Upon arriving at Meekatharra,
we visited the State Government Mining Registrar's office to obtain maps
outlining areas where we could prospect (legitimately) with our metal
In Western Australia you can
prospect on pending, but not approved mining leases, crown land and pastoral
leases, after first notifying the lessee...who can't unreasonably withhold
A lad led us to a computer screen
and asked where WE proposed to fossick.
"Can you print out a map
that covers, say (pausing, I plucked a figure out of my head)...about
20kms each side of Meekatharra".
Hot off the printer,he handed
it to us.
Bewildered, I studied it...
...it had more lines and coordinates
than the complete battle plans for Dunkirk.
Fortunately, however, our navigational
skills were becoming more advanced...hmmm....how do you put it....they
had certainly progressed past the point of using words and phrases like
"over there", "near that hill", "past that tree",
"a bit further" and "a couple of minutes away"...to
actually referring to positions of the compass and rationally interpreting
basic information provided by our GPS unit.
We studied the map, settling
on an area about 40km south of Meekatharra...philosophically reasoning
that one grid on the map is probably as good as another...and headed off
in search of the allusive yellow metal.
along the highway, large open cut gold mines were in evidence...some barely
separated by the road, which became a sort of earthen bridge between them.
Curious and wanting to get
a photograph, I had just enough room to pull off the bitumen, before clambering
over a small embankment to be immediately confronted by one of the massive
Using our GPS, correctly for
the first time, we arrived in the area we had identified on the map and
found a track leading off from the highway.
A couple of kilometres into
the scrub we found ourselves in the midst of an old alluvial goldfield;
small mounds of quartz and ironstone telltale signs of the dry blowing
activities of pioneer prospectors.
The old buggers were certainly
resourceful...there was evidence of them wherever you trudged.
A number of reasonably fresh
vehicle tracks also suggested that the country had been given the once
over by other hopefuls with metal detectors.
Undeterred, we discreetly maneuvered
the caravan beside a grove of trees and set about detecting.