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Kathy Sykes' Diary

Day 29: Extracting Gold

Slept about 9 hours - and still felt shattered. Sore throat, headache and achy back. I don't feel miserable, just dreamy and off in 'Kathy Land'. Not 'with it' at all, almost hypnotically attracted to horizontal surfaces, to curl up on.

Photo: Kathy testing sluice box with KateBut I knew I had to get a lot done. Tested out the sluice box. I fitted the pipe with holes in and watched, in satisfaction, water gushing down evenly. Kate scooped the first sand onto the tray and it seemed to go down nicely. Then I played around with it - changing water flow and angles until the flow seemed stable.

We then began the slow process of pouring on the sand. Too much sand in one go and the layer of 'sludge' gets too thick and the gold just tumbles down across the top of the sludge without getting the chance to get trapped in the fibres of the fleece. So it was a very slow process. And it's such an act of faith!

It poured with rain all day. Jonathan and Ellen were meant to find treasure after being dropped off by helicopter but no chance. Cloud cover was too low and there were thunder storms. They had to find it in a river valley instead. I managed to stick to my plan (with help from Kate and others) and got it all working in the first two hours. We got all the sand down before lunch.

After lunch, we cut up the material and washed down the box. It was very exciting! The fleece directly under the splash pan was sparkling in gold! We washed out as much as possible then dried off the fleece and corduroy in preparation for burning. I began panning what we washed out. It's so hard! The gold flecks are so tiny and the black sand is so heavy. Kate and I were losing gold in the sand. It just takes forever and you feel like you're losing it all.

Photo: Kathy showing the other scientists her goldBut then the joy of seeing a speckled patch of gold at the bottom is quite special.
I got other people to burn the corduroy and fleece. I really should have thought about the burning for more than just a millisecond. Up 'til now we've been burning wood and sacking. Fleece is a plastic: it melted and stuck into a gooey mess. Even the corduroy, which I thought was probably cotton, must have contained some other polymer. It melted too. It all melted - and trapped the gold. I'm just mad not to have thought about this. I'm just so used to "let's burn it all to get out the gold". Ah well!

So, I got quite a lot of gold but not as much as I might have got. The Mikes got an amazing chunk from the potato. Quite mad! A brilliant technique. And Jonathan and Ellen's wicked treasure was - a gorgeous, huge chunk of gold. Hurrah! Now we just have to work out what to do with it!

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Photo: Kathy Sykes
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