Part V: Big Nuggets Of Australia

No part of the world has been so prolific in the yield of nuggets as Victoria. Of the many great chunks of gold discovered in the early days, no authentic record has been preserved, but prior to 1869 a list of finds was compiled by William Birkmyre, an Australian assayer of high standing. The Indicator vein in the Ballarat group is as remarkable in formation as it is unrivalled as a gold producer. It has often shown a matrix of wholly precious metal, the silica being displaced by entire gold, no vestige of the gangue initial matter being left. A pendant of pure gold in egg-sized lumps, united by a thin, wire like chain of about four feet long, and of the value of $7,500, was taken thirty years ago from a depth of 250 feet on the Indicator lode. What are called "bunches" of gold are frequent, and it is difficult to tell where they take their departure.

Among the most valuable finds recorded is that of the "Welcome Stranger," which occurred about a mile west of the village of Moliagul in the neighborhood of Dunolly on February 15, 1869. This world-famed nugget was found by two puddlers, John Deason and Richard Gates, on the extreme margin of a patch of auriferous alluvium, within two feet of the bed rock (sandstone), in a loose, gravelly loam. It rested on stiff red clay and was barely covered with earth; in fact, it was in the rut made by the puddlers' cart that the treasure was noticed. It measured about 21 inches in length and 10 inches in thickness, and though mixed with quartz, the great body of the "Welcome Stranger" was in solid gold.



The lucky finders conveyed it to their hut and heated it in the fire, in order to get rid of the adherent quartz, and thus reduce its weight before taking it to the bank at Dunolly. They also detached and gave to their friends a number of specimens and pieces of gold before the nugget got into the hands of the bank manager. The melted gold weighed 2268 oz. 10 dwt. 14 gr. and contained only 1/75th of alloy, which was composed chiefly of silver and iron, so that 98.66 per cent, of the nugget was pure gold. Including the pieces given away to their friends by the finders the nugget yielded 2280 oz., equivalent to 2248 oz. of pure gold, its value at the Bank of England being $47,670. The neighborhood of Dunolly was at that time almost unprospected country. Very heavy gold was characteristic of the locality, many large nuggets being found there; and, near the spot where the "Welcome Stranger" was discovered, two nuggets of 114 oz. and 36 oz., respectively, were unearthed soon afterwards. The Welcome nugget, found by a party of 24 at Beggary Hill, Ballarat, on June I5th, 1858, was sold by the discoverers in Ballarat for $52,500, and, after being exhibited for a season in Melbourne, was again disposed of for $46,625. It then weighed 2159 oz., so that the price obtained was $21 per ounce. This nugget was found at a depth of 1 80 feet. It was apparently water worn, contained about 10 lb. of quartz, clay, and oxide of iron, and measured 20 inches in length, 12 inches in breadth, and 7 inches in depth. The Welcome was melted in London in November, 1859, and contained 99.20 per cent, of pure gold. Two other large nuggets, one weighing 480 oz. and the other 571 oz., were unearthed in the immediate vicinity three years before.

The Blanche Barkley nugget (1743 oz. 13 dwt.), of the value of $34,525, was found by a party of four at Kingower, at a depth of 13 feet, and within 5 feet or 6 feet of holes that were dug three years before. Previous to its being melted the nugget was exhibited in Melbourne and at the Crystal Palace, London, where it was an object of great interest owing to its bulk, brightness, and solidity; and for some time the fortunate owners netted an average of $250 per week. On assay it yielded 95.58 per cent, of pure gold. Another party of four found in the Canadian Gully, Ballarat, at a depth of 60 feet, a nugget weighing 1619 oz., just after unearthing a nugget of 76 oz. Two of the party had been in the colony not more than 3 months, when they returned to England with their prize, which yielded them $27,660. Near the same gully, on September 8th, 1854, a nugget of gold weighing 1177 oz, 17 dwt. was found, and from the same hole upwards of 220 lb. of smaller nuggets were obtained, so that the value of gold taken from this claim was not less than $65,000. A nugget only 8 dwt. lighter than the last-named (which was known as the Lady Hotham) was discovered in Canadian Gully, Ballarat, at a depth of 60 feet, amongst quartz boulders and wash dirt going an ounce to the ton. At the first blow of the pick the miner suspected he had struck gold; at the second stroke the pick stuck in the nugget. Two days afterwards, in the same claim and drive, and within 10 feet of the spot where the 1619 oz. nugget was unearthed, a nugget weighing ion oz. 15 dwt. was discovered. It was some what of the shape of a pyramid, a very fine specimen with snowy white quartz attached. The two working diggers continued operations a fort night longer for a yield of 100 oz. of small gold, and then sold their claim for eighty guineas!

The Heron nugget, found by two young men near Old Golden Point, Fryer's Creek, Mount Alexander, was a solid lump of gold, which drew the scale at 1008 oz. and realized $20,400. The lucky finders had been only three months in the colony. Nuggets of 7 lb. and 22 lb. respectively were obtained in the same locality some three years before. At Kingower, where the Blanche Barkley was brought to light, two men came upon a nugget of 805 oz. within a foot of the surface, and the following year another nugget, weighing 782 oz., was found in the same locality. A party of three divided $15,000 as the proceeds of working a claim at Back Creek, Taradale, to a depth of 12 feet, their yield including a nugget of 648 oz. and a number of small nuggets weighing 80 oz. In an abandoned hole at Eureka, Ballarat, a 625 oz. nugget was found in 1854, and at Mclvor, in 1855 and 1858, two nuggets, weighing 645 oz. and 658 oz. respectively, were unearthed in shallow workings. A 600 oz. nugget, of the value of $10,900, was found at Yandoit, Castlemain, in April, 1860; and, within six weeks, five more nuggets were discovered in the same locality. At laskman's Lead, Maryborough, in June, 1855, a nugget weighing 1034 oz. 5 dwt, and sold for $16,250, was found at a depth of only 5 feet from the surface. In an old pillar of earth in a deserted claim at Robinson Crusoe Gully, Sandhurst, a nugget drawing the scale at 377 oz. 6 dwt. was discovered.

The Victorian nugget, found in the White Horse Gully, Sandhust, in 1852, weighed 340 oz., and was bought by Parliament, at a cost of $8,250, for presentation to the Queen. Close to the same spot, lying amongst gravel about a foot from the surface, the Dascombe nugget was found in January, 1852. It weighed 332 oz., and was sold in London for $7,500. At Mount Blackwood, in 1855, a nugget of 240 oz. 18 dwt. was found lying on the surface of the ground; and in May, 1860, a moss covered nugget, weighing 230 oz., was picked up by a prospecting party at Kingower, where, eight months later, another nugget of 236 oz. was discovered within half an inch of the surface. At the same place, in September, 1858, a boy ding up a nugget weighing 120 oz. from a depth of a few inches. At Ballarat, in August, 1860, at a depth of 400 feet, a solid lump of gold weighing 834 oz. was unearthed, and with it 100 oz. of smaller gold. In March, 1869, a nugget weighing 893 oz. was found at Berlin, where in May and October of the same year the Viscount and Viscountess Canterbury, weighing 1105 oz. and 884 oz. respectively, were discovered near the surface. During the year 1870 several large nuggets were found, the principal of which were one on May 3ist, at Berlin, weighing 1121 oz., another at the same place on October 3d, weighing 896 oz., and a third on November nth, at Mclntyre diggings, only a few inches from the surface, weighing 452 oz. During the year 1871, also, large nuggets were found at Berlin. Amongst the largest were the Precious, found on January 5th, weight 1621 oz. ; the Kum Tow, April fifth, 718 oz. ; and the Needful, May l0th, 247 oz. These three nuggets were discovered at a depth of about 12 feet from the surface. A large number of nuggets have been found on other goldfields, varying in weight from 20 oz. to 200 oz.

In the year 1872 the large nuggets listed below were discovered : On April 2d the Crescent was found at Berlin, at a depth of 2 feet; it weighed 14 Ib. n oz. On May 8th a nugget weighing 477 oz. was got in the same locality, at a depth of 9 feet. At Dunolly the Schlemm nugget was found, weighing 478 oz., at a depth of 3 feet from the surface. The Spondulix nugget, found in a quartz reef at the same place, at a depth of 8 feet from the surface, weighed 130 oz. Among other big nuggets since discovered are the Baron Rothschild, 90 oz., at Creswick, in 1884; the Lady Loch, 617 oz., in the Midas mine, Creswick, in September, 1887 ; the Lady Brassey, from the same claim ; and in 1889, a 461 oz. nugget, found at Ironbark, in a small pillar of ground between two old holes; one 54 oz. at Bokewood; and another 48 oz. at Pinchgut Gully, Ballarat. Within the fortnight ending May 7th, 1898, three nuggets were found, one weighing 127 oz., at Blue Gully, foot of the Blue Mountains, in the Trentham district; one weighing 142 oz. at Blackwood; and one weighing 138 oz. at the Break O'Day claim, Rokewood. These finds, which bring the record down to date, go to prove that despite the finds of former years the golden store is still unexhausted.



Other important finds may be summarized as follows: At the Twisted Gum-tree (date not given), a nugget weighing 408 oz. ; in Canadian Gully, Ballarat, in 1853, a nugget of 371 oz. 2 dwt, containing a good deal of quartz ; sold in Melbourne in March of the same year for $7,327. In the same gully, February, 1853, two nuggets, 368 oz. and 143 oz. 15 dwt. respectively; at Mclvor, 1857, a 328 oz. nugget, with smaller ones weighing 350 oz.; at McCallum's Creek (no date named), 326 oz. 10 dwt.; at Mclntyre diggings, near Kingower, March, 1857, 810 oz. At Kingower, February, 1861, 782 oz. ; at Daisy Hill, October, 1855, only 3.5 feet from the surface, 715 oz. ; at White Horse Gully, Sandhust, October, 1852, in the same hole as the nugget presented to the Queen, one weighing 573 oz., and valued at $10,500; near Native Youth, Ballarat, at a depth of 9 feet, the Nil Desperandum, November, 1857 54 oz; at Blackman's Lead, Maryborough, January,

1858, 6 feet below the surface, 537 oz.. 5 dwt. ; at Yandoit, Castlemaine, October, 1860, at a depth of 16 feet, 384 oz. ; at Sandhust, in 1854, 338 oz. 18 dwt. ; at the Mclntyre diggings, September, 1858, 6 feet below the surface, 300 oz. ; at Kingower, in 1854, 282 oz. 2 dwt. ; in April, 1861, 281^ oz. ; and in August, 1861, in shallow sinking, 300 oz. ; at Sandhurst, in 1852, 288 oz. ; at Jones's Creek, 1856, 281 oz. ; at Daisy Hill, the same year, 275 oz. 3 dwt. 18 gr. ; at Golden Point, Fryer's Creek, (no date given), 264 oz. ; at Brown's diggings, October 23, 1856, 263 oz. 8 dwt. ; at Kingower, May, 1856, within four feet of the surface, 260 oz. ; at Mount Korong, May, 1856, at a depth of 18 inches, 235 oz. 13 dwt. valued at $5,000; at Yandoit, 1860, within 20 feet of the surface, 240 oz. ; at White Hills, Maryborough, 1856, at a depth of 12 feet, 236 oz. ; at Mount Korong, August, 1854, 192 oz. ; at Bryant's Ranges, 12 miles from Castlemaine, in 1854, 183 oz. 8 dwt. 12 gr. ; at Tarrangower, May, 1855, 180 oz. ; at Maryborough, 1854, 178 oz. 16 dwt. ; at Evans' Gully, 1861, 153^ oz. ; at Jones Creek, Mount Moliagul, 1855, one of 145 oz. 5 dwt. and another 140 oz. ; at Creswick Creek, May, 1860, 144 oz. ; at Jim Crow, September, 1858, 136 oz. ; at Mount Korong, 4^ feet from the surface, 132 oz. 9 dwt. ; at Dunolly, 1854, no oz. 9 dwt. ; at Kingower, September, 1861, 106 oz. 16 dwt. and looj oz. ; at Mount Moliagul, November, 1857, 104 oz. 8 dwt., valued at $2,000.

The largest gold nugget of which the world has any knowledge was found at Hill End, New South Wales, by Messrs. Byer and Haltman. It measured 4 feet 9 inches in length, 3 feet 3 inches in width, and averaged 4 inches in thickness. It sold for $148,000. At the time of finding it Messrs. Byer and Haltman had exhausted their capital and were practically living on charity. It is said that the discovery so unnerved one of the partners that he was unfit for work or business for a long period.  Often nuggets of peculiar shape are found. Some years ago a priest named Father Long found one formed like a sickle and weighing 100 pounds in West Australia. He called it the "Sacred and Golden Sickle," as it had been found as the result of a vision that came to a poor but devout parishioner. It was dug up by the priest, guided by the parishioner, from a depth of six feet, on the Kurnalpa road, a quarter of a mile from the nearest lake.

Continue on to:
Large Nuggets, Part I: North Carolina

Large Nuggets, Part II: California
Large Nuggets, Part III: Western US States
Large Nuggets, Part IV: Across the World
Large Nuggets, Part V: Australia

Return To:
All About Placer Gold Deposits

Above: Large Australian Gold Nugget



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