Finding Nuggets in Bedrock

Nuggets in Bedrock
By Lanny in Alberta

Up front, I know this story is rather involved, and lengthy, but it's a story I'm willing to tell, as it involves the results of quite a bit of detective work, and the results of a lot of previously fruitless detector work!

On Saturday, June 14th, I got ready to head to the hills to try to find some gold. I'd been out the previous day with a group of High School students, an annual trip we've been making for the last five years, and they found some flakes, the weather was gorgeous, and they had a great time playing in the water, and rootin' around lookin' for gold, in the mountains.

So, early the next morning, I grabbed my 2100, and the little Joey mono coil, and I picked up my partner, and we drove the four hours to get to the gold fields. The day was incredibly beautiful. We cached our equipment in the outfitters tent, and went out with the detectors to find some gold. The week before, I'd finally found a nugget on the slate cliffs, and that was encouraging, as I'd never found one on this particular side of the river before. Isn't that funny--I could find them on the other side of the river, but not the opposite bank--go figure? Anyway, my buddy had his SD with the Coiltek 14" mono, and I had the Joey wired up to mine. He headed off to stomp some ground he'd been saving, and I went to a gully that had always intrigued me, but one that had consistently skunked me.

The oldtimers have done a massive amount of hand mining in this area--stacks of rocks are piled all over, and it's shallow to bedrock in quite a few places. There's massive old pines, and lots of guts--shallow little washes--and boulders everywhere.

Well, what I'd noticed before, on previous trips, was that someone had moved a lot of rocks off of places that were shallow to bedrock, and they'd really had to work to move those rocks, let me tell you. So, they must have moved them for a reason . . . So, for a long time, almost two seasons actually, I'd tried detecting those places with a pulse machine, and with the SD, and I'd never found anything but little steel and brass boot tacks, and square nails--you get the picture. But, this time around I had the Joey, and it had already found a sassy little nugget on the side of the river I wanted to hunt, so it was broke in, it was golden so to speak.

I started detecting along the exposed bedrock, the rock that had been uncovered by some industrious gold seekers. I'd always seen evidence of their work, but never understood what, or how they were finding anything with this technique, as we'd cleaned the bedrock and panned it in those exposed places, and never got anything but little fines--and scarce bits they were too!

However, I still detected along the bedrock with that little Joey, and all at once I got a little whisper. Now, I use a great little signal enhancer, and Gray Ghost headphones as well, and with the SD, and that little Joey, I can really hear faint signals. I've turned off the enhancer a bunch of times to see what the SD sees without it, and there's NO comparison--that enhancer really jumps those faint signals up into the realm of reality. Anyhow, I kept scrubbing that coil over that faint signal--more like a bump in the threshold, but definite--not ground noise--and the coil was right over bedrock, almost no dirt at all.

By way of explanation, the Slate bedrock, or shale, depending on which fault I'm working, is in sheets, or fractured finger-like projections. This bedrock was Shale I believe, and it was like leaves of rock sticking up.

I scraped what little overburden there was off with my pick and scanned again. There was the sweetest, mellowest little signal you can imagine! But, there was no dirt on the bedrock. So I started to pry out pieces of the bedrock, and kept scanning after I removed each piece. And here's something important--I love the little Joey for its maneuverability--it gets down into really tight spots. So, there was a small space in the bedrock I'd exposed, and the tip of the Joey fit it nicely--the sound was coming right through the rock, and the rock was perpendicular! The SD was seeing the gold through the sheet of rock. I kept carefully breaking up the rock and scanning, and I noticed that the signal was moving--not getting any louder, but moving deeper. It still had that soft, sweet tone on the SD--not harsh like the growl of a square nail when you get close to it. But, I took out another piece of bedrock and the signal was still in the same place. I looked where the rock had been and I saw a golden sparkle. I couldn't imagine it really was gold at last, but it was--a nice, yet very flat, nugget.

I gave a wolf howl and my buddy came over to see what I had (not much of a stealth hunting technique I realize, but effective at getting my buddy out of the timber and over to see the finds). He really liked that little thumper. I was ready to move on down the bedrock a ways, and he suggested that I scan the hole again--Duh! Sometimes I forget the basics, so I did scan it again, and I got another signal!!

I rooted around, using the same technique I've described, and pulled out another flat nugget, that was lodged tightly between another two sheets of bedrock, about an inch from where the other one was. I diligently scanned that little area--about two foot square--and no more signals. But, the bedrock was sloping off downhill, and there was about two inches of small, gravelly overburden and clay covering it. I scanned it--no signal. But, and this is important, I took my pick and cleaned off all the dirt--every bit, and scanned it again, and you've guessed it--another sweet whisper.

I had to break the sheets of bedrock again, and those nuggets really drop fast and easily every time you move that bedrock--it's a fact. But, I got two more nice flat nuggets that way, and one of them was bent on the end, where it was lodged in a perpendicular crack in one of the sheets of rock. So, I took out four nice little nuggets--all under a gram, about a quarter of an inch long, from a section of bedrock about ten feet long. Say, I guess that makes it a patch, doesn't it--well, a patch of sorts--nothing like the Aussies find.

I scraped around in the bedrock farther down the wash, but got skunked. I went back to the Outfitters tent to get some grub, and then I geared up again and went to another spot that's always looked good, a place where someone has moved all kinds of rock off the bedrock, but one that's always managed to shut me out as well. I used the same slow, scrubbing technique, but got blanked.

It was getting dark, and I went up over a big sheet of bedrock that had a lot of sluff on it. It's a genuine, bonafide square nail mine that spot is, but I decided to scan some more of it. I got a sharp signal, moved the sluff, and a nice square nail jumped to the super magnet! Not much of a surprise, considering the location, but remembering my buddies counsel, and the little ribbing I'd taken from him earlier in the day for violating one of the sacred laws of nugget-shooting, I scanned the spot again. And, you won't believe this, but there's not a word of a lie in it, there was that same, soft, sweet tone again! Only this time, the bedrock was a different type--solid--no leaves or sheets of bedrock--really hard solid stuff. I worried some of it with my pick--went down a couple of inches, and out popped a nice, very flat, nugget. By this time, I was beginning to think that maybe this was my day, and I'd better scan the spot again maybe there was something lucky in that technique--I did, and there was another signal, but I could not break the rock anymore with my pick.

So, I headed back to the tent for a masonry chisel and my small sledge, and a flashlight--because it was dark! My buddy came back with me, and let me tell you--he's a real sledge and chisel man--he made the chips fly I should say! Every time he chipped a chunk out, I'd scan with the Joey, and the signal got louder. Down four inches, the signal moved--we'd been working carefully as it had gotten continuously louder, the deeper we'd gone. Up on the side of the hole, in some bits and chunks of rock, the signal rang sharp and clear. Nested in it was a little beauty with a little pot belly, and a very flat end.

I rattled the gold around in my little plastic jar--six sassy nuggets in one day!! It seems when the gold finally comes, it makes a heck of a statement.Now the combined weight was only around three grams--not a huge mass, but man the lessons I've learned! And the places I'll go back to . . . And I've still got that big sheet of bedrock to work, because those last two nuggets were in an old cemented crevice, and it keeps going!!

Now I know what the others were after--lots of flat nuggets that were down several feet originally in the bedrock--the oldtimers had broken the bedrock up a couple of feet, and taken all the cream, but they didn't have the technology to see what that little Joey could see, so there's still a little cream frozen in those old cracks.

Happy hunting, and all the best, as always,

Lanny in AB

Lanny is an avid Alberta Canada prospector and a great story teller.

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