighed
390-grams, with about 90-grams being gold. Excitement began to build when our
friends Brian and Marguerite found another specimen further up the flat.
Dragging a chain to mark each pass, I
We searched that area for
the next few weeks, finding gold almost every day. Just over the rise from
specimen flat Cheryl found the beginnings of a patch with a nine-gram nugget.
Marguerite chained the
patch and found 13 nuggets. At last the gold seemed to give out and we moved on.
Another spot in Gold and Ghosts called
Eucalyptus sounded good and we headed off to find what we hoped would be another
bonanza for us.
At the first creek crossing
Brian and Marguerite had to take it slow with their caravan; for us it was easy.
We tow a 1984 Jayco Finch camper trailer that we have
Following a fence line
track that took us past a windmill we paused to fill our water containers. This
water we used for washing, our drinking water we sourced from town whenever we
went in to get food and fuel.
Many windmill bores do have
water that is okay to drink, and there are many water purifiers on the market
that will make the water that is not okay quite safe and palatable. Our Jayco
has a 60-litre water tank and we usually carry another 100-litres in plastic
jerry cans. We found that this supply was ample for about 10 days.
Arriving at Eucalyptus we
set up camp and began to explore. The main mining centre had been worked on and
off for over 100 years, but still we found gold.
Out away from the old
workings we also found gold on new ground. In one spot I found a 10-gram nugget
lying on the surface – it was like finding $150 in a car park, it was that
Most areas in the eastern
goldfields are covered in mulga trees where the absence of gum trees to provide
nesting hollows mean few parrots live there. At Eucalyptus
parrots were everywhere.
Glorious emerald green Port
Lincoln parrots flashed through the trees like living gems while galahs sat
outside their nesting hollows chuckling and talking amongst themselves.
One cool, rainy day I was
out walking when I saw a large flock of galahs feeding. Half the flock flew up
in alarm but chose to sit in a dead mulga tree only 10-metres from where I
Over the next few minutes
the rest of the flock flew up and landed in that small tree. It got so crowded
that those birds already there had to shuffle along to make room for the
By the time they had all
landed the tree was full. You could not have got another galah on that tree. I
remained still and they just sat there eyeing me and talking amongst themselves.
A tree full of beautiful galahs and I didn’t have my camera.
After a month Brian and
Marguerite had to go back to work and we were on our own. Leaving Eucalyptus we
moved around visiting Pikes Hollow, Yundermindera Lake Darlot, Randwick, Royal
Harry, and Cardinia mining areas, and we found gold at them all.
Halfway through our trip we
spent a week of R&R in Kalgoorlie. After that we joined other friends, Gerry
and Lyn prospecting around the Agnew-Lawlers area.
Camping out near Lawlers we explored the area and found gold here and there. My biggest find for the trip came from near there. It was a wide signal that sounded like a good target deep beside a creek.
Both Cheryl and myself use SD2200D gold detectors from Minelab in South Australia that can find gold very deep indeed.
time slipped quickly by, the weather wavering between good and just wonderful
with only occasional wet days. Different species of flowers died off to make way
for new varieties and before we knew it spring was just around the corner.
As the weather warmed we
saw patches of scarlet Sturt desert pea appear, and gaunt and grumpy goannas
began to awake from their short winter hibernation.
Heading south again we
dropped in to Murrin Murrin to give the area a quick hit. We found only a few
small nuggets scattered about until Cheryl found a patch of gold only 70 metres
from camp. It took her an hour to clean that patch of 13 nuggets up for a nice
68 grams. Not bad money for an hour’s easy work. It was her first patch for
the trip and was she pleased about it!
Moving on we found another
spot that looked good but the ground was deep. Cheryl found two nice chunky
nuggets but I knew there was more gold there, I could smell it.
we found another spot where the ground was also deep but it looked like it would
produce gold. We got a few small bits nearer the surface but I knew the big bits
were still there, too deep for the search coils we had. Then I heard about a new
coil from Coiltek called the UFO. In no time at all Coiltek had one of these new
wonder coils to us and I headed for the deep ground confident of success.
Dragging the gridding chain
I made the first circuit of the patch – nothing.
Then three-quarters of the way around the second time a good signal sounded nice
and mellow through my earphones.
Digging down a few inches
the signal became louder and I knew I was on to good gold. At two-feet deep I
found the nugget, a bright beautiful 50-grammer that I fell in love with at
finished that patch and found some smaller nuggets before moving onto the next
spot. The first nugget there weighed 30 grams, or nearly an ounce of solid gold.
Some days later we reckoned
we’d found all the gold there and moved south to Yerilla. Calling at the
homestead to ask permission to camp and, after satisfying the owners we had no
dogs or guns, carried our own water and took our rubbish away with us, we were
at Mount Katherine mine, a mine that was known to be salted and sold for a good
price while containing little gold, we found some gold but not enough to hold
us. Deciding to move to the Mount Remarkable group of mines, still on Yerilla
station, we called in at the homestead and presented the owner with a gold
nugget in thanks for letting us stay.
Anyone planning to spend
time on a station should seek permission or risk being told in no uncertain
terms to move on. If we find gold on a property we like to thank the owner with
a nugget and in this way are welcomed back.
It is surprising how many
people do not even ask permission and few are the property owners who are
presented with a nugget. A list of property owners and their phone numbers is
available at the Mines Department, and homestead locations are marked on all
Mount Remarkable we found more gold on the edge of the dry salt lake but moved
north for the last few weeks of our trip. We finished the season where it had
begun, near Murrin Murrin. The weather was now getting windy but most days were
warm and sunny.
Gerry found a patch and
chained it for a nice tally. Cheryl and myself found nuggets scattered here and
there, nothing big but it all added up. Then Cheryl found a nugget that weighed
just under half-an-ounce. That put us over the kilo of gold for the season.
total for 16 weeks of holiday was 1032 grams of bright, beautiful gold, more
than enough to pay for our adventure into the wonderful desert goldfields of WA.