By Dave McCracken

Talking about putting yourself way out there beyond where you should not be!

Dave Mack

Actually, I had no business diving in that cave with the equipment I that was using. The gear was old and used heavily in my dredging program. The breathing regulator leaked out of the side. The mouth piece rubber was no longer being held on by a band or plastic wire tie. My underwater flashlight was not working well. It would flicker on and off again, making it necessary to bang it on something to get it to come back on. I simply did not think the whole thing through! I have been diving all my life, and I should have known better. But I do have an excuse, it was treasure fever that was clouding my judgment, and I had it bad.

It all started when an acquaintance of ours told us about the treasure in Hall City Cave. My brother Brian and I had been dredging in a very rich pay-streak, three to four ounces of beautiful gold every day with a six inch dredge in the middle of the cold winter months. We were only dredging about four hours a day. The gold was just pouring in. Then a big storm came in which knocked us out of the water for about a week. That is when the old man told us about the treasure which the Indians hid in the cave.


Mark Keene and Ivan Jackovich looking for
treasure in the same cave a few years later

As the story goes, some time during the late 1800’s a few renegade Indians attacked and killed the miners of a small hydraulic mining operation near the town of Hayfork, in Trinity County, in northern California. While the mining operation might have been small, they were doing very well. The Indians apparently stole about one hundred pounds of mostly nugget-gold from the dead miners.

Since the Indians were on foot, and also carrying a very heavy load, it did not take long for the posse to catch up with them. In fact, as a last ditch effort to get away, the Indians stashed the gold somewhere so they could move faster. When the posse caught up with the Indians, only the Indians knew where the gold was. The men in the posse told the Indians that they would not be hung for their crimes if they would tell where they hid the gold. The Indians told the posse that they had hidden the gold in Hall City Cave. Then they were promptly hung right on the spot.

As it turns out, Hall City Cave has a deep, submerged cavern at the back of the cave. The cavern is said to be bottomless, because no one apparently has ever been able to get to the bottom. And of course, not the posse, or anyone else, ever found the gold. Did the Indians hide the gold somewhere in the cave? Did they just dump it into the bottomless cavern to get rid of it? Did they have some secret hiding place in the cave, perhaps underwater? Or did they hide the gold somewhere else?

As the story goes, during more recent years, there have been several deaths in the cave. These were drownings, as scuba divers have tried unsuccessfully to recover the hidden gold nuggets. There is a strong legend that powerful Indian spirits remain in the cave to guard the treasure, to scare away or kill anyone trying to recover it. The old man told us the story. He believed that if anyone could recover the gold, it was us; because of our superior skill, our experience, and our integrity. Especially our integrity, since the old man wanted an equal third of the treasure if we found it. He had the information and the maps; we were to provide the necessary equipment and do the actual diving part of the operation. “What the heck,” we decided, we were not doing anything else productive; just watching the rain and waiting for the river to slow down and clear up.

The old man drove; and other than a few logs crossing the seldom-used old logging dirt roads, and a little snow, we got to the cave with little trouble. It only took about an hour to pack the diving gear up the semi-steep hill to the cave. The cave itself was not very large. It was about seven feet tall in places, ten or fifteen feet in others. Most of the cave was wide enough to walk through, except one spot where it was necessary to squeeze through sideways. The cave did not extend very deep into the mountain, only about forty or fifty feet. The water-filled pool at the back of the cave looked very deep as we shined our flashlights into the water.

The cave was dark and gloomy. Menacing spirits were dancing in the shadows as we shined our flashlights around the cave while moving the equipment into place. The small area of the cave succeeded in giving us a closed-in feeling. Something about the atmosphere inside the cave was very wrong. We all had the same feeling that what we were doing was not right, like we were trying to steal something that did not properly belong to us. There was an unmistakable feeling of menacing gloom inside the cave, the feeling like we were in big trouble and that we should get out. All of us felt the gloom!

In fact, the feeling was so strong, we went outside and had a short discussion, reaffirming our determination for being there; agreeing that the gold was indeed ours if we were able to recover it; and also resolving that if disembodied beings were in fact making us feel so nervous, then it was all the more likely that the gold was hidden in this place. And, of course, it was also okay with the others because it was me that was going to do the diving. I was the most experienced.

The water in the back of the cave was crystal clear and ice cold. I chose earlier to use my dry-suit, and I took fifteen pounds of lead off my weight belt to make me less heavy in the water. In dredging, it is necessary to weight yourself heavily to the bottom of the river. In diving, especially cave diving, you want to achieve neutral buoyancy so you can swim up or down as you like. My problem was that my weights were in 15-pound increments.

To take another 15 pounds off would make me too light. To leave it on made me sink rather quickly. It was a choice I had to make. How easy it is to simply make a decision. Then you are stuck with the consequences! I chose to go heavy. I figured it would be better to not have to fight my way down into the deep hole against positive buoyancy.

The pool of water at the back of the cave was the surface of what turned out to be a round shaft which extended deep down into the earth at almost a vertical angle. The shaft looked to be around six feet in diameter. Shining my flashlight down, I could tell that it was deep. I could also see what appeared to be additional chambers which extended off the top of the main shaft. “Perhaps this was an old mine?” No, I remember thinking, there were no tailings or waste dumps outside the cave. “It must be limestone,” I thought, remembering the limestone caves near Del Loma which the Indians used to conduct raids from the small town of Denny up on the New River, through 20 miles of underground connected caverns. “This underwater cave could be bottomless,” I thought.

Rather than wear the scuba tank on the first dive, I felt it would be safer to use the fifty-foot airline that I had brought along. I attached one end of the airline to my scuba tank, which was to stay at the surface. The other end attached to my breathing regulator, which went into my mouth. This way, I could do a preliminary exploration without having to worry about getting caught up in tight corners with a bulky scuba tank on my back. The airline also gave me a direct link to the surface. Rope does not generally work very well for this sort of thing underwater, because it has a tendency to get tangled around vital things.

I just wanted to do a preliminary look around without getting too far away from the surface; which in this case, was going to be no more than fifty feet. Then I could think about putting the tank on my back and venturing further into the darkness. As it turned out in the end, this was a decision I would be glad I made.

We only had one scuba tank; and since my brother was not experienced using scuba equipment anyway, I had to settle for him acting as a tender holding a flashlight at the surface. Besides, I had the only underwater flashlight, so there was not very much he was going to do for me if I did get into trouble. It was pitch dark down there!

Of course, my flashlight started giving me trouble as soon as I started down into the main shaft. My depth gauge had just told me I was only fifteen feet into the hole when the light quit the first time. I stopped quietly in the darkness for a moment, listening, trying to get more comfortable in my surroundings. “What was that slight rumbling noise?” It was very light. Was it the echo of our own movements and noise in the cave, perhaps my air bubbles against the upper wall of the cave? No, it sounded too deep and far away for that. It almost sounded like the heavy beating of drums from far away. It was a very distant sound. I found myself looking into the darkness, trying to figure out if the sound was really there at all.

I tapped the light a few times along the side to bring it back to life and continued deeper into the shaft. As I descended, I passed several openings that extended upwards off the main shaft. “Good places to hide the gold, maybe,” I thought to myself as I went by them. When my depth gauge read 35 feet, I stopped and looked down the shaft. The water was perfectly clear. With the bright light, I could see well beyond the remaining fifteen feet that my airline was going to allow me. The shaft continued to extend at the same straight angle into the darkness, giving the perception of endlessness. The angle was so steep that if they threw it in this main shaft, the gold would not have stopped until it hit bottom. “No way to reach that without a scuba tank on my back,” I thought.

Looking up at that point, I noticed that there was a smaller shaft extending off the top of the main shaft. This one was only about 3 ½ feet in diameter.

“Better to check out the close quarters of these smaller, upper shafts without the tank on my back,” I decided, as I jumped up into the smaller opening above me. I was wearing my dredging boots; and because I was weighted slightly heavy, it was necessary to span the perimeter of the almost diagonal shaft and use my legs against the sides of the shaft to climb upward. While doing this, I managed somehow to keep the flashlight pointed in an upward direction. Looking up, all I could see was darkness. I was hoping to find the water’s surface and a hidden open chamber with a treasure of gold nuggets inside…

I climbed upward until I felt the familiar tugging of my airline, telling me that I had reached as far as it was going to allow me. At that point, while breathing in, I got a full mouth of water! Getting a mouth full of water can often happen when gold dredging in fast water. When your regulator is positioned just right (or wrong?) into a strong water current, the rubber exhaust valve will sometimes allow water to flow into the final stage of the regulator. This will give you a mouth full of water if you happen to be breathing in at the time.

This happens often to me, because I mostly dredge in fast water. My body just accepts it as a normal routine. I simply use whatever is left in my lungs to blow the water out of the exhaust ports. Then, I carefully take in my next breath. There is always a certain amount of undivided attention that goes with taking this next breath; because if it is more water, it is necessary to act quickly to avoid drowning! Almost always, though, I get nice clean air on the first intake after blowing the water out of the regulator. That’s why it was such a surprising shock to me in that cave when I got a second mouth full of water!

Now I had no air in my lungs at all, and I whipped the flashlight around just in time to see the regulator sink out of sight into the darkness. I still had the rubber mouthpiece in my mouth. Pulling on the airline the way I did must have made the rubber mouthpiece slip off the regulator. How could I be so stupid to dive without fixing it first? The realization of my position was terrifying. My body was screaming for air, and I was a long way from getting any. “Do I go down 15 feet to the main shaft and then climb another 35 feet to the surface? I don’t think I can possibly make it that far! Or, do I go towards the surface in the small shaft in hopes of finding air up there?” These were my only two choices.

I don’t even remember turning around in the cave. Going down was not physically difficult because I was weighted heavy. But as I went deeper into the cave, the increased pressure of the greater depth compressed my lungs even further, making my body turn into a panicked, psychotic animal. My body was screaming to turn around and go back up the small shaft, to do anything, anything to get air!

Have you ever had anyone hold your head underwater, or hold you down while blocking your nose and mouth from taking in air? If you have, then you have some idea of what I was going through. It took every bit of discipline I could master to reach the bottom of the small shaft.

The momentum, and the extra lead on my belt caused me to slip even further down into the main shaft. My lungs were a vacuum; it felt like they were squeezed flat. This feeling and the panic were one and the same. There was no discipline left. Just a mad scramble to get up the shaft. It was difficult. The tunnel was almost straight up, and I was wondering if I might have made a mistake and gotten into the wrong shaft!

The extra lead on my belt was pulling me back down. My feet were slipping on the smooth rock surface, and there were no hand holds. I was making progress, but it was painfully slow. I found myself watching the action in slow motion from outside the body. Inch by inch the body was moving, but I was not going to make it in time. The panic and desperation were kind of a far off feeling now. And then the flashlight flicked off!

It was the sound of drums after all, and they were louder now, much louder, all around me, in fact. The monotones, rhythmic pounding of the drums had an alluring, hypnotic effect upon me. It was a wonderful feeling to be a part of the ceremony. No, I was the ceremony! This was not something that was foreign to me or something that came from the outside. It was something I have always had with me and chose not to look at. The distant feeling of enthusiasm, and a feeling of greatness took over as I watched my fellow warrior-brothers dancing and leaping with wondrous strength, glory and bravery around the fire. They were singing “Hey Yey Yey Yey, Hey Yey Yey Yey,” to the beat of the drum. And I realized with exhilaration that this was a place where effort, emotion and thought all came together as one; a place which transcends time. This was my place, and the realization brought about the enthusiasm to jump in and give myself completely to the eternal dance around the fire…

“The light went out.” The voice from another world said.
“What?” said another voice.
“He was just about to surface and I think he lost his light again,” said the strangely familiar voice, with obvious concern.
“Huh?” I remember asking myself. “What is this?” And the sudden realization of the sadness this would cause to my brother, and to my family and close friends. “Not this way” I told myself; and looking up, I realized that it was not a fire I was looking at. It was my brother’s flashlight at the surface, just above me.

It was not very hard to scramble up the last few feet to the surface. I came out of the water like a madman, gasping for air. The first breath was vastly painful, the second not so bad. I was left the rest of that day, and the next, with mixed emotions; the feeling that I was simply happy to be alive, and also the feeling that I had been robbed of something important. “You O.K. Bro?”, asked my brother.

Yeah, I was going to be O.K. I spent the next hour or so diving in the shallow parts of the cave. This was not the first time I have come close to drowning, or the second for that matter. I prefer to try and stay in the near vicinity until the shock wears off. Kind of like getting back on the horse again immediately after it has thrown you, I guess.

And the treasure? It is probably still there! You can have it if you can get it! I know now that it certainly does not belong to me, if only for the reason that I am not going back after it. I will get my nuggets the hard way; I’ll stick to gold dredging!

 

 

By Dave McCracken

Finding wild adventure, wonderful new friends, and riches in gold inside one of the most remote locations on the planet!

Dave Mack

 

This story is dedicated to my long-time, trusted friend, Mark Chestnut. He and I teamed up to perform a preliminary assessment of the gold dredging potential in the deepest remote jungles of Borneo, Indonesia. The ultimate success of this mission was largely the result of Mark’s professionalism and dedication to getting the work done under some very difficult conditions.

On his own, Mark led sampling expeditions with his team of Dyak helpers for days at a time into places where I am entirely certain that no outsider has ever been before, living under fly camps with the natives, eating the food they prepared from the jungle, running down through narrow gorges in long boats where the ride was so violent, that all of the boat paddles were broken along the way. I am very careful who I take along with me on these projects. Those that go must be of the highest caliber. Not only would I take Mark with me anywhere, but I would be comfortable in sending him to manage a project. There are only a few people I have worked with in our industry that I would trust with that responsibility.

Indonesia’s 13,677 islands stretch across 3,000 miles of ocean. Only around 6,000 of these islands have been named, and only 900 of those have been permanently settled. The principal islands of Indonesia are Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo).

Three-quarters of the island of Borneo is called Kalimantan, and is part of Indonesia. The northeastern part of the island is owned by Malaysia.

Throughout history, Borneo, which is the world’s third largest island, has been a mythical location of indescribable riches and unfathomable mystery. Early explorers and traders sailed the pirate-infested waters of Indonesia and Borneo for many centuries, trading for prized jungle products, diamonds and gold, but generally staying clear of the forbidden unknown interior, which was known to be prowled by savage headhunters and cannibals.

The natives of Borneo, known as Dyaks, believed that the power of any individual was contained in his head. To cut the head off, and to possess it, was therefore to possess that individual’s power. The power of a head diminished over time, making it necessary to obtain new, additional heads; the more heads, the more power. While most often, Dyak tribes battled against each other, any outsider was also fair game.

Usually, head-hunting raids were well-organized ventures led by a supreme commander, in which hundreds of men would participate. The main weapon was a mandau (machete), which was made by Dyak blacksmiths, working with native ores and primitive forges. Early explorers reported these machetes held an edge capable of slicing a musket barrel in half! Shields were made of ironwood, following the longitudinal grain, so an enemy’s mandau would become wedged deeply enough to become lodged and pulled out of his grasp.

After a war party was fully organized, a Dyak medicine man would perform a ceremony to weigh and balance the different omens. If all was in order, the war party would usually travel by native long boat to a distance which was several hours on foot from the enemy village. Sometimes, the enemy would be pre-warned by their own hunting parties; and they themselves would mount an ambush on the raiding war party. In this case, the ambush was usually begun by firing poison darts onto the unsuspecting enemy with blowguns, and then hand-to-hand combat with spears and mandaus.

Captured women and children from a village were forced into slavery, and the village was looted of its valuables, especially traded goods from China and India. A celebration always followed a successful head-hunting raid. Those who brought back heads were heroes.

Head-hunting was practiced widely throughout the interior of Borneo up until the Second World War. Now, it is a thing of the past.

Because of the impassable mountains and rivers, much of the interior of Borneo is not accessible by automobile. Access to a portion of the interior can be accomplished by riverboat, but waterfalls and severe rapids prevent deeper penetration. Access to the most remote locations generally is accomplished by the use of helicopters. There are some landing strips in the interior. Small planes can be chartered, but quickly changing weather conditions can make even this type of access unpredictable.

Our mining venture was into one of the most remote and least-explored sections of Borneo’s interior. Going in by helicopter, we crossed over hundreds of miles of impenetrable jungle. There were mountains, having sheer cliffs hundreds of feet in height, extending for miles. We crossed over hundreds of rivers, many which were raging white-water. I remember hoping, as I always do when traveling by helicopter, that we would not crash. Because if I managed to survive the crash, I was gauging the magnitude of the effort it would take to return to civilization. It would be next to impossible!

The reason we were in Borneo was to perform a preliminary evaluation to gauge the potential success of a production gold dredging operation. Some base camps had been already built in the area by the company that hired us; some dredges were already on site; and the local natives were using the dredges when we arrived. We spent 30 days in the jungle, living and working with the native miners, learning their way of life and survival in the jungle.

The natives involved on our project were from two different villages. They were all very friendly and helpful. All were in excellent physical condition and used to hard physical work. Most were already familiar with basic gold mining techniques, since they have been mining gold by primitive methods for many generations.

Generally, no matter what else they wear for clothes, the natives wear nothing on their feet. Often, all the men wear is a pair of underpants. On one occasion, I went on a nine-hour prospecting/hunting expedition, where the terrain was so slippery and steep, most of the climbing was done with our arms. We scaled sheer cliffs with narrow, slippery walkways, where the bedrock was so sharp it cut into the soles of my jungle boots. The clay-like ground was so slippery, it was like walking on ice during most of the hike. I like to think that I personally am in pretty good shape. The pace was very fast, but was only a third of their normal speed. They had to slow down to allow us to keep up. I almost wore out a good set of authentic military jungle boots, and I had blisters on my own feet long before the expedition was finished. The natives were all barefooted, and not one had a cut or a bruise at the end of the day!

You have to be careful where you stick your hands at the bottom of tropical rivers!

The native men in the jungles of Borneo have a simple, adventuresome life–the kind that every little boy dreams of in America. Their responsibilities consist of hunting, fishing, finding gold and raising their families. For lack of any exterior form of entertainment, the family unit is very close there. These people create their own entertainment, excitement and adventure.

We found that while they were all very strong and helpful, they were also always fun to be around. Operating gold dredges was a new adventure for most of them, and they were having a good time learning how to do it.

The natives also have a high level of self-preservation, probably because their lifestyle is so closely connected to the basics of survival. On one occasion, after we had shut down a production dredge, one of the divers was bumped off the dredge into fast, deep water wearing a full vest of weights and no air. He was connected to a 100-foot airline. The airline was wrapped around something under the dredge, so no one could get at it. We all stood there and watched while this native pulled himself 100 feet up-stream, underwater, against a strong current without ever coming to the surface. We felt him frantically tugging one pull at a time. It never occurred to anyone that he might drown. When he reached the dredge, the look of agony disappeared into an uproar of laughter as he took his first breath. After that, we all used the same signal of frantically thrashing for air every time we wanted to communicate the danger in dredging a particularly difficult location. We always laughed when using the signal.

On one expedition, it was necessary for our guides to cut down a large hardwood tree to replace most of the paddles we needed to continue our journey.

The natives are also very adept with the use of a chainsaw. They are able to cut down a tree and slice straight boards out, without the use of any guides whatsoever. Compared to other jungle expeditions I have been on, we lived in luxurious base camps, with showers, sleeping quarters, meeting areas, dining areas–all on stilts ten feet off the ground. The base camps were clean, dry and comfortable–put together from lumber sliced out of trees solely from the use of a chainsaw. The long boats we were using also were made from the same lumber.

Because of the steep, rough terrain in the Borneo jungle, almost all travel is done by boat on the intricate river system. Consequently, all of the native men are skilled in the handling of their keting tings (native long boats). These boats are usually around 30 feet long and about 3 1/2 feet wide. These days, they are powered by 4-stroke engines, 8 and 10 horsepower Yamahas were being used in our area of operation. A long shaft mechanism is connected to the engine with a propeller on the end. The boat operator is able to manipulate the long shaft and propeller around like a rudder, but is also able to control how deep the propeller extends into the water. In this way, the keting tings can be maneuvered through
We went down through rapids which, as we approached, I thought the natives were just playing a trick, with a plan to turn around at the very last minute. Rapids with waves nearly 4 feet higher than the gunwales of the boat on both sides. And then, afterwards, we would come right back up through these rapids. At first, I thought this was reckless and chancy. Later, I realized it was routine. In thirty days, we never saw a single boat get into trouble.water only inches deep, even when transporting 1500 pounds or more of personnel, equipment or supplies.

It did not take long for me to realize the long shaft mechanism is the most effective means developed to propel long boats on shallow rivers. These long shaft propulsion systems are used all throughout Asia.

On one particular prospecting trip into the headwaters of a river, we rode these boats down through whitewater canyons so narrow that the sides and bottoms of the long boats were scraping the sides of the canyon on both sides–and we were going faster than a roller-coaster ride. What was most amazing to us, was that somehow, the natives were able to get the long boats up through those canyons! We were personally dropped in at the top by helicopter.

The operation supplied us with bottled water to drink, rice to eat, and the other basics which we needed. The natives had gardens and supplied us with fresh vegetables. There was a hunting team which supplied us with fresh wild boar and deer meat on a daily basis, and fresh fish from the river. Native cooks prepared the food for us, and we could not have found better food in most of the restaurants in Indonesia or elsewhere.

Notice the slash across the pig’s head?

Hunters use dogs to track down wild game–usually the babi hutan (wild boars). Often, a hunter will go out alone with a single dog. The dog catches the scent of a boar and starts barking. When the dog catches up with the boar, the boar will turn on the dog and stand there to defend itself. Meanwhile, the native hunter catches up and will either attack the boar with his spear; or more often, the boar will attack the hunter. When the boar attacks, the hunter sidesteps at the last second, and slashes the backside of the boar’s head with his mandau in a single downward stroke. This is kind of a ritual, like bull fighting in Mexico. The hunters take pride in returning with wild boars having the familiar slash on the back of the head. Most boars that were brought in were killed in this manner. Some hunters brought in two and three boars on a single day to feed the whole crew.

They also brought in payau (deer)–sometimes killed with a spear, and sometimes brought in alive. The natives and their dogs have a method of running down a deer alive, so it can be preserved until the meat is needed.

The natives also hunt bears; but this is usually accomplished also with the use of their blow guns. They weaken the bear with poison darts and go in for the final kill with a spear.

My earlier experiences in remote jungles always involved animal life which was dangerous to us while dredging in the river. I expected no less in Borneo. However, while we did see some very large buaya (alligators), the natives assured us that they have never been known to attack a man. Apparently, they like their meat dead and rotten.

The main river was actually pretty large in size!

During our prospecting, the natives did show us one specific area where the water runs muddy all the time–even when the water is running clear just upriver. The natives explained that the muddy water was either being stirred up by dragons or alligators. Needless to say, we did not bother to sample in that location.

The natives did tell us to be careful of the kujut (huge catfish) at the bottom of the rivers. While we did not see any underwater, native fishermen did catch one catfish which weighed around 60 pounds. It was large enough, and had big enough teeth, to take a man’s hand away. The natives said this was a small fish! Apparently, on the larger rivers, the natives have trouble with losing their dogs to these catfish. Some villages use full-grown live ducks as bait to catch these big catfish. They told us there has never been an occasion where a full-grown man has been attacked and eaten by a catfish. This, however, didn’t make us feel all that much safer while underwater.

We set up fly camps alongside the river when we prospected distant areas from the base camp.

Actually, as far as wildlife goes, it was the pacer (ground leeches) that had most of our attention. Luckily, there were no leeches in the river! But, if you needed to go up on the river banks, or if you were going to take any kind of hike through the jungle, you were going to get leeches on you. They were everywhere! Some bushes had blood-sucking leeches on every leaf–on every branch!

The biggest problem with leeches is psychological. They are slimy, sleazy creatures. You just naturally want to get them off you as quickly as possible. When you try and brush a leech off with your hand, it then sticks to your hand like glue. When you use your other hand to get it off, it ends up on that hand. Meanwhile, there are two or three more sleazing up your legs–or maybe a dozen, depending upon where you are standing or walking. Leeches move pretty fast!

Leeches have a very strong sucker-mouth, which attaches to your skin and sucks the blood right out. It doesn’t take long. In fact, they can attach to the outside of a thin pair of pants, or on the outside of a T-shirt, or on the outside of a cotton sock, and suck the blood right through the garment. It is all pretty slimy business! The nice thing about these leeches is that they do not carry any disease.

When we started, I figured we had it together over the natives with our lightweight long-sleeve shirts, tucked into our thick Levis, which were tucked into our jungle boots. All most of the natives were wearing on the hikes was a pair of shorts or underpants! However, it soon became obvious that the natives could easily find and remove the leeches from their own bodies. Sometimes, we didn’t find a few of our leeches until we got back to camp. Generally, a leech will drop off you once it has had its fill of blood.

“Leeches do not hurt you. What’s a little blood? We found the best way to get them off was by scraping them off with the sharp blade of a knife.”

A small red mark on your skin is left where a leach has been sucking. It goes away after a few weeks. The natives told us leeches are used regularly to suck the infection from injuries in their native medicine.

Overall, the adverse animal conditions were very mild–compared to the crocodiles, piranha, electric eels, African Killer Bees, black flies, mosquitoes, and poisonous vipers we have encountered in similar jungle conditions in the Amazon and elsewhere. I was only bitten by one mosquito in 30 days! A few leeches are not a bad trade-off for not having to deal with truly dangerous critters.

Our guides and helpers were a good bunch of guys to have on the team.

We did have several very amusing experiences having to do with leeches. Where is the worst place a man can get a leech stuck onto him? One day, we were riding upriver in a keting ting. These long boats usually have one person operating the motor, and another person in the bow with a paddle to help keep the boat pointed in the right direction, and to signal the boat driver to watch out for submerged rocks and logs. We had just finished a short prospecting hike, and thought we had removed all the leeches from our bodies. It always seems, however, that no matter how thorough you are, a few more show up afterwards. We were going upstream through a boulder-ridden section of river, when the bow man jumped up and yanked his shorts down. Right there, in the worst place imaginable, was a leech hanging off the man. One of the other natives pulled out his machete to give him some help. Just at that time, the boat rammed into a submerged log, and the bow man flew overboard. We all just had to stop and laugh for the longest time before we could get going again. Needless to say, this was a subject we all laughed about right up until the time of our departure.

During our sampling operation, we spent a great deal of time traveling many, many miles around in the long boats. It was a great way to get a good look at the jungle and the wildlife. In many places, the trees grow out across the river from both sides to make a natural tunnel.

One day, we were traveling by boat along the river’s edge, when a large biawak (lizard several feet long, with sharp teeth and very fast) jumped off a tree limb directly into the boat in front of me. He would have landed on top of the native in front of me, but the native, ever alert, saw it coming. I saw it out of the comer of my eye, but thought it was just a branch falling out of the tree. The native jumped up just in time, and the lizard fell into the bottom of the boat between his bare feet. Then, yelling like a mad man, the native and lizard both danced around quickly, trying to get out of each other’s way. Finally, the lizard went over the side. All this, about three feet in front of me; and so fast, I didn’t have a chance to react! We all laughed so hard that we almost had to pull the boat over to the edge of the river.

One day, while prospecting, we came around a bend in the river, traveling by keting ting, and a million fruit bats took to the air. Known also as “flying foxes”, these are huge bats with wingspans of two to three feet. There were so many that it was like a dark cloud above us as we traveled beneath them on our way downriver.

Mark Chestnut poses for a photo with his sampling team after returning from a 5-day sampling project deep into another world where no outsider has ever gone before or since.

Some of the local natives also hunt a certain breed of monkey, not for the meat, but for a particular healing stone possessed by only one special monkey in each tribe. Apparently, these healing stones are in great demand by Chinese medicine men, and a very high price is paid for them, much more than the price of gold by weight.

According to the local natives, if a monkey becomes sick, the special monkey will pass the stone to the sick monkey until he or she is healed. The problem for the monkey hunters is in determining exactly which monkey is carrying the stone. A sumpit (blow gun) is used to fire a poisoned dart at the monkey. Blow guns are made of a single piece of ironwood at least two meters in length, with a straight hole bored through its center. The darts are made from bamboo, and are dipped in a deadly poison made from the sap of a Tajom tree mixed with the venom from a cobra.

We ran into a few monkey hunters during one of our expeditions. These men hunt for gold during the dry periods when the water is low in the rivers. They hunt for monkey stones during the rainy periods. We noticed immediately that the monkey hunters each had almost a full mouth of solid gold teeth. When I inquired about this, the natives told us the poison used on blow gun darts is so toxic, that just the vapors near the mouthpiece of a loaded blowgun will cause a person’s teeth to fall out after a period of time. Besides, solid gold teeth are fashionable in Borneo, similar to clean, white teeth in our culture.

I noticed that many of the natives had gold teeth. I never did find out exactly how gold teeth are fashioned and how dentistry is performed deep inside the Borneo jungle. Many of the older men and women have tattoos on their hands, legs and arms. We were told the tattoos are made with tiny metal needles dipped in a particular tree sap, or in charcoal, leaving permanent black marks.

The predominant religion in the area of our operation was Christianity. The natives preferred to take Sunday off to conduct their own religious services. This was added to by other, more ancient rituals and customs. For example, after we had arrived and began our dredging activities, the rains started picking up. One of the natives had a dream that the local jungle guardian spirits were angry because of the loud noise of the engines brought in by the foreigners (us). Many of the natives worried over this dream, considering it might be a bad omen. Word reached the main village many hours up river. Within a few days, a whole delegation came down to our base camp led by the village chief.

The following day, they put on a ceremony along the edge of the river, while sacrificing the heads of two chickens to appease the jungle spirits. All of the local natives showed up to participate. All work was cancelled for the day. The following day, the weather cleared up, and operation conditions were improved until the time of our departure. Coincidence? The local natives didn’t believe so. Me? I choose to go along with the local customs of the natives of any area which is providing the hospitality. Who am I to challenge the beliefs of others? The natives believe Borneo is an old land, and that old spirits still linger around to help control the weather and certain events to protect the animals and local people. We found that different villages had this same belief, but had their own rituals for making peace with the spirits.

We had fried chicken for dinner on the night of the ritual. Uhm uhm good!

The local miners are recovering gold from the rivers by panning with their Tulangs (gold pans). These are similar to the Sarukas used in South America. They also use their keting ting motors to wash the streambed material from bedrock, so the flakes and nuggets can be exposed and removed from the bedrock cracks and traps. Some of the natives were using hoes underwater to rake gravel off the bedrock. They would then dive down using a facemask to recover gold from the bedrock traps. Sometimes they hit hot spots and do quite well.

One native told us he recovered over four kilograms (around ten pounds) of gold, mostly nuggets, in several months of hard work by primitive methods. But they don’t really need to recover a lot of gold. The jungle provides for most of their needs. Their villages also produce woven baskets and other products from the jungle which are exported to the outside world. A little gold allows for extra luxury items which improve their standard of living.

Long Shaft System

Local miners are doing very well by blowing gravel off the bedrock using their long-shaft propulsion systems!

I think the thing that impressed me most during the entire expedition was the friendliness of the people. Children ran out and waved at us when we went past their villages by long boat. Adults invited us to stay with them in their homes. The Chief of one village gave me his own favorite blowgun, one which he had personally used for the past 12 years.

Dyak sampling team

The natives were excited to dredge with us, because it was explained to them that we were “professionals, gold prospectors from the outside world.” They pretty-much had taught themselves to dredge from scratch during the two months prior to our arrival. Except for when the water was muddy, they would insist on going down to help us. They wanted to participate also in the muddy water, but we insisted that it was too dangerous, because someone might get hit in the head with a rock.

Just like during any other activity, these natives dredge barefooted. Even the individuals who were wearing wetsuits wore nothing on their feet!

Instead of lead weight belts, they were wearing jacket-like vests, tied together with fishing line, with big pockets. River rocks were stuffed into the pockets to weigh down the diver. It seemed to work alright for them, but I’ll stick to my lead weight belt and steel-tipped rubber boots! Of course, we had to be very careful to avoid throwing rocks on unprotected toes.

And we found gold; lots of it. We intend to return to Borneo with a larger sampling team and do a much more involved sampling program. If this project goes well, the company is interested in our bringing over an even larger team of experienced dredgers to work on a gold- sharing venture.

  

There is a lot of gold in East Kalimantan (Borneo). In the deep jungle, because of a rather steep gradient, the gravel inside most rivers I observed was generally very shallow to bedrock. Just like in California, some rivers had lots of fine gold, and some had jewelry gold–two ounce-sized nuggets, and much larger, are not uncommon. In the areas we sampled, the smaller-sized tributaries all seemed to carry a steady line of nugget and jewelry-sized gold, usually under a foot or two of hard-packed streambed material. Huge sections of exposed rough and cracked bedrock are common all along the rivers and creeks, which have never been prospected with a metal detector. We found gold lying all over some exposed rough bedrock in one area we were sampling. And we found deposits in the main river which could potentially yield pounds of gold or more per day to a production-dredging team. Because of the complete lack of modern suction dredging equipment during the past, many river channels are completely virgin of earlier mining activity and the opportunity is extraordinary.

Because of the inaccessibility of the gold bearing areas, Borneo is probably not a good place for the casual, small-scale dredge operator. However, with the proper infrastructure set up (expensive), Borneo could be a modern gold dredger’s dream come true!

One of the consultants on this project told me he first went to East Kalimantan about nine years ago, He said he has known many people who have never been able to get it out of their system, He himself pretty-much has lived there ever since. He told me “once you drink from the waters of East Kalimantan, you will always need to return again.” There is something about the area, the natives, the lifestyle–measured against the fast-paced rat race of our own lifestyle that makes one wonder… Whether it is because of the adventure, the kindness of the natives, the gold nuggets and great mining opportunities, or the water—or maybe a little of each of these things, I know that I personally will be going back!

 

 

 

 

By Dave McCracken

“Finding gold, and a little too much adventure, in the deep jungle…”

Dave Mack

 

This story is dedicated to one of the best and most loyal friends I have ever had, Eric Bosch. Eric and I started our dredging careers at about the same time. We formed a close, working partnership early on, which we pursued for many years together, from California, Canada and Alaska to the deep jungles of Borneo. Our fantastic adventures together were many and will always be cherished. I’m glad we survived them! Eric played an important roll in helping to start The New 49’ers, and he managed our commercial underwater mining projects and training programs for a number of years. He is the best and strongest gold dredger I have ever had the honor to work with. The best and richest pay-streaks I ever helped recover were always with Eric at my side, often while he was operating the suction nozzle when the gold was first discovered. Eric and his family are the most kind-hearted and dependable people I have ever known. There is no bottom to the amount of enthusiasm they will invest into any program they get involved with. It has truly been one of he greatest honors of my lifetime to share adventures with them.

I had a premonition that something was going to go wrong on this hunting trip. I had hunted wild boar with the Dyak natives before; but they had always killed the boar before I caught up. These Dyaks are extremely fast in the jungle with their bare feet. I could keep up with them for awhile. But when they started chasing their hunting dogs at a full run, almost straight up and down the sides of steep mountains, I was worried about having an accident and hurting myself. I did not want to take the risk of suffering the embarrassment of having the natives carry me four hours out of the jungle, rather than the meat that we came for. Now I was resting at the bottom of a narrow creek bed. All of the natives had run off.

The sound of the dogs was getting louder; they were herding the pack of wild boars directly down into my location!

It all started several years ago when a mining company hired one of my teammates and I to do a preliminary dredge sampling evaluation on some mining concessions they own in East Kalimantan (Borneo). We spent 30 days on that project and everything went perfect. During our time on the concessions, we found rich gold deposits and encouraged the company to follow up with another more extensive sampling project. The company which owns the concessions was more interested in lode mine development, so the dredging potential sat idle for several years. Finally, the company decided to allow a second party to come in as a partner to fund the dredging exploration and development. This was how we got back to Borneo.

  

Eric Bosch and the leader of a Dyak sampling team working on a sampling dredge.

The sampling project was going fine. However, since the Dyak natives have a standing policy to not work on Sundays, and there was nothing else productive to do with our project, I asked if they would take me with them on today’s hunting expedition. Of course, they agreed. The problem was in keeping up with them. They grew up in this hot, humid, thick jungle, steep-terrain environment. Keeping up took all my determination. I had expended a great deal of effort to create a mutually respectful relationship with these natives. I wasn’t going to lose it now by making them slow down or turn back.

We had hiked three and a half hours up a narrow creek bed without any sign of deer, bear or wild boar. The dogs work the side hills. If they locate a deer, they run it down and hamstring it. If they find a bear, they chase it down, surround it, and hold it there until the Dyaks catch up. The natives then assault the bear and kill it with spears. If the dogs get onto the scent of wild boar, they herd the pigs down to the creek bed and drive them at the hunters. As the pigs attack the hunters, the hunters dispatch the pigs either with spears or machetes.

“Never run away,” one of the hunters told me, “When the pigs come down on you, your only chance, your only chance, is to kill the pig. It is not difficult if you maintain a focused determinism. Never throw the spear; never even let it out of your hands. Never turn and run. Wait until the last moment when the pig is in range. Aim carefully for the vital spot just behind the front shoulder. You only have one chance. Otherwise, the pig will hurt you–sometimes very badly,”

I found myself remembering the hunter’s words as the frenzied sounds of the dogs grew progressively louder. They were coming my way fast. I could hear them running down the sides of the hills just above me. I had not planned on this. I held the spear a little more firmly in my hands, pointed in the direction in which they were coming. And I kept wondering, “What do I do if there is more than one pig coming at me?

What the heck was I doing here at this very moment? Was this stupid, or what? You know that feeling? It is complete regret of the present situation! That was the way I was feeling.

The abundant kindness and hospitality of our Dyak guides made it very easy for us to form lasting friendships.

Everything on the sampling project was going as planed. The company built huge, comfortable, fully-outfitted base camps in the jungle They even had satellite TV! Most preliminary jungle dredge evaluations I had done in the past were supported from fly camps. A fly camp usually consists of little more than a tarp suspended over a few branches constructed to keep most of the rain off us during the night–sometimes with a rough platform from freshly cut branches built off the ground. The natives don’t seem to mind the irregular sleeping surface of different sized branches. I prefer an air mattress–or the floorboards from a river boat. But this trip was luxury. We had cooks who created restaurant-quality meals. We had refrigerators and air conditioners. We had beds. There was not a mosquito alive inside that base camp! That was the problem; there wasn’t enough adventure.

Base camp had all the comforts of home!

I need a certain amount of adventure in my life to keep everything in balance. I have always been this way. While my life in California as a dredge miner for gold may hold more adventure than many people would be comfortable with, I have found that it is therapeutic for me to devote some time each winter doing mining projects outside of America. There is something all-encompassing about the jungle environment. A week or two in the jungle, and I find myself wondering if the other life in California is real–or something out of my imagination. Why is this? I think it is because the jungle environment requires all of your attention. The margin for error is very small. There is always some degree of danger. And even when there is little danger, the environment is completely different from the normal life-environment in California. This requires you (me) to focus all of your attention on the present. This releases you from all of the hundreds of other things and problems which normally occupy your attention. Most of your day-to-day normal worries are quickly forgotten in the jungle environment. This puts things back into their proper perspective. Later (as long as you survive the experience), you return home appreciative of the things that you have. For me, it is like a new lease on my normal life every time I return from one of these projects.

But there is such a thing as too much adventure. This is when dangerous conditions become so extreme that you are not sure if you are going to survive–or possibly crawl away with severe and lasting disabilities. Too much adventure brings out the feeling of terror and panic. I was feeling terror as I watched an 80-pound male pig round the bend in the creek bed just up in front of me. He was running for his life, the dogs just behind him. Just as he came into view he turned around and threw himself, snorting and squealing and biting at the dogs. Some dogs backed off, while others moved in on him from behind–as a team. The boar was no match for the pack of dogs. I found myself hoping, hoping, pleading with destiny, that the pig would be brought down by the dogs right there. But just as quickly as the boar turned on the dogs, he turned away and ran down towards me. Around 30 yards away, at a full run, he spotted me–an easy target–and he aimed himself directly at me, snarling, spitting and squealing in a killer rage.

My strongest inner voice was screaming at me to turn and run. I overrode that urge, held the spear tightly, pointed directly at the boar as he came at me…

He came fast and it was difficult to target the exact kill zone behind the shoulder. I felt like I might be better off just to make sure I hit him anywhere with the point. Then, at least, maybe I could hold him off me with the spear. As he came within range at a full run, I aimed the best I could and got him in the hindquarter. This caused him to scream bloody murder. I held him off me while he was goring at me with his tusks and snapping his jaws, trying to reach me, only inches away from my hands.

The dogs descended on the boar, biting him, snarling, in a frenzied attack; and I found myself more worried about being bitten by the dogs. Naturally, I backed off from the violence. In turn, the pig shook himself off the spear and hurled himself at me again. Only this time, in the confusion of backing off from the turmoil, I was in a retreat position and not able to hold the pig off. I was going to get it bad! I had never experienced such violent determination before. The pig was almost on me again as, backing up, I fell over a log onto my back and dropped the spear. I threw my arms over my head to keep from being bitten on the face or neck, expecting to get bit on the arm or the side. But it didn’t happen. Overcoming my fear, I looked up to see the pig only inches away, with the dogs having bitten into its hindquarters, holding the pig off of me.

Enough of this! My fear turned to anger and determined action. What was this lowly animal trying to take my life? I remember thinking, “Quit being a sissy, dude!” In an instant, I jumped to my feet, grabbed the spear, took aim to make sure I did not hurt any of the dogs; and with all my might, slammed the point of the spear down into the target kill zone of the pig. One last convulsive bite at the spear and the pig died. I remember thinking how easy it was to kill the pig when I finally just decided to do it.

Eric was back at camp separating the gold from our final sample results from the little remaining iron particles, so we could weigh and log accurate results and relate those back to the volume of streambed processed in each sample.

I stood there for awhile in a shocked daze, looking at the dead pig, a few of the dogs still biting at it. I had not noticed at first that the rest of the dogs had run off barking at something else. I found myself thinking how it would be to tell this story to my mining partner. Eric was at the base camp overseeing the final gold clean-ups for the previous week’s sampling results. Eric would appreciate the adventure and be sorry he didn’t take part. He likes to hunt even more than I do!

Eric and I had sampled several different concessions during this trip. The first area was a very remote location, requiring helicopter support of our operation. We decided that while the high-grade gold deposits were present, the cost of providing logistical support made it difficult to mount expanded sampling and production dredging operations.

Our Dyak helpers were always ready to jump in and try to do all the work.

  

Consequently, we found ourselves sampling a new group of concessions which were more easily and economically accessible by river boat. This new area was huge and showed excellent long-term potential. Fine gold seemed to be evenly dispersed throughout the gravels, hard-packed streambed strata and loose gravel alike. The fine-sized flakes of gold were present in every sample we took, from bank to bank in the river. We were looking hard at what kind of recovery system we would need to devise to recover this gold on a production-scale using suction dredges.

The company had six diesel-powered 8-inch production dredges located on this concession, along with all of the necessary support gear. They also had two unused 10-yard per hour placer test plants which utilized mechanical classification and jigs for fine gold recovery. Eric and I were feeling quite good about the promising results we were getting. The company could utilize the production dredges and placer plants for an expanded sampling venture and preliminary small-scale production operation. They could do exceptionally well in the areas we had already tested. Eric was doing the finishing work while I was helping our jungle guides put meat on the dinner table.

As I came out of my stupor in the creek bed, I realized that I was just standing there in a daze while the dogs were already herding another wild animal down at me. Could I do this again? Barks, squeals and the stampeding sounds of animals racing down the hillside were getting louder by the moment. It was another wild boar, a small one this time. But he came at me just the same as the first, in a mad rage, wanting the taste of my blood. This time, at a distance from any emotion, I stood my ground, took aim at the kill zone and nailed the pig on the first try. It was really just a baby compared to the first one; no great kill. But he was after me, just the same. And I got him. What a relief!

Returning to base camp in a long boat with the meat from my kill and the hunting dogs

Just that fast, the dogs were gone again, and I could hear the natives yelling and whistling just up the hillside. Then the familiar barking again. Was this ever going to end? Another crazed pig rounded the bend. This one was a female (no tusks). The dogs and the Dyaks were right behind it, yelling and whistling. But the pig never turned. It ran right down on me. I could see the fear and apprehension on the faces of my Dyak friends. They figured that pig was going to eat me alive! But, I had already been through the gauntlet twice. My emotions returned. I stood my ground. In my own killer rage, at the exact right moment, I raged back at the pig, driving the spear into its heart. The pig died quickly. The Dyaks stopped, seeing the look in my eye, the other two dead pigs, the blood on my hands; and that immediately changed their assessment of who I was. Almost immediately, they were laughing and shouting and dancing all around me and the pigs. This was a momentous occasion for all of us.

Ah, California–what a great place. I might not even need to go anywhere this winter, even though I am presently writing proposals for a preliminary evaluation in West Sumatra.

Since returning home with stories of this hunting adventure, my friends and family keep asking if I plan to hunt with the natives during my next trip. My answer is that I may help them hunt for pigs, but definitely not for bears!

 

By Dave McCracken

I know I’m going to have a great season! How about you?

Dave Mack

Springtime! The days are getting longer and warmer. The birds are chirping. And, there is a magic in the air created by all of the living things waking up for a new start. This is when most of us who live on or near the river start really feeling the gold fever itch. Miners start returning to the river, and you can really feel the excitement about the prospects of the new season. What is it about spring that gives people so much renewed hope and interest? Even people who failed utterly during seasons past, who considered giving up gold mining forever, seem to be rejuvenated at the beginning of a new season!

Spring and early summer is usually the time when most of us are pulling our mining equipment out of storage, wiping off the cobwebs, doing the needed repairs, and ordering the necessary replacement gear and additional equipment to start our new gold mining adventure. We are also spending a lot of time thinking about where we are going to mine.

Having a successful mining season depends on many things. But all of these basically fall into four separate categories: having the right equipment; having the experience and knowledge to do it properly; having a location where recoverable gold deposits are present; and most of all, having good management–meaning the right approach!

Basically, if you have dependable equipment and you have a gold bearing location, and you know how to use the equipment to find and recover gold deposits, then you obviously can be successful. Creating the condition of having the right equipment, knowledge and location will be accomplished by you. You will decide on what equipment to use and how to service it and keep it operational. You will decide how you are going to improve your mining skills–or you will decide you don’t need any improvement. And you will decide where you are going to mine. Therefore, the final category, management, is more important than any of the others.

It is very important to know all of the technical aspects of successful gold mining: what pay-streaks are and how to find them, how to cleanup, the best way to utilize your equipment, etc. The “how-to” is one of the most important categories, but, what good is it go know the technical points if a person is going to approach gold mining with a losing attitude?

There is an emotional scale on which any person or group can be found with regards to any subject or activity. At the top of the scale is enthusiasm; down about halfway is anger and resentment, and at the bottom is total apathy and regret.

A person at the top of the scale, approaching the activity of mining with interest and enthusiasm, would try to do everything the right way. He or she would obtain the best possible equipment within his or her available resources. The equipment would be properly maintained. Communication would be energetically and enthusiastically undertaken to determine new and exciting places to mine, with plenty of new friends and allies being made along the way. And the person would be absolutely willing to learn everything possible about those aspects of mining that would affect his or her type of operation, even though he or she may already know a great deal.

Everybody makes mistakes–especially when learning. A person high on the emotional scale would recover quickly from mistakes, and enthusiastically approach his or her mining operation with the new-found knowledge. The idea of failure or giving up would probably never be considered. Also, at the highest level of responsibility, the person would not be found blaming others or “the world” for his or her momentary setbacks. Instead, the person would confront his or her mining activity with renewed energy and build his or her own success in the world. This is the way that successful people do it! It is the way you win in the game of gold mining.

A person who is further down the emotional scale will not take responsibility for the problems that are occurring in his or her mining operation. The person will feel more like his or her success and destiny are not really self-created, but are more at the effect of other people or the world at large. Most likely, the person will be found resenting others who are succeeding. The person is not as willing to make the extra effort to do things the right way in the first place, and not as willing to confront mining with the necessary perception to be able to predict what things to prepare for. Therefore, more mistakes will be made. In anger and resentment, this person is generally found striking out at the world, and generally is blaming others for his or her “bad luck.”

This type of person, for lack of incentive, and for lack of personal responsibility, will usually approach mining impatiently. If he or she does not have enough money to buy the proper equipment, rather than wait and do it right, the person is likely to buy worn-out gear, or equipment that is not large enough to work efficiently in the person’s operation. He or she is more likely, for lack of personal incentive, to allow damaged or worn equipment to go on without service or repair, which ultimately results in more damage or costly accidents. The

person is more likely to get angry and to give up because he or she is not able to locate an acceptable gold deposit right away. And the inability to find paying deposits is neverbecause the person does not know how. In the person’s “expert opinion,” it is because there simply is no gold left, or someone else already took it all.

A person in the resentment stage is more likely to be seen blaming the dredge because it is in a poor state of repair. He or she generally won’t have very many real friends; and the friends the person does have will generally be found to agree on the same negative viewpoints: “The gold has already been taken.” We already are experts on mining.” “Watch out for others so they don’t steal our gold,” etc. A negative person generally will give little help to others when it comes to passing along useful information about the potential location of valuable gold deposits. Therefore, he or she places little value on the information received from others, because he or she knows “no one would give me real information on the location of gold!”

Also, negative people have difficulty learning new skills. Learning comes from perception–which results from taking the responsibility to take an honest look at the subject or activity. A negative person generally has the idea that he or she is wrong in some way if he or she admits that something can be learned about a subject.

A person at the bottom of the scale has completely given up and is not even blaming anyone else for failure, anymore. Such a person has little or no chance to succeed at gold mining on a continual basis.

All of us can be found somewhere along this scale as regards to how we are approaching gold mining–or life. There are levels between enthusiasm and anger, and between anger and total apathy at the bottom. A person’s basic survival (or success) level is largely determined by his or her volume of positive energy, in comparison to the volume of negative energy. That is what this scale is all about. People having more negative than positive will be found lower on the scale.

Of course, we all have our momentary good and bad moments–those times we sank our dredges, we were ready to give it up altogether. But, when we found the big nugget last year, we felt totally on top of the world!

The question is, how do we approach our gold mining ventures most of the time? Are we willing to stick ourselves way out there to confront every possibility in order to prepare? Do we share and communicate with others in order to improve our chances of success and theirs? Do we try to do everything the right way in the first place? Are we willing to defend our industry when it is in trouble? When we are not enjoying immediate success, do we utilize all of our energy to create success? Or, do we use our energy to complain or justify our failure? Just how are we positioning ourselves around this activity of mining?

When it comes down to it, how well we do in gold mining on the long term always comes back down to how we are approaching the activity. We ARE responsible for how well we do. Isn’t this great?

Just how do you change the way that you are? You do it with personal discipline, by boosting yourself up to a higher level of responsibility.

There is more to success than hard physical work. Success breaks down to the above four categories. Knowing how to do it properly is one of them! If success is continually lacking, then something is definitely lacking in one or more of the four categories.

If, however, an operation is temporarily not recovering very much gold, it does not mean there is a management problem–or even a problem with the other three categories. By the nature of gold mining, there are times when we are not into gold deposits–but rather are looking for them.

If a person is blaming anyone other than himself for the long-term lack of success of his or her operation, there definitely is a problem with management!

But, it is Spring; there is magic in the air, and we all have renewed high expectations about the upcoming season. As a sobering thought, in the renewed excitement, some people seem to forget all of the pain and misery they were experiencing last year–only to recall it again once they get started. Spring cannot change the basic way you approach mining. Only you can do that. To experience the magic of success in any activity, failure and inability has to be overcome by positive energy and personal discipline. True magic cannot be obtained by forgetting failure or justifying it away.

So, if you want to experience excitement, and the true magic feeling of recovering valuable gold deposits continually, you must depend upon and improve your own skill, rather than depend on your luck. Your skill will improve in direct proportion to your correct basic approach to gold mining.

Spring is here, and it is time to work on the dredges. I cannot wait to get into the water! I know I’m going to have a great season! How about you?

 

 
Dave Mack

Thank You for Your Interest in My Group Mining Projects!


Dave McCracken
P. O. Box 153
Happy Camp, CA 96039
(530) 493-2012
dave@promackmining.com 

Dear Fellow Prospector,

I am very happy that you are considering spending time on one of my joint mining ventures during the upcoming season.

I have scheduled one week-long above-water project for the upcoming season, and four week-long dredging projects. Each project is 7 days long. Each is a separate project.

Because of limited space in these projects, it is essential that you reserve a position on the project of your choice as early as possible.

Above Water Project: This is an exciting opportunity to help find and recover gold deposits that are located outside of the active waterway.

We will begin by going into areas where there is a strong likelihood that we will find high-grade gold deposits. Sometimes these deposits are found inside bedrock cracks along the bank of the river. Sometimes, high-grade gold is found in the contact zones between the dry streambed layers up on the bank.

Our mission for the week-long project will be to prospect different areas until we find a deposit rich enough to develop for its gold values. We will be prospecting with digging tools, gold pans, and perhaps vack-mining gear.

Once we find the deposit(s) we are looking for, we will organize a plan to develop the deposit(s) so we can recover as much of the gold as possible in the remaining time of the project. Likely, that will involve bringing some motorized sluicing machines into the action. We struck a high-banking production record during a recent above-water Project!

Dredging Projects: These dredging projects are for people who desire to experience the thrill of recovering high-grade gold deposits located at the bottom of the existing waterways. We will be primarily using 5-inch, 6-inch and 8-inch dredges during these dredging projects. Less-experienced participants will have the option to start using a 4-inch dredge (with hookah air).

No prior experience in dredging or diving is necessary. But if you have serious phobias about sticking your head underwater, or are deathly afraid of the water, I advise you to think it over carefully before you decide to participate in the dredging program. Perhaps an above-water project is better suited to your needs.

Should you decide to participate, be assured that I will help you to go underwater and help you understand what to do, as long as you are willing.

The places we choose to prospect with dredges will pretty-much be geared to the abilities of our participants. We will all have to remain a bit flexible on this part, since there will be multiple individuals involved, and our abilities will vary.

We will have enough dredges available to keep everyone busy. We can plan to allow the more experienced people prospect out into the deeper, faster-water areas, while less-experienced participants can prospect the easier areas (where pay-streaks are found just as often). We will have to sample it all, anyway. We will accommodate the needs of everyone while doing a good job looking for the rich deposits.

We will work as a team, taking turns on the suction nozzles. Do not fear; there is plenty of other work involved to keep the program moving along. Sometimes, we will be winching boulders out of the way. Sometimes, the water is shallow enough that others can help to move cobbles out of the way. Everyone on the team will gain more experience in proper dredging and gold recovery techniques.

We will be moving the dredges around until we find the gold deposit(s) that we are looking for. Then, we will invest the remainder of the week developing the gold deposit(s) to recover as much gold as we can get in the time remaining.

All the gold we find during a 7-day project will be accumulated and split equally amongst each of the project-participants.

California Dredge Permit

You will need to obtain a California suction-dredge permit only if you want to operate the suction nozzles of the dredges we will use on the project. A dredge license for 2007 cost $42.50 for California residents (have lived in California for at least the past 6 months), or $167.25 for non-residents. Permit fees usually go up slightly in cost each year.

As it takes 5 or 7 days to get a dredge permit through the mail, I advise you to submit your application before you arrive for the project. To have an application sent to you, I suggest you contact: the California Department of Fish and Game, 601 Locust Street, Redding, CA 96001, telephone: (530) 225-2300. Here is an example of how to fill out the form.

If you do not want to spend money on a dredging permit, you do not need to obtain one to participate in one of these dredging projects. Your only limitation will be that you cannot operate the dredges’ suction nozzle. But, you will be able to help in every other way. You can still dive down underwater and help the person who is operating the nozzle. You can help us move the gear around, winch boulders out of the way, and do the gold concentration and clean-up. There are plenty of things you can do to help in an active dredging program.

Team Effort

These surface mining and dredging projects are a team-building program. This is because we must all work together in a team-effort to recover the most gold possible by the end of the week. The nature of these projects is that they result in being a great adventure for everyone who participates. Since different people have varied abilities (and sometimes disabilities), as well as different levels of endurance and strength, we will need to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each group before planning what we will do and where we will go in search for high-grade gold. Our mission on each project will be to have a careful look at what we have to work with as a team, and then apply ourselves within those limitations to find as much gold as we can in the time allowed to us.

Gold Splits

Every participant who is present throughout the entire mining project will receive an equal split of the gold. There are no exceptions, limitations or exclusions. Every effort will be made to make these shares equal. If there are specific nuggets that prevent us from making an even split by weight, we will cull those nuggets out and decide to do one of the following, according to a majority vote amongst the participants:

1) Do a drawing amongst the participants to see who gets the nugget(s); or,

2) Trade the nugget(s) to whoever offers the most for them in smaller gold. The smaller gold can then be evenly split up amongst the participants.

No Gold Guarantees

We are going to find some amount of gold. That is for sure! But because this is true gold prospecting, I cannot make any guarantees about how much gold we will find. All we can do is invest the week using our best efforts to locate something that is going to add up well. While this takes skill, there is also some luck involved. But, with a good team, it is pretty likely that we will find something to get us excited.

My promise: As the project manager, I will employ my many years of experience to try and guide us into something that will make this a rewarding program for everyone. You will be actively involved, because I will bring the team into all of the key decisions, discussing our various options. We will make most of the decisions together, but I will ultimately decide what we will do.

Liability and Restrictions

Each participant in the project will sign a Joint Venture Agreement before becoming involved in a project. This Agreement will be an acknowledgment from you that you understand that there are risks involved, and that you are qualified and prepared, based upon your own past experiences, to assume the risks upon yourself. You will promise to be extra careful to not do things that you cannot safely accomplish, and will not hold me, The New 49’ers, other project-participants, or anyone else personally responsible in the event of an accident.

Gold prospecting is a challenging activity. We may find ourselves hiking across uneven, rocky terrain, or we may find ourselves rafting or boating down a fast-moving river. We will be packing heavy gear around and doing a variety of challenging physical activity. You should not come if you are not up to the physical challenges involved with these projects.

Because I do not know your limitations, it will be up to you to decide what you can or cannot do. You must agree to stay safely within your own physical limitations. You must let me know what they are. I will not push you to go beyond them, as long as I know what they are. I will find a way for you to contribute within your ability. I will also reserve the right to reject any person (with a full refund of entrance fees) who I do not feel can participate safely in a project.

I will also reserve the right to discharge any participant from a project who is either misbehaving, causing safety problems or who is making the experience miserable for other participants in the program. In this case, we will prorate the refund to the unused time of the project, and the gold share to the number of days the person actively participated.

Equipment Needs

For the above water prospecting project: You will need some basic digging tools (shovel and trowel), a gold pan and a #8 classification screen. If you have a vack-mining machine, I suggest you bring it along. All these are available to you in Happy Camp if you don’t already have them.

Also, please remember to bring clothing and footwear that you don’t mind getting wet and dirty. For outdoor safety, bring a good sun hat and sunscreen, along with a container for drinking water.

I will provide the motorized equipment and boating gear if we use it. For the dredging project, you will need your own wet-suit, face mask, protective gloves, and foot protection. This is all available in Happy Camp should you need to purchase anything. However, I would advise you to call ahead and ask the people in the store to set your size aside for you (530) 493-2012. I will provide the dredging equipment, hookah breathing gear, standard-sized weight belts and gold-concentration equipment. I will also provide the winching gear and boat(s) if we need them.

If you are heavy, or your body is not an average size, it is a very good idea that you bring along your own weight belt; something that will stay on you properly when you are underwater.

Ear protection is also a good idea for those who will prospect in the water. Some use Swim Ear, which is an over-the-counter solution that helps prevent fresh-water ear infections. A prescription from your doctor for Domboro Actic Solution (Bausch & Lomb Acetic Acid 2% in Aqueous Aluminum Acetate Otic Solution) is even better. I understand that you can now buy Domboro in tablet-form over-the-counter, and mix your own solution.

You must be fully responsible for your own belongings. If you plan to bring valuables in the rafts or boats, I suggest you also bring a heavy-duty, waterproof bag to keep the valuables (cameras, money, etc) safe and dry.

Travel, Food & Lodging

These group-mining projects are a daytime program. We usually meet at a particular location at around 9:30 am, work together throughout the day, and finish up sometime between 6 and 7 pm.

To participate, you must arrange your own transportation to Happy Camp, California, and also arrange your own transport while participating in the project. A two-wheel-drive vehicle is fine. We usually car-pool to and from the work area each day. Sometimes we camp at or near the mining site.

You also must provide your own meals and drink. We will each bring our own lunches out into the field with us when we go each morning.

You also must provide your own lodging. There are motels around the area. Our office in Happy Camp can assist you to make contact in advance (530-493-2012). I advise you to be a little flexible on your advanced lodging plans, because we will not know where we will end up mining until about the time we begin. This is because if we find out about a hot new gold strike somewhere away from Happy Camp, we may want to go there to get our share of the gold. Also, we cannot fully-decide where we will go until after we size-up the group as a whole. Ultimately, our last minute planning could affect your motel plans or where you ultimately decide to make a camp.

Tent or RV camping is fine. We can arrange for a place where you can set up, usually very close to where we will be working. There is no charge for camping out on our mining properties.

Joint Mining Venture

While these projects have been talked about in the past as training programs, it is important to understand that the primary purpose is to locate and develop high-grade gold deposits in a joint mining venture. Any learning experience from this is incidental to the main purpose.

Cost

The cost of participation is $600 for a dredging project, and $500 for the above-water project (half-price for participating spouse in either type of project). No children are allowed on these projects. There is a $100 discount for New 49er Affiliate, Associate or Full Members in good standing. This is because New 49’er members are already actively contributing to maintain the properties where we will be mining.

It takes a non-refundable, advanced payment of $100 to guarantee a place on a specific project. Please send your advanced payment, along with your name, address, telephone number and email address to: The New 49’ers, P. O. Box 47, Happy Camp, CA 96039 (530) 493-2012. Please include the date of the desired project, and let us know if a spouse will actively participate in the project. It is a good idea to contact us in advance to verbally reserve your preference, pending receipt of your deposit.

Come Ready For Adventure!

I have my eye on a number of areas that I have been watching for a long time – places where few others have gone before! The rubber rafts and boats are ready to go. All the equipment is ready. Now, it’s just a matter of us coming together in a group effort to go down and find the rich gold deposits.

I’m really looking forward to it!

All the best,

Dave McCracken
Project Manager

 

 

A Personal Note From Dave McCracken Founder of the New 49’ers

 

It is a great experience to join with others in a fellowship formed in the true spirit of gold prospecting. The 49’ers of old are gone. We are the modern evolution of a rare and special breed. We are The New 49’ers! I am proud to be part of a group that appreciates this and is dedicated to keeping it alive. Our membership includes some of the kindest, most educated and responsible people in the prospecting field. Many meaningful and lasting friendships have been and are being formed. Together, we will make the difference in the destiny of the small-scale prospector and perhaps the last true free enterprise opportunity left in the United States: the right to freely prospect for and develop mineral deposits on the public lands of America!

While we have created some of the best possible mining opportunities available, we have also created a movement which certainly will make its mark on history. You are invited to take part in this great activity.

Dave McCracken
President and General Manager

 

By Dave McCracken

The main barrier to overcome is the psychological impact from the uncertainty of whether or not you are going to find an acceptable gold deposit.

Dave Mack

During the past five years, we have had an opportunity to work with hundreds upon hundreds of different gold miners, and we have realized many different things about how to approach a gold mining operation to improve a person’s chances of success. One of the things we have realized is that some people become so serious about a mining operation that they lose track of the fact that the operation is simply a game.

All games consist of a goal, a means to achieve the goal, and barriers or problems in the way of the goal’s achievement. And, of course, the GAME consists of overcoming the obstacles and achieving the goal. Football is a game; basketball, soccer, everybody knows these are games. What some people fail to realize is that your job, raising your family properly, getting through life successfully, and even gold mining–are all games, too. Each of these games have their own unique set of problems to overcome.

Because of the seriousness and importance of winning, sometimes we lose track of the fact that these different aspects of life are a game. The importance of winning simply requires that we play the game harder.

It is much easier to win at a game when you know what the game is that you are playing.

Gold mining is a game in which the obstacles and problems to overcome are not, generally, other people or other teams as in the game of football. The main obstacle to overcome in gold mining is the UNCERTAINTY of where acceptable gold deposits are located.

The best goal, of course, is to find lots of gold–enough to resolve your financial or emotional needs. I say emotional because some people are not in gold mining necessarily for financial gain. One person’s goal might be to continuously recover enough gold to support his family and the lifestyle. Another person might want to find enough gold to retire in luxury. Someone else might just like to find any amount of gold. Each individual will have his or her own goals. Once one goal is nearly achieved, a person naturally tends to set a higher, more difficult goal. One of the interesting things about gold is that you never seem to have enough of it–even if you have a lot compared to the goal you set for yourself some time ago! Therefore, as a miner gets better, he or she tends to elevate the goal higher and higher.

The means of achieving the goal in gold mining is by applying mining and prospecting techniques with available mining equipment on gold bearing locations so that you can to locate and recover valuable deposits.

The equipment is readily available. There is nothing difficult to understand about the techniques and procedures. The main difficulty is NOT KNOWING WHERE THE GOLD IS. This makes gold mining unique, in that the main obstacle to overcome is not an external, material or barrier–as in most games. The main barrier is the psychological impact of the uncertainty of whether or not you are going to find an acceptable gold deposit.

In reading this, you might find yourself feeling that you are dedicated and strong enough, that you have all of the discipline needed, that you have plenty of emotional fortitude, and that you are smart enough to overcome any psychological doubts which may arise in your own mind during the course of a sampling operation. We all have this, and we are all potentially strong enough to persevere. However, there are also negative voices in our heads–which can become quite strong when we are directly confronted with difficult situations. Sometimes we forget about these voices during times when we are not confronted by difficult situations!

None of us are super-beings. We are human. We all have our personal limitations–which are set by ourselves. This happens when we make decisions that we can’t do something, or that we don’t want to do it. A person takes up running and decides he can only run two miles. Does that mean he cannot run a step further than two miles? Of course not. The person could run twenty miles if he set his mind to it. If I did not learn another thing in SEAL training from my navy days, I learned that you can always take at least one more step. This is true in any aspect of life–in any endeavor; you can always do it a little more or a little better.

But, when we get close to a limitation which we have already set for ourselves, we run smack into the negative voices in our heads which we have ourselves identified with. “I can’t do it!” Just because the voice says we can’t doesn’t mean we can’t. We can, and by doing so, a person becomes stronger.

The problem in gold mining is different than in most other games. If you were cutting firewood for money, the barriers to overcome in the game would be the physical challenge of cutting down trees, sawing them into rounds, splitting the rounds

up, loading them in a delivery truck, hauling them to a location, selling them to someone, and maybe stacking the firewood on the buyer’s back porch. The easy thing about this challenge is that you are working with a reality that you can see all the way through the cycle. The wood is there. It is just the physical work of getting the wood onto the buyer’s back porch–that is, as long as you have a buyer.

Gold mining is different. The gold is not there until you find it. Yet, it’s really not that the gold isn’t there. When we see other miners recovering gold out of commercial deposits on the same river, we know there are more commercial deposits to be found. The problem is that we might not be sure that we are going to find them.

And, it’s not that the procedures and techniques for finding gold deposits are difficult. We know that gold, because of its weight, tends to travel along its own narrow path in the river. We know that pay-streaks (gold deposits) form in their own unique locations along the gold path–where water velocity slows down during major flood storms. We know these pay-streaks form quite regularly along a gold-bearing waterway. And, we know that prospecting consists of digging or dredging sample holes in an attempt to locate the gold path and the pay-streaks. None of this is difficult to understand and apply.

The difficulty is in the uncertainty–and this is the main barrier to overcome in the game of gold mining. We see a fair percentage of people who have themselves psyched out and talked out of it, even before they finish their first sample hole. Why is this? They have adequate equipment. They understand the procedures. They can confront the physical work. Why do they quit so quickly? It is because they don’t understand who the real opponent in the game is.

If it were a game of football, would they quit after the first play of the first inning just because the opposing team looked stronger? Not if the players have any degree of personal pride in being a football team. Yet, quite often in many games, the opposing players try to psyche-out the members of the members of the other team. A demoralized team is easy to conquer! More likely, a serious football team would psyche themselves up in an attempt to win over a stronger opposing team.

What people don’t realize is in the game of gold mining, you are really playing with and/or against yourself. It is your own inner voices which you listen to and decide whether to quit early, or to pour on the steam even harder to find the gold deposits you are looking for. When a person quits in gold mining, it is often because he has psyched his or her own self out.

I can understand quitting when your legs are busted and you are on your last breath of air. This is understandable. But, to quit gold mining because you have talked yourself into the idea that you are not going to find any gold just means that you don’t understand the game. Basically, in this case, you have lost to your own inner voices.

There is a fantastic feeling of self-accomplishment when you succeed in gold mining. A professional football player, when retired, will look back and remember certain games that were won. He probably won’t be thinking much about the money he made. He probably won’t be thinking of the easy victories. He will be thinking about the games his team was losing, and how the team pulled together, raised themselves up, and won against all odds. These wins are cherished, because they occur when a player, or a team of players, reach down inside and create the necessary additional energy and willpower to overcome large barriers and obtain the goal after all.

Success in gold mining brings about this same kind of intense emotional satisfaction–only better or different in the fact that you usually accomplish it on your own. You generally don’t have a team of other players helping you to make a touchdown in the game of gold mining.

Like it or not, gold mining is similar to a game of solitaire. You are playing the game with yourself as your teammate, and possibly with yourself as the main opposing force. you have a chance to overcome the little negative voices in your head that tell you to quit–not just in gold mining, but also in the other aspects of your life. Each time that you persevere and finish that next sample hole properly, despite the inner voices which tell you there is no gold in that location, not only do you get that much closer to the gold deposit you’re looking for, but you also grow stronger as a person. And, in the end, this is worth more than gold.

 

 

Dave’s Personal Guarantee

We have over 60 miles of mining properties in northern California for you to prospect and mine.
If you can’t find the gold you are looking for on our properties, let me know and I’ll help you find it!”

Dave McCracken

Author: “Gold Mining in the 21st Century”

Dave McCracken
General Manager
The New 49’ers Prospecting Organization, Inc.
P.O. Box 47, 27 Davis Road, Happy Camp, California 96039

Contact us for more information at (530) 493-2012.

 

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