Friday, July 05, 2013

The town that was built of gold

Irishman Patrick Hannan, and two of his friends, were traversing the Australian outback in 1893. On the way, one of their horses lost a shoe and they went looking for it. Within days, without having to dig an inch into the dirt, they collected eight pounds of gold nuggets, just by looking around. Being honest, they filed a claim with territory officials. Unfortunately, this claim also put the location on public record and within a few days hundreds of gold prospectors were storming the place. The outpost came to be known as Hannan's find. During the initial days, gold was plentiful in the desert but water scarce. As more miners flooded the place, demand for water and food soared and so did the prices. In such a lucrative market some people found it profitable to construct small towns, breweries and brothels, than dig gold. These people used the excess rock and mud excavated buy the gold miners for their building projects. The miners were more than happy to have their rubble getting cleared as it was getting piled up. Gold it a pretty inert metal, it does not corrode or oxidise like other metals. You won't even find it mixed inside minerals and ores, because it doesn't bond with other elements. It's found in a pure state as flakes and nuggets. Or that is what the miners thought, what they did not know was gold combines with Tellurium and in Hannan's Find, that is what happened. Tellurium combines with gold to form Krennerite (Au0.8 Ag0.2)Te2, petzite, sylvanite and calaverite. These compounds vary in colour too; some look more like brass or iron pyrite (fool's gold). Most tellurium compounds also have a nasty odour, touch one and you will smell like garlic magnified a thousand times for one week!! The miners, who came across calaverite, were more than happy to get rid of this fake gold. So they dumped it in the rubble and kept digging for the real McCoy. As the place continued to get flooded with miners, there were shortages of food and water. One day there was a full scale riot over food supplies. As the news of the place spread around, rumours about the yellowish tellurium rocks they were digging and throwing too spread. Although miners were unaware about calaverite, geologist had known about it for years (Calaverite was found in Colorado in 1860's) and pretty soon news about calaverite spread to Hannan's Find. Finally hell broke loose in May 29, 1896, when people realised that the calaverite used to build the town contained 14 kilos of gold for every ton of rock. Miners attacked the refuse heaps, scouring for discarded rocks. When those were cleared they dug the roads and pavements. People it's said, tore down parts of their own homes and miners must have pulled down their chimney's and hearths too. Later, Hannan's Find was renamed Kalgoorlie, and became the biggest gold producer in the world.

P.S. : After I recited this story to my 2nd officer, he asked me to have it posted- this one for you Abinash.

1 comment:

  1. Aarina10:04 am

    Love, it is nice of you to have considered Abinash's suggestion, happy that he enjoys listening to your trivia! It indeed is a very interesting piece of information! I liked the way you gave due credit to Abinash. Keep going love..