If you’ve read my 2004 NYT bestseller, THE BAMBOO CHEST, you’ll probably have gathered from that coming-of-age memoir about an 18-year-old on his first major photo assignment for the Associated Press, covering a hunt for Captain Kidd’s treasure off the coast of communist Vietnam, that I’m not particular to treasure hunting, what many who’ve not been on an adventure, or as I prefer to call them, “an event resulting from one or more ‘accidents’”. It’s a philosophy I picked upon my return from 11-months imprisonment on trumped up charges of spying for the CIA in 1983-1984. The historical character who most famously coined that philosophy on “adventures” in one of his books was none other than the man, who INDIANA JONES was fashioned after: Roy Chapman Andrews.What I’ve learned about treasure hunting and going after the gold is that the culture and environment draws a number of nuts, geniuses and scam artists.
It’s something I’ve become even more keen on as the world experiences a major gold rush in a number of places: Australia, New Zealand, Southeast, Asia, Africa, Central America, South America, Mexico, and of course, Canada and the United States. What with the oversaturation of TV shows such as GOLD RUSH, BERING SEA GOLD, it’s become hard to separate the flim from the flam and the solid information from the useless, nor that entertaining. Even GOLD FEVER which has always been a worthwhile show, amped it’s broadcast from a 30 min. show to a one-hour episode of added fluff.
As a resident of Alaska and having a number of the personalities on this slew of Alaska “reality” shows as neighbors, I’ve heard quite a few stories that are frankly a bit dismaying: salting of concentrates with gold taken from a prior dredging; $800,000-plus buy outs of rest of seasons contracts of show participants to stop a tell all book about who they slept with. With many reality TV show personalities drawing annual salaries from the productions companies running into the six-digits, where’s the incentive to get the gold?!
My own introduction to this gold fever that has taken the world came about as an invitation as a camp cook and extra miner on what was supposed to be a mining operation, but turned into useless bit of prospecting, and more adventuring than actual mining. There’ll be more on that in later articles: knowing when and how to prospect and when and how to mine. There is a solid group of gold miners and prospectors in this country make a solid living day-to-day, treasure their favorite activity as a proper money-making business, getting gold from the land without crazy through the roof start-up costs, as an example, an USAF retiree who makes more in a two week vacation going through abandoned mine tailings with a metal detector than he gets in a year off his retirement check.
Aside from the obvious, such as how poorly the economy has been doing lately, especially for those who understand why a good day on Wall Street means nothing to the average American citizen, or the world at large, in the way it used to; and currency is not money. Currency value is based on the whims of banks and government, and is only supported by the trust given it by the people. Money, on the other hand, retains its value: gold, silver and platinum—a gold Buffalo, whose currency value is $50, was trading at $1,297 today. It’s one 1.001 Troy ounces: market price are traded in Troy ounces.
It’s no wonder that during every political and economic upheaval people have done everything they could to own gold. When I was photographing the refugees escaping Vietnam during the late 1980s, they all escaped with gold coin, ingots, gold jewelry and even miner’s buttons they’d hidden from the communists.
In the US, during the start of the regime of FDR, major uproar occurred when he ordered the confiscation of privately held gold (yes, purchased at a price, but not what it was worth—refusal meant major fines and imprisonment), and made it illegal for the private citizen to own gold, except for dentists and others who used gold for their professions, and even then in small quantities. It only affected those in the poor and middle class who weren’t able to ship their gold to banks in Europe. The original meaning of “sniping” in the gold prospecting community came into use at this time.
Sniping, in the traditional sense and its contemporary definition, will be the subject of many upcoming articles with which to aid you in your first steps: the original definition described hiding a pan, a small geologist’s pick, tweezers and a medicine bottle, and perhaps a climbing rope, into a daypack and heading out into the hills. Slung over their shoulder might be a rifle, shotgun or fishing rod to create the ruse of doing something else than gold prospecting and mining.
To some this might be dated, but in a time when the economy is in the tank, the “free press” is in the pocket of the governments and a sounding board for false and fudged statements about what’s really happening, while smalls independent businesses are being sucked dry to feed bigger and bigger government, turning what I call THE PYRAMID OF WEALTH on its head, where government has gotten so large it can only survive as long as the ever-shrinking free market can support it with its taxes; being able to go out into the wilds, get your own gold and not letting the whole world know how much you’ve got might once again could mean what it meant back in the 1930s: whether you lived or starved…
The key is to get proper knowledge about gold, prospecting for it and mining it from the earth. And I’m totally coming from the point of a conservationist, doing so in a non-heavily impacting manner on the environment. Contrary to what you may have gathered from some of these shows: you don’t need a $200,000 or more, to make as much gold mining that you could surpass your present income in an office job. It’s not for everyone.
It’s hard work. You do have an element of luck. But, as you’ve probably gotten to know me through my writing; though there’s always “dumb luck”, consistent good luck is the result of thorough research, proper planning, and a plan put into action, with adjustments made to reach a goal.
What you’ll learn from upcoming interviews from those I consider to have “got it together” those who are squared away with their knowledge, people like Mike Pung, co-owner and co-developer of the Gold Cube and Todd Osborn, owner and developer of the Bazooka Gold Trap, along a with a number of gold prospecting and mining product manufacturers and developers is that these people are miners and prospectors first, who got a fire to improve what is out there and make a tool that does what it’s supposed to do: make your better at what you’re trying to do!
Oh, and you’ll learn how to do much better than my introduction to gold mining in the Interior of Alaska: you’ll learn that you don’t have to come up to Alaska to find your gold, and you’ll definitely learn how to get much more gold than what was got by the investors on that operation, $200,000, almost six months of work that included shuttling equipment to a remote claim only visited by float plane or helicopter: half an ounce…as Jimmy Horton used to sing, “North to Alaska…the Gold Rush is On!” Well on TV it is, but you don’t have to go to Alaska, since just about every part of the world has gold (only 10-percent of it has supposedly been recovered since the beginning of time): the key is to get it in amounts worth the effort and expense…come on back for how to do just that in the upcoming articles, and Cork’s Outdoors TV/radio shows!