A new twist on an old classic

By David Lowe

A few months ago I went out for a spot of panning and crevicing at one of my local haunts and came across a patch of shallow wash that showed some reasonable colours. It wasn't particularly rich but I thought that if I could get a sluice up there and move some dirt, I could be in for a worthwhile haul. Problem was, the gully I was in was difficult to get to and being small, water was at best limited to a couple of small muddy puddles.

While pondering my predicament and surveying all the different sluice boxes and bank concentrators piled up in a corner of my shed, I realised something was missing from my gold finding arsenal. I really needed a bit of kit that was light enough to carry over rough ground while at the same time being capable of working with next to no water. I also wanted something rugged enough to cop some serious use without the hassle of needing fuel.

Light; muscle powered; requiring next to no water - and then it dawned on me. I was describing a device that had been used to good effect for well over 200 years - a gold cradle!

Cradles were commonly used until the 1960s and '70s however the availability of small petrol-powered pumps and the consequent popularity of bank concentrators and dredges made them largely redundant. Nowadays cradles are hardly ever used or indeed seen on goldfields. This is quite baffling considering how good they were at recovering gold, particularly in low water conditions.

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