Shares were rising, the mine was sold, and the work done, and it was with a light heart that I booked passage for London in October, 1895.
PART IV MINING
QUARTZ REEFING AND DRY-BLOWING
I would not, even if I had the requisite knowledge, wish to bore the reader by giving a scientific account of gold-mining, but Western Australia presents so many appearances differing from those in other gold-producing countries, and so varied are some of the methods of obtaining gold, that I hope a short account of the usual ways of winning the precious metal, purely from a prospector’s point of view, will be of interest.
The area over which the goldfields extend, may be described as very gently undulating country, from which rise, at intervals, low ranges or isolated hills.* These ranges, in reality seldom over 200 feet above the plain, have in the distance a far more important appearance. It is a common experience to steer for a range, sighted from perhaps a distance of fifteen miles, and find on closer inspection that it is no more than a low line of rocks. It is equally common for a hill to appear as quite a respectable mountain when seen from one point, but entirely to disappear from view when seen from the opposite direction, so gentle is the slope.
[* Mount Burgess, the highest hill around Coolgardie, is about 500 feet above surrounding country.]
These ranges, such as they are, occur at intervals of a few miles up to thirty or more, and between them scrub-covered plains, sand-plains, or flat stretches of open forest are found. In the deeper undulations, long chains of dry salt-lakes and samphire-flats are met with, occupying a narrow belt, perhaps one hundred miles in length. Doubtless were the rainfall greater, these lakes would be connected, and take the place of rivers, which would eventually find their way into the Australian Bight. Unfortunately for the comfort of travellers, this is not the case, and their water supply must depend upon one or other of the various sources already described.
The first aim of a party of Western Australian prospectors is to find not gold, but water. Having found this they make camp, and from it start short excursions in all directions towards any hill that may be in sight. Arrived at the hills, which, though bare of undergrowth, are usually covered with low scrub, they can soon determine from the nature the rock whether further search is likely to have good results. Should they see hills of ironstone and diorite, or blows and outcrops of quartz, they will certainly revisit the locality. In what manner, will depend upon the distance from water. They may be able to form camp in the desired spot, with water close at hand; or the party may have to divide, some camping in the likely country, engaged in prospecting solely, while the others “tail” the horses or camels at the watering-place and pack water to their mates. In cases where “good gold is getting,” water has sometimes been packed distances of twenty to forty miles; or it may happen that good country must be passed over, from the want of water within reasonable distance.