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Prospection (page 5)


One can say that in these years around 1898, East and Central Australia had been studied since many years carefully and there one could go into rather easily. Very different was West Australia where the complete barenness of the ground as far as water and pastures are concerned seemed an almost insuperable barrier with the man: In a letter which he sends to his wife on April 1 of that year, from Coolgardie, J J Garnier writes: "Here we are! My first cry was: what a horrible country: Imagine a series of huts of all forms built on a ground as naked as the hand, and covered of a half-foot of a red dust so fine that it rises with the least movement of the air or another : a pure sky and an impossible sun illuminate this horror: you would say it is star other than earth and so are represented planets without atmosphere. The Afghans with their turbans, their files of camels in all the directions will supply the mines. The ground is excavated, charged with well, of 'distillatrices', water tanks. All is out of price "… " We have already had the occasion to deal with geology of this area when we arrived for the first time in 1863. Our studies related then to possible connections, if any, between Australia and the New-Calédonia where we had to stay…

Before start studying the question of the mines of West Australia we will give some details on this strange country which is four times wider than France. Outlines of its coasts have 6000 kms length that is the seventh of the outlines of the earth. One can summarize the value of the center of this immense surface from the agricultural point of view by saying that all the railroads which now are criss-crossing it for the service of his mines, as well as the cities which are raised there for the residence of people are intended to return to the most complete loneliness on the day when the mines are worked out. The life is thus here very of artifice since, in consequence of the absence of water and because of the extreme heat, no culture is possible, that no domestic animal can find to survive there; it is thanks to the introduction of the dromedaries of Afghanistan which can resist seven days the lack of water and nourish themselves of a rather common salted sheets shrub that one could explore this country, initially, then to build there water stations and finally railroads.

Each dromedary carries until 500 kgs of goods, goes 30kms per day and grazes during the night around the camp the salted sheet of the 'camel food', small shrub to which the gold diggers gave this name. The rains are the regulators of the vegetation. Close to the coasts, it falls approximately 0,75 cms per annum of water and gradually, as one advances towards the interior, they reach 0,20cms per annum … the bicycle plays an extraordinary part here where it can roll easily on the dry and rather hard ground; it weaves easily between the plants and very seldom one has to put the foot at ground. Some prospectors do not fear to leave to discovered on this fragile apparatus and to penetrate until hundreds of kilometers in the unknown, carrying a small provision of food and especially of water in famous ' the water bag' or 'sacs à eau', made of hardly permeable canvas, where water remains in a great freshness constant and light evaporation by the walls. If a serious accident happens to the machine, the return is problematic and a terrible death awaits the unfortunate…

The ways traced between the various centers were done initially by the foot of the camels which, going in a row, make an excellent track for the bicycle; these ways turn away more or less to go into depressions where the rainwater accumulates under the permeable soil: it is there that the government or the private individuals set up wells which reach and exceed 50 meters of depth to get a water which contains in dissolution up to 10 % of various salts. The selling price of pure water is variable according to the state of dryness of the season. The combustible is the wood of the eternal forest that each one can take as he pleases; therefore each camping is enlightened every evening by true' bûchers' but the rarefaction of wood is truly felt only in the vicinity of the railway stations and somewhat important centers. The water from the rare rains follows various movements on which we will come back about the geology to which this question is attached but one can say that only really drinkable water is almost always that of the rains collected on the sheet roofs or that one distilled "

A great project of water supply began in 1898 per duration of three years planning to collect from rivers from fresh water at the foot of ' Mount Helena' which comes out as a deep throat with high walls showing possibility to make a dam 35m height and 200 meters width. From 1882, date of gold discovery at Kimberly, the attention of the prospectors started to wake up whereas, when he had landed in 1863 in King George' s-Sound (Albany), this port was but a camp to be used for the convicts of England. After 35 years he did not find any more trace of the indigenous tribe with which he had hunted and run through the country. Then took place a considerable development to which he assisted at the time of the stay of which we speak about in 1892... "at the time when Bailey discovered a real placer in the place where the town of Coolgardie rises today.

The mine discovered by Bailey was a so rich quartz cluster that he could extract in some months for 7 250 000 gold F without counting, they told me, what was stolen from him. The accounts of the first discoveries would have appeared incredible to us if they had not been confirmed to us many times by early pioneers. Native gold in more or less coarse grains was dispersed on the ground, mixed with a fine and ferruginous sand; one sorted it with the hand with portable screens or apparatuses in which bellows would drive out sands and leave gold; these young and very vigorous men would die however like flies fault of water and suitable food; one of these first pioneers told me that he had returned alone from a troop of ten but with a gold powder fortune."

Almost the whole monograph of 44 pages accompanied by maps and diagrams deals with geology and with various mines installed in this Western area of Australia. They include an account of theories on the forming and the nature of the rocks present but also the description of carried out works and of those in progress. Here is the conclusion :
"In the presence of the considerable extent of the old grounds listed in Western Australia and similar ' pétrologiquement' to those of which we spoke, it is undoubtful that many new and very rich mines are still to be discovered. Here, the mines are hidden better than in Transvaal, for example, where the quartz bearing gold layers generally draw attention by ledges above the level of the plains and catch sight even by far: hidden here by the alluvial sand layers, the lodes come out only by trenches often by chance. It is the same for the underground placers. Thus, one may expect that this country, so poor on other grounds becomes one of the most inexhaustible resources of gold of the whole world. Well more, according to us, one must still expect to find out here in-depth the class of metals which is confined in this kind of old grounds such as tin and its group; it will be there for the future, of new treasures... "

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