Get your feet wet!

By Wal Ellison

Although any right thinking person should, on the whole, welcome the rains recently experienced by much of the country, the wet weather caused a great deal of flooding and hardship.

On a much less serious level is how the big wet affected metal detecting. Many of our favourite spots like the local park or the paddock that always produces finds became waist-deep in grass and weeds making it difficult or near impossible to search. But whenever one door closes another opens and in this instance many previously dry streams in gold country are running again, making it an ideal time to get back to basics, to dig out the pan and the sluice. I hadn’t done any sluicing in a serious way for some years, so I decided to use the internet to get myself up to date with the current gear.

Modern equipment from people like Keene, Angus McKirk and others still works in a similar way to sluicing systems used thousands of years ago. Ancient prospectors would lay the thick fleece of a sheep in a channel dug in the earth, place some likely ‘wash’ dirt at the upper end then pour water through. As the dirt flowed over the fibres of the wool, the heavier gold sank and become trapped in the fleece. They would often wedge a fleece in the bed of a known gold-bearing stream, weigh it down with rocks and leave it there for days on end. It acted in the same way as the real stream bed, trapping any gold that tried to pass. The fleece was then swirled around in a large tub to release the gold. This process is the basis of the ancient Greek legend about Jason and his search for the Golden Fleece. And no, he wasn’t looking for the old service station chain many of you will remember.

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