Sunday, 10 June 2012

Day Eight of a Camper Holiday! - Sapphires

Having left the coast behind we woke up on the property of 7 Oaks Fossicking - the previous afternoon of driving being highly uneventful. 7 Oaks is in the locality of Sapphire, North East of Inverell.

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E helping me mix buckets of mud
Our hosts Peter and Nicole run a mixed business: Nicole took us to our campsite by the river, and the next morning Peter provided a hands on lesson on how to prospect. When not providing fossicking lessons Peter cuts, splits, sells and delivers firewood, as well as teaching welding at the local TAFE.

The campsite is well appointed - Bob, the caretaker lives in the campground, and is friendly and happy to help, and the campground is supplied with a camp kitchen, drinking water, hot shower, and long-drop toilet.

Fossicking is a fairly simple process:

  • It begins with taking a few shovel-fulls of dirt from a mound Peter has provided. That dirt is then put in a bucket, and covered with water to soak in to the clay.
  • The mud mixture is then tipped through two sieves (one coarse, the other fine) which are stacked together.
  • The two sieves are then placed in a drum of water and agitated to wash the clay away.
  • The contents of the coarse sieve are then quickly inspected to locate any huge sapphires before being discarded.
  • The fine sieve is then re-rinsed, and agitated in an up-and-down motion to bring the heavier sapphires and zircon to the bottom and centre of the sieve.
  • The sieve is then quickly inverted on a Hessian bag which allows for sapphires to be quickly located in the sunlight.
X was an absolute champion at spotting sapphires!
The demonstration from Peter consisted of clear instructions on how to correctly use the supplied equipment, and I particularly appreciated that he took the time to explain at each step not only what he was doing, but why he was doing it.

I quickly found that posture is important when sloshing around a few kilograms of rocks and mud in a drum of water.

Persistence and patience are also very important. We found gems every few sieve loads of rocks, and X and E have keen eyes for spotting sparkly stones.

One of our sapphires.
A was initially not interested but she became curious, and I think the fossicking bug may have bitten her - she had some trouble leaving the circular piles of small washed stones which I was producing.

We found a few small sapphires as well as some other interesting rocks.

For me, this is the best part of our holiday to date. A very simple activity in which the whole family participated, relatively cheap at $20pp for fossicking (compared to the hundreds for dreamworld or a zoo), and it's punctuated by shared moments of joy and amazement when we find little blue stones.

We really enjoyed ourselves - I never thought I'd have such a rewarding time playing with mud!

I shall definitely be back!

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