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Ellen McCallie's Diary

Day 29: Altimeter

Photo: Jonathan and Ellen with the altimeterIt has literally poured with rain all day. We had a bit of thunder but mostly a constant downpour. As we all brought our waterproof gear and as it isn't particularly cold, the constant rain is kind of amusing. It can't still be pouring down rain but it is — hour after hour, day after day. We do almost all the same things in dry weather as we do in rain, so I'm pretty happy. I just love being outside, tromping around and investigating what is about. The main difference the rain brings is in the camera and sound gear. Sensitive electrical connections are not very rain-friendly.

Photo: The team checks their height with the altimeterHelicopters don't fly through clouds or up to mountain lakes we cannot see because of the clouds. Thus, we couldn't find buried treasure at Ice Lake today as our original map indicated. Instead, we hiked up a river bed with Chris, a local hiking and glacier guide, up to a point at which we were on our own to follow the new treasure instruction:

"Go up 80m in altitude from the river bed, find an island of punga trees (tree ferns), look for a clearing with a slippery log, and then use the metal detector".

Punga tree forestA beautiful wet walk led us up a riverbed and into the rainforest. With so many plants that are similar to the ones that were alive in the dinosaur days, I sometimes expect to go around a bend and see a dino feeding on tree fern fronds — no such luck yet!

The altimeter worked great, as it should. When Jonathan and I were convinced we had gone up 80m in altitude from the riverbed, we saw an 'island' of tree ferns, locally called 'punga'. Chris, our guide, would give us no reassuring words, nor would the director or crew. We decided to trust our instrument and our calibration, which was good because we quickly found a clearing and a slippery log. Jonathan then set to work with the metal detector he had built for an earlier program and soon the treasure box was found.

I couldn't believe it. They locked the treasure box. What good is a treasure box with a padlock? We figured Kate had the key. But the metal box wasn't very strong. I was about to rip it open when Jonathan suggested we play along and take the box back without opening it. Kate did have the key and inside was a dime-sized blob of gold. It looked like it had already been purified, so we can start working with this one immediately in the next program.

The other teams did quite well, too. Kathy got a very respectable amount of gold out of the black sand by using a very gentle sluicing system. Mike and Mike ended up with a black potato with gold in the middle. Quite strange, but very impressive. Particularly as Mike B. had harvested the mercury from actual rock in order to extract gold from rock.

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Photo: Ellen McCallie
Metal Detector Interactive