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Search for gold

In the bush — 1999-11-15

Today’s the day. Verne and Toni, two of the most experienced gold-hunters of West-Australia take us into their tow to show us where luck lies under the red earth.

After a brief instruction in the use of a metal detector we walk through beautiful bushland for two days. Unfortunately without any success. And I can tell you, searching for gold is a damn exhausting business. It really strains your back after a while. Particularly the ears, and consequently the nerves, suffer tremendously. Why is that so? You have to wear headphones all the time which play back the contents of the soil in the craziest whistling sounds. If you hit rusty screws, belt buckles or any other metal scrap from the old gold-diggers you hear a considerably loud whistle that makes you believe to have stricken gold. We come across some such utensils and every time I think what an enormous achievement it was to venture so deep into the Australian outback without any modern means of transportation.

It is around 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Again, we are without any success and want to break off. Suddenly, Verne finds his first nugget and right away he gives it to Tanja. Shortly thereafter, he finds another. His friend Toni, too, strikes gold three times. He wants to offers me one of the nuggets to keep, but I refuse, as I want to find onemyself, come what may. If you find three nuggets in one place, you call it a “patch”. A place where there’s more to find. According to Verne, no one has dug here for eighty years.
The modern technology of metal detectors makes you find a lot that slipped through the gold-hunters’ fingers. It doesn’t take long, and I can hear the whistle in my headphones again. I find my first nugget and I’m a very happy man.

Toni offers Tanja look after gold now, too. But she refuses and says: “Ah, perhaps tomorrow!”, to which I reply: “Always tomorrow!” Now she is motivated. I help her put on the metal detector, explain everything to her and off she goes. Tanja runs around an eucalyptus tree about two meters away from us, and after approx. 40 seconds she shouts: “Is this the noise we are looking for?” I rush up to her and put on the headphones: “Sounds good!” At once, Toni and Verne come up. They both check the whistling sound and confirm, nodding benevolently. Immediately, they start digging like madmen. The noise grows louder and louder. “Must be a hardrock” says Verne. Hardrocks are metalline stones that drive every gold-hunter to despair.

Soon we hit a layer of ashes that was caused by a stroke of lightning. Such layers of ashes can also cause a squealing like that in the detector. With every centimetre we penetrate our spirits grow more euphoric. And then suddenly the noise is gone. We look at each other in disappointment. That would have been too good to be true. Toni takes a handful of the excavated soil and moves it along the backside of the detector. Nothing! No sound in the headphones. Toni takes another handful and repeats the procedure. Nothing again. After the fifth time there is suddenly a squealing in Verne’s headphones, and a beautiful 170-gram nugget with rarity value in Toni’s hand. A wave of unrestrained joy overcomes us: We scream, hop, laugh and jump around like little children. Verne and Toni haven’t seen anything like this in five years. The biggest nugget they ever found was not even a quarter as big as this one. And because big nuggets always have a name, we call it “Always tomorrow”! I’m going to give an interview on this subject with ABC. The nugget find will go down in gold-hunting history.

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