CAN YOU DIG IT?

FOSSICKING FOR TREASURE IN THE WIDE AUSSIE YONDER

We’ve all seen them, metal detectors loaded in their rigs, gold pans, maps, orienteering all over the country with a cat-that-just-got-the-canary smile on their face.

Fossicking is in the middle of a resurgence and it’s easy to see the attraction, not just to riches pulled from the deep, but also to the single-minded adventure that can lead you to some interesting parts of the country like a 4WD-powered Indiana Jones.

It’s a skill right up there with hunting or fly-fishing, yet it requires perhaps even more patience and fortitude. These are the fossickers, and this is a brief glance at their secret.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TREASURE HUNTING & GOLD FOSSICKING?

These are the two main recreational uses for metal detectors, and we recently got the skinny from Minelab as to the where people can get cracking on each discipline.

When Treasure Hunting for coins and historical relics, it’s important to remember that you’re an archaeologist of recent history, so you must go to the places that once had human traffic.

Get a map of the current terrain or do your research to try and find locations from a generation ago.

To help get you started here is a list of locations where you’re more likely to score old coins and jewellery;

– Showgrounds and sporting fields

– Campgrounds, old BBQ areas, swimming holes

– Freshly ploughed fields, I mean the digging’s already been done

– Ghost towns and derelict sites

– Beaches, jetties and piers.

Unsurprisingly, the best places for Gold Prospecting are where gold has previously been found, and surrounding areas with similar geology.

So again, do your research to find out about historic goldfields.

– Tailings dumps from old mines.

– Historical digging areas from the 1800s

– In streams where gold can be panned

– Dry-blowing locations (where water was scarce)

– Old reef mine dumps and slopes

WHERE TO GET STARTED?

BLUE MOUNTAINS, NSW

What you’re looking for: Gold and sapphires.

How you’re doing it: Metal detectors.

History: The old diggings and streams around Oberon were subject to a rush 150 years ago, and people are still quietly pulling shiny stuff from the ground. This spot is also squarely in the crosshairs of some of the best 4WDing in the state.

Popular haunts: Oberon has a handful of fossicking zones that the public can access, and there are also sapphires in these here hills.

Don’t forget: A metal detector. This is proper gold terrain so it requires a serious but cost-effective bit of kit like Minelab’s GPZ 7000.

More info: www.oberonaustralia.com, www.minelab.com

SAPPHIRE GEMFIELDS, Q

What you’re looking for: Opals and sapphires.

How you’re doing it: Digging, but mostly sieving and pre-planned assessment of ground conditions.

History: Towns like Emerald and Sapphire didn’t get their names by chance. In the 1870s, railway workers found more than a great place to lay sleepers and people have been pulling gems from the ground here ever since.

Popular haunts: Sapphire, Rubyvale and Willow Gemfields all have shallow digging areas and fossicking parks available to punters. They also have introductory tours if you’re new to the area.

Don’t forget: A sieve and a keen set of eyeballs, this is meticulous work whether you use theirs or bring your own when sorting through buckets of wash.

More info: www.centralhighlands.com.au

KALGOORLIE, WA

What you’re looking for: Gold.

How you’re doing it: Metal detectors and maps.

History: The Goldfields region of WA is still powering. It’s one of the richest gold deposits in the world. And not all of it is fenced off to mining mobs.

Popular haunts: If you head northwest of Kalgoorlie, give Credo Homestead a shot, it’s about 100 clicks out of town and it’s a prime place for amateur prospectors to uncover a nugget or two.

Don’t forget: This is hot country, so make sure to bring plenty of water and your GME comms gear. Also remember to fill in any holes you make, you are not the beaver off Caddyshack.

More info: www.australiasgoldenoutback.com

COOBER PEDY, SA

What you’re looking for: Opals

How you’re doing it: Ahem, with ‘noodling machines’.

History: Looking for opals is known as ‘noodling’ and people have been noodling (and living) underground here since chancers came across the precious rocks 100 years ago.

Popular Haunts: Fossicking here involves searching through discarded mullock heaps for shards of opal missed by earlier miners. Local residents make a living from this method and it’s also a big hit with tourists.

Don’t Forget: Safety precautions. Because the opal fields can be dangerous to the uninitiated, you will have to get permission to go onto a registered claim.

More info: www.cooberpedy.net

THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE, VIC.

What you’re looking for: Gold.

How you’re looking for it: Metal detectors and maps.

History: The golden triangle takes in the heavy hitting historical Gold Rush regions of Castemaine, Wedderburn and Avoca in central Victoria. In the last ten years, people applying for prospecting permits has increased 20-fold.

Popular haunts: We reckon it doesn’t hurt if you’re new to a place like this to embark on a tour to get the lay of the land. Gold Prospecting Australia will point you in the right direction in this particular neck of the woods.

Don’t forget: Prospect only in the permitted area and only drive your rig on tracks open to the public.

More info: www.goldprospectingaustralia.com.au

WHO ARE THESE MODERN PROSPECTORS?

Comedian Norm Macdonald, a man crippled by a lifetime gambling addiction, once joked: “Yes, it’s an illness. But it’s the only illness where I could possibly… win one million dollars!”

And the same goes for prospectors, they’re dogged, determined, and often times addicted, not just to touring some of the best destinations in the country, but also to the chance of striking it rich.

It’s probably the safest addiction you could have. No one’s gonna get hurt, well as long as you follow the basic safety precautions.

This is an addiction that will see you with a whole host of new obsessions, with maps, geology and the finer points of metal detection.

It’s also something that might see you turning up at local historical meetings and sitting through the boring minutiae of who-was-up-who and who didn’t pay the rent back in the olden times. Just on the odd chance they start talking about some of the mining claims that existed in the area back in the day.

One close mate of the magazine regularly takes his kids to the antique Mitchell Library in inner Sydney, under the guise that he’s teaching them about books, but really he’s a sweating fiend researching all the old newspapers on microfiche and keywording the subject ‘gold’.

His kids are over it, so as he’s furiously printing out all his research material and treasure maps, he’ll cover his tracks by going on an epic rant about how if they took the time to read books they wouldn’t be so addicted to their phones.

It’s a classic bit of parental gaslighting, but such is this man’s unquenchable thirst for knowledge, any knowledge, that could lead to him striking a find.

Yep, this is an addiction that requires a lot of research, which is all part of the fun. As when people find a popular stretch they don’t really want to tell every Tom, Dick and Peter Lalor how to get there on the nearest web forum.