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EVERYBODY knows that the gold was discovered in Sydney, in May, 1851; and soon after a nugget, then sticking out of the ground on the top of a quartz rock, of one hundred and six pound weight ! What a stir this news made all over the world! In August of the same year, gold was also found in Victoria, in great quantities; and the stir all over the world grew greater and greater. Before long the stir was so great, that if anybody could have raised themselves above the surface of the globe, they might have seen what one often sees in a wood, only on a larger scale—long, black, and neverending files of ants moving from all quarters towards their great nest; do what you would to these, sweep them away, pour water on them, or put some barrier in their way, it was all to no purpose: on they, or others, would go, just in the same swarms, on, and on, and on, to the great centre of attraction.
Well, I say, if one could have stood up aloft above the globe, as I heard a gentleman say one day, we should see the same kind of thing; all the nations of the world going, going, going towards this land of gold, and we who are in it see them coming, coming, coming as if they never would
* From A Boy's Adventures in the Wilds of Australia.
(By kind permission of Messrs. G. Routledge & Sons.)
stay. From all nations of Europe, Englishmen, Scotchmen, Welshmen, Irishmen, Dutchmen, Swedes, Danes, Poles, Hungarians, but chiefly French and Germans, mingled with Italians and Swiss, have been changed by the magic wand of expectation into these gold-ants which ceaselessly traverse the globe to this southern Eldorado.1 Californians leave their land of gold, Americans from every state of the Union, colonists from Canada, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland, march off, and fall into these eager lines of life which extend over the convexity of our planet. Natives of New Zealand, boors and citizens from the Cape of Good Hope, negroes from America and the West Indies, fall into them, inspired with what seems to them a better hope. Coolies from India, Lascars, Malays, and swarms of Chinese, those men who have been unchanged for ages, are changed just as rapidly into gold-ants, as any of the sons of Europe. All these human ants are seen streaming up the country through the Eucalyptus 2 Forest to the various fields of gold, Balarat, Mount Alexander, Bendigo, Mount Korong, Jones' Creek, the Goulburn, and the Ovens.
We have been to many of these gold-fields ourselves, and what I have written above is perfectly true. There is a regular Babel of tongues there. Jonas Popkins said with justice that a new language would some day be discovered in Australia, a universal tongue called the Polyglot. And all people are equal at the gold-fields; the Chinese fears here no cruel mandarin* watching to squeeze him for his gold; the negro grins merrily, and laughs, and sings his chirpy, jolly song, freer even than if he were in Africa.
Now as to the sort of country in which the gold lies, I will copy something which my father has written down for me, as he can do it better than I could.
When you have made your way some eighty or one hundred, or it may be two hundred, miles through the great Eucalyptus Forest, through a country yet without roads or bridges, but plentifully supplied with morasses, quagmires, rough regions, "strewn with rocks, and deep, precipitous gulleys and streams, you come to some barren region, where the ground generally seems burnt by past fires, and where the low, swelling elevations of the landscape are thinly scattered with white quartz, as with a sprinkling of snow, with huge granite masses protruding, or a ferruginous 6 sandstone, running edgewise in direct lines from north to south; where the gum trees on the swells give way to the stringy-bark and the black and deeplyploughed iron-barked trees, and where the ground ceasing to yield grass, but only everlasting and prickly shrubs, yet still is in spring adorned with frequent flowers; there, you suddenly find a space cleared of its trees, and for miles the earth turned up in chaotic heaps, while white tents stand in scattered array on each side of this bald opening in the bush. There the gold-ants have been at work! It is precisely, indeed, as if enormous ants had there made a vast city of their hillocks. All
over this bared space, but generally running more in lines along the valleys, and the lesser hollows which go off right and left, huge heaps of yellow clay,yellow gravel, intermingled with still greater heaps of a white sandy clay, and white pure pipe-clay meet
When you arrive amongst these, you find all between the heaps the earth is bored more or less deep with holes like wells, and pits, and graves,-some round, some square, some oblong; some. five, some ten, some fifty, some a hundred feet deep. Miles of these confused heaps and hollows present themselves, which have been rifled of their contents, and are again abandoned. Others that have been worked out, but where diggers are again shovelling up the earth that has been thrown out in times of eager and headlong pursuit of nuggets, and what are called “great hawls" of gold. This earth they are putting through the cradle, or the long-Tom, at the next creek, and getting more or less gold. Others are seeking out between these heaps, in places which made a good yield, spaces that have not yet been dug up-spaces which were buried under the earth thrown out, and sometimes they come upon good bottoms. Thousands on thousands of these holes you see filled with water, or huge masses of their sides tumbling in, till the whole expanse is a scene of indescribable chaos, nature being already at work endeavouring to restore the earth to that ancient level which the gold-ants have destroyed.
All the ground where the diggers are still working is scattered with huge trunks of trees which the diggers invariably fell, either to prevent their falling on them when they are undermined, or to supply them with fuel. All around stand the stumps, a yard high, from which these huge trunks have been sawn. Where unbroken ground remains, from nothing having been found on it, you see numbers of dried bullocks' heads and feet, sheep's heads and feet, sheep skins and pieces of bullock hides, all decaying, and half-trodden into the ground; besides these there are rough stones of quartz, white as snow, or burnt quartz and ironstone of a dusky red, with withered leaves, prostrate trees, and the foundations of tents now taken away, generally defined by a square of tree trunks, to which the bottom of the tent has been tacked, or by a square marked out with a trench, and the area and neighbourhood plentifully scattered with the remnants of worn-out clothes and hats.
When you ascend the hills, you again find diggers at work. Here their holes generally amount to real mines. They are from fifty to one hundred feet deep. Here they have windlasses to descend and ascend by, as well as to draw up their stuff. Here they excavate the hills at that depth, driving tunnels as far as their neighbours will let them, and clearing out all the space that they can obtain of the gold-impregnated stratum. Some of these hills here are thus excavated for miles; and one so completely so, that the other day the whole hill cracked right across, from one end to the other, with an explosion like thunder, the fissure descending from top to bottom, on which all the miners