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Mike Leahy's Diary

Day 7: Accurate Weighing Balance - Second day of filming and I'm taken off the case

I'm up at seven, ready to leave at eight. The evening filming went fairly well but it does mean that we work a fourteen-hour day and have little time to chill out. Everyone acts a little for the camera (naturally - who wants to be on film picking their nose or swearing) so the evening meal is pretty full-on, even if the food is great. To be honest, the meal is one of the best I've tasted, and I've just flown over from two weeks in France.

I get to the sawmill to find that I am off the weighing challenge. It is a major bummer because I am half way through a number of jobs and am certain that the new design of scales would be far better than the ‘Old Bailey' model. It leaves Kathy to make detailed modifications to the scales that we had made the previous day on her own, but she was well up to the task.

Apparently Ellen and Mikey B need help finding gold, which isn't a total surprise - it's a very labour intensive job. My first task is to collect a few bits and pieces including a very bloody sheep's fleece with the hooves still intact - God only knows why.

building a sluiceKate and I drive to the river in a four-wheel drive. Then I build a sluice and struggle down to the river with it. The idea of the sluice is that lightweight stones, soil and rubble are washed away by water, whereas gold is caught between punga wood slats, or entwined in the punga wood itself. Ellen didn't like the legs on the sluice. The rocky banks were close to the ideal 10% slope at which sluice should be anyway.

Panning using a sluice is hard work. There really isn't much gold in alluvial mud and what there is tends to collect behind boulders. There are lots of boulders to move. Muscle power is needed and that was why I was taken away from the sawmill. It isn't a bad thing because the river is beautiful. Even so, I am feeling very ill and had little muscle power to give.

Mike and Ellen building the sluiceThe life of a gold prospector must have been very hard. Not only was there hard labour. Not only was the work cold and wet, but the sand flies could be unbearable. We have to wear balaclavas to protect our necks and heads from attack in addition to insect repellent. The idea of working here, day in, day out for years doesn't appeal at all.

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Photo: Mike Leahy
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