I’ve watched a couple of shows about panning for gold. Not those “reality” programs (which probably aren’t real at all), but documentary-style shows where a guy will detail his methods of searching for that most precious and elusive of elements. I’ve talked about Dick Proenneke on a couple of occasions, and during his stay in Alaska, he often panned for gold, using it to purchase some of the staples he needed in the wilderness. And then there’s Johnny Horton’s famous song North to Alaska, from which I’ve learned the best locations to search (“where the river is winding, big nuggets they’re finding…“).
So while I’ve never searched for gold (much to the chagrin of my grandmother), I feel I’m more knowledgeable about the process than, well, maybe a two-year-old goat living on a farm in Scranton, IA.
Anyways, I don’t know how big the nuggets were that Sam McCord found (he’s the guy in the song North to Alaska), but they likely paled in comparison to the one found by a couple of prospectors in the opposite hemisphere on February 5, 1869. John Deason and Richard Oates found what became known as the Welcome Stranger nugget in Victoria, Australia. Resting just below the surface near a tree, this chunk of gold weighed in at an astonishing 241 pounds. Yeah, pounds. After it was fully trimmed out and refined, it still weighed nearly 157 pounds. That’s one big piece of gold. And to date, it’s the largest single chunk of gold ever found.
I just checked and, while prices fluctuate, the current price of gold is $1675.80…an ounce. And 157 pounds is 2512 ounces. So if I do the math, that totals out to $4,164,393.60. I don’t know the world in which you live, but in my world, that’s a retirement number. Deason and Oates were paid $15,000 (give or take) for Welcome Stranger, which seems rather meager, even by 19th-century standards.
North to Alaska…yeah, right.