Monday, November 16, 2009

YouTube gold panning video

Just finished another edition of "Garret's World of Geology," which covers gold panning and prospecting up around Steven's Pass, east of Seattle.

It rained just about the entire time, so you'll hear a lot of background noise in most of the scenes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Second video - Hansen Creek, WA

OK, another video link, this time for Hansen Creek, Washington, where quartz crystals litter the ground:

Here's an easy link:


Friday, June 5, 2009

Check out the new YouTube video

Marty Schippers (a.k.a., Dusty Fingers) put together a great 10-minute video covering our recent trip up First Creek, near Cle Ellum, Washington. Here's the link:

You Tube

Check it out, leave us feedback, and tell your friends!


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wolfenstein article

I've been working on Intel's Visual Adrenaline magazine. Here's a piece I finished about the new Wolfenstein game:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mining the Internet – Mother Lode 2009

California’s famed Mother Lode district is one of the easiest gold mining areas to research using Internet tools. For the last ten years I’ve written annual columns on the Mother Lode, and each year the online information gets better.

Before going further, let me reiterate the three main tools all electronic prospectors should have access to:
1. Google Earth, the free program that lets you zoom in and out on aerial photographs, provides GPS coordinates, shows roads and highways for an area, and provides ground cover information. Download Google Earth at
2. GeoCommunicator, otherwise known as the Bureau of Land Management’s LR-2000 online mining claims database. The claims information is invaluable, and as an extra bonus you can set the base map to be a topographic map. You can also find information about abandoned claims. Go to and click on the mining claim map.
3. Minerals Database, the online source that lists locales and the material found there. Go to

Although long-time readers will notice a few duplicates in the list below, we have a lot of new members who may not be familiar with all the resources available. So I’m going to stick with a complete list of my favorite web pages. I’ve divided the links into four main areas: history, geology, prospecting, and tourism.

Highway 49
This has always been one of my favorite web pages for the Mother Lode area. The page is commercial in nature, with a big business directory, but it has a decent map and a lot of content. There are links to historic photographs, including James Wilson Marshall, whose work on Sutter’s mill sparked the initial rush into California.

Gold Rush stories
Don Baumgart has amassed a nice collection of short tales from the Gold Rush days. He covers topics such as the end of hydraulicking, the use of mercury, high-grading, and mine salting. Here’s an excerpt from his tale about early reports from the gold fields:
“One eastern newspaper writer claimed mining gold in California took no skill at all. ‘The workman takes any spot of ground or bank he fancies, sticks his pick or shovel at random, fills his basin, makes for the water, and soon sees the glittering results of his labor.’
If only it were that easy! Perhaps the newspaper stories were sparked by stories such as this one, which Baumgart relates from the days just after Marshall’s initial discovery, when he was still trying to keep news of the discovery from leaking out:
“The men were unsure how big the gold strike was and were reluctant to give up their well-paying jobs to go prospecting full time. ‘...but when Sunday came, down into the tail race we would go. No other place seemed to strike us so favorable, and there we would pick and crevice with our jack and butcher knives, and we hardly ever failed to get three to eight dollars each and sometimes more.’"

Gold Rush History
This is an excellent, comprehensive site that defies easy labels. There is plenty of historical information, references to old towns and mines, discussions about mining methods, and lots more. One thing that helped was where the important names are spelled out for easy pronunciation. For example, if you’ve ever stumbled over the word “placer” this is what you should remember:

Placer - plass' er; American Spanish: gravel or sand deposits containing precious metal deposits.

Or here’s another tongue-twister:
Tuolumne ~ too-all'-um-nee; Miwok Indian: Stone Houses

My personal favorite for geology information about the Mother Lode is still Andrew Alden’s About Geology web page. He has plenty of links for maps, discussions, articles, treatises, etc. Let me warn you up front – his site is addicting if you have even a hint of an interest in geology. There is so much content here, it will take you a long time to exhaust all the possibilities.

California State Mining and Mineral Museum
I was expecting more pictures about the exhibits here, but this may be a place better visited in person than online. I’ll quote from the front page: “You are invited to discover for yourself California’s mineral wealth, colorful history and geologic diversity as you view the official mineral collection of the state of California. The collection, which began in 1880, contains over 13,000 objects including mining artifacts, rare specimens of crystalline gold in its many forms, as well as beautiful gem and mineral specimens from California and around the world. The collection was moved to Mariposa in 1983 after residing in San Francisco for over 100 years. The museum became a state park in 1999.”

I found a link to the museum with pictures: There is a photograph of an outstanding platinum nugget from the Trinity River area, plus a nice shot of crystalline gold.

California Department of Geology
There are two excellent documents on this page: “Hints for Gold Prospectors” and “Placer Gold Recovery Methods.” Each is an Adobe PDF file, easy to download. There are drawings, maps, and more information. I also like the Map of California Active Gold Mines and the Map of California Historic Gold Mines, two more PDFs. In addition, there are links to the publications database, a page for ordering reports and maps, and a database of reclaimed mining properties.


Chris’ Gold Prospecting Encyclopedia
This is a great new page for me, and well worth your time. Chris has a degree in mining engineering and spent the early years of his career as the geologist for underground and heap-leaching operations. His site has information on prospecting, metal detecting, build-your-own equipment, and lots more.

California Gold Maps
These maps come in very handy before heading out to the gold fields for your next visit. Here’s a quick tease from the webmaster: “The largest true California gold nugget weighed 54 pounds. A 195 pound mass was also found. The 6,600 gold deposit sites shown on our six California gold prospecting and panning maps are continuous from Mexico to Oregon and to the Arizona and Nevada state lines. All gold sites on the prospecting and panning maps are from official records.”

This page has good information about publicly accessibly gold panning areas. If you’re unfamiliar with California’s Mother Lode area, the site gets you started with this snip:

“Gold was first discovered by the Spaniards as early as the 1500s, but mining operations did not begin until the 1780s along the Colorado River. Gold was next discovered in the San Gabriel River (near Los Angeles), San Francisco, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, San Jose, and Santa Cruz by Mexican prospectors who kept these finds secret. Of course, gold was then found at the infamous Sutter's Mill near Sacramento in 1848 and made headlines worldwide. The ensuing great California Gold Rush spawned massive gold discoveries in 40 counties. The richest, Tuolumne County, boasts 8 million troy ounces of gold taken since then.”

Some of the sites listed by Treasurefish are off-limits to dredging, so think of them as “beginner” spots. GPAA members have access to much better areas thanks to the locales listed in the Claims Guide.

Whipple Well
Here’s a site I haven’t seen before, dedicated to not only mining but also metal detecting. The database includes information about old population centers, mines, cemeteries, and more. Warning: the music on the opening page can be annoying to some folks.

Whenever I’m planning to visit a new area or state that I’m not familiar with, I spend a little time poring over the sites dedicated to tourism. I’ve found that much of the information is geared toward visitors, and I can get an idea of which towns have services, such as gas stations. That can come in handy when you look at a map and see a small crossroads halfway between two points, where you hope you can fill your tank. Sometimes those promising points on a map can succumb to economic forces, dry up, and blow away.

For general information about the Mother Lode country, try the Wikipedia page. The site boasts lots of additional links for newcomers, and can help to prepare you for in-depth research.

Virtual Guidebook
This site is a collection of photographs, and breaks down by county for quick searching. If you were concentrating on Placer County, for example, you could quickly zoom in on that spot. I always like to see what a place looks like before I visit, just to get a mental image of how crowded it might be or how developed the land is. Sites like this are a lot of help if you are traveling long distances for your first trip to a spot.

Nevada City Chamber of Commerce
As an example of what you can expect from a good web page run by a chamber of commerce, check out Nevada City. For example, the site points to some gold panning locales: “Some of the most accessible gold panning locations are on the South Yuba River at Bridgeport, Edwards Crossing and Washington, and on the Middle Yuba River at Oregon Creek. These are public stretches of river so you don’t have to worry about claim-jumping.”
Here’s a helpful spot for more recreational opportunities. The page is a list of links for additional information, on a county-by-county basis and more. I list it here because I have to keep reminding myself that not everyone prospects like I do – constantly on the move. I like to hit a lot of sites in a day if I’ve never been to an area, and it’s hard for me to sit still. For example, I’ve long had it in my head that it would be great to visit all the GPAA claims in the guide book. I don’t usually end up in a campground, either – I like to camp on the claim if at all possible. But some of you may be planning a trip to the Mother Lode as a family vacation, and you’re going to want to toss in everything from a trip to Yosemite to a stop at a winery. So tourism links are crucial to maximizing your family fun.

Researching a trip into California’s Mother Lode country is a lot easier thanks to the avalanche of information available on the Internet. Whether you are dredging, panning, sluicing, or metal detecting, you should be able to narrow the odds considerably if you have enough time to study your options carefully. Whether you are doing additional research to determine which of the GPAA claims in the Mother Lode area to visit first, or you want more details about a spot off the beaten track that appeals to you, the links here should open the right doors to get you going.


Garret Romaine has been writing “Mining the Internet” for 12 years. In 2007 he completed his first book, Gem Trails of Washington, and in January 2009, his rewrite of Gem Trails of Oregon was published. His next book, Rockhounding Idaho, is scheduled for publication in 2010. He can be reached at

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Metal Detecting

Mining the Internet: Detector Treasures
By Garret Romaine

Combing through the vast backwaters of the Internet for metal detecting information is no easy task. For each tantalizing clue about lost treasure, there are pop-up surveys to evade, political news to ignore, and ads for drugs that I can’t even pronounce. But this issue, I’ve got a nice collection of links to new (and old) reports that should make every detector owner smile.

Ancient gold wreath
Greece continues to be a source for ancient artifacts, although tomb raiders and looters are running ahead of the authorities in many places. In August 2008, an ancient gold wreath fashioned to resemble olive leaves was uncovered in northern Greece, at the ruins of ancient Aigai. The city of Aigai was the first capital of ancient Macedonia, and was the city where King Philip II — father of Alexander the Great — was assassinated.

The story goes on to note that nearby, “in a royal cemetery at Vergina, just west of Aigai, Greek archaeologists discovered a wealth of gold and silver treasure in 1977.”

Ancient coins found in Philadelphia
This old article, dating to 1872, mentions a large trove of gold coins found while workers excavated a cellar. At first the young men believed the coins were brass, and they admitted throwing the coins at each other for fun. A local jeweler soon straightened them out. The coins dated to the earliest days of the Pennsylvania colony.

Roman coins in England
Three treasure hunters using metal detectors located a nice cache of 1,700-year old coins in 2007. The coins date back to the reign of four emperors: Diocletianus, Maximianus, Constantius and Galerius, who ruled Britain between 296AD and 305AD. The find wasn’t just luck: “Mr Staples, 32, said he had been searching for treasure with a metal detector for more than 15 years. He said: ‘The coins were found below the surface of the ground where the land had been ploughed quite deep. We were hovering the metal detectors above the soil when it started beeping really fast to indicate there is a real hoard of metal. We found 20 coins on the first day and a similar amount the following day. Then it was a case of a couple here and there after that.”

Australian coin mystery
“In the first week of December 2004, two New South Wales amateur prospectors searching for gold unearthed an unidentified ancient coin amongst rocks in uninhabited forest country near a mountain ridge to the north-east of the claimed Gympie Pyramid site with a metal detector. It was found under nine inches of soil amidst old metal fragments. The Dhamurian Historical Research Society at Gympie was alerted to the amazing discovery by an E-bay auction in late January 2005. A successful negotiation with the owners resulted in the final purchase of the historic artifact so that it remained in the possession of Gympie regional researchers.”

Tons of coins found in China
“A cellar containing 1.5 tons of ancient coins, including some 2,000-year-old ones, [was] discovered by a villager in Changzi County, North China’s Shanxi Province.
The man in Qianwanhu Village discovered the cellar with some 10,000 coins, ranging from 3 cm to 1 cm in diameter, on August 23 when he was digging a channel to place pipes for tap water, said Li Lin, an official of the Changzi Center of Cultural Heritage and Tourism. The “money cellar” was 1.5 meters under the earth, with coins being piled orderly into a cuboid of 1.3 meters long, 0.65 meter wide and one meter high, Li said.
Most of the coins were made during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) with the remainders made during Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) and Tang Dynasty (618-907), Li said.”

Roman coins on British beach
“Ancient coins have been found on a beach in the Western Isles giving new clues to the far reaching influence of the Roman Empire. Archaeologists believe the pieces of copper alloy date from the middle of the 4th Century. They were found in a sand dune, but the location in the Uists has been kept secret to protect the site. Archaeologists said it was a “lucky find” as the coins were at risk of vanishing in a high tide. Just seven other Roman coins have previously been found on the isles. A Roman brooch and pieces of pottery have also been uncovered in the past.”

Roman hoard in Portugal
“Archeologists in Portugal have found more than 4,500 Roman coins bundled together inside the wall of a blacksmith’s house dating from the fourth century.
Antonio Sa Coixao, who is leading excavations in Coriscada in northeastern Portugal, said Wednesday by telephone the 4,526 copper and bronze coins were inside a hollow wall and covered by dirt and tools. The coins had apparently been put in a sack which had mostly disintegrated, he said.”

Old coin found in Wales
“Retired butcher Roy Page, 69, of Coedpoeth, found the detailed 2,000-year-old coin on a farm near St Asaph when he went on a search there with the Mold-based Historical Search Society. Roy handed the tiny silver coin to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, who identified it as dating from the second century BC. It is believed to have been brought over some time after the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD, or during earlier visits in the first century BC. Roy, who has been metal detecting for five years, said: ‘The person who held the coin was probably a Roman.’”

Roman hoard in Wales
“Nearly 6,000 copper alloy coins were found buried in two pots in a field at Sully, Vale of Glamorgan by a local metal detector enthusiast in April. After the ruling by the Cardiff coroner, a reward is likely to be paid to the finder and landowner. It is hoped the coins will be donated to National Museum Wales, which has called the find ‘exceptional’.
Two separate hoards were found by the metal detectorist on successive days, one involving 2,366 coins and the other 3,547 coins, 3m away. The 1,700-year-old coins dated from the reigns of numerous emperors, notably Constantine I (the Great, AD 307-37), during whose time Christianity was first recognised as a state religion.”

New Roman emperor
“A coin that solved the mystery of a little-known Roman emperor is going on display at a new exhibition. The base silver coin, bearing the face of Emperor Domitianus, was found by Brian Malin as he combed a field in Oxfordshire with a metal detector.
Only one other such coin exists, showing the face of the man who ruled Britain for just four days, but was dismissed as a hoax. Mr Malin's coin is on exhibition at the British Museum in London. Experts say his discovery proves the earlier coin, found in France 100 years ago, was genuine and that Domitianus did exist. The coin, estimated to be worth more than £10,000, goes on display on Wednesday at the British Museum in London.”

Gold coins of usurper found
“The number of known gold coins of would-be Roman Emperor Carausius recently increased from 23 to 25 specimens. The two newly uncovered examples depict Carausius, who helped himself to Roman Britain as his own private fiefdom in 286 A.D.

There is excitement among museum curators, collectors and the machinery sales manager who found the two coins in a field near Ashbourne, Derbys, but the real story is the proof that once again Britain's Treasure Trove laws work, while demands in other countries that all antiquities and coins found in the ground are cultural patrimony and therefore must be turned over to the government without any reimbursement possibility to the finder simply drive the finds underground.”

Emperor Valens gold coin
“The Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities announced an interesting discovery. Gold coins forged by Roman Emperor Vales were unearthed at the astonishment of archaeologists; these findings represent the first of this kind in the Land of the Pyramids.
The two coins were found during excavations in the west part of St. Catherine's monastery in Sinai. The image represented on the front side of the coins is very similar to that of Valens' and specialists agreed that he is indeed. Valens ruled the Eastern Roman Empire between 364 BC and 378 BC; his reign was nothing close to peaceful. He had to black-out the revolt by Procopius, and then fight the Sassanids, but the war with the Goths meant his end. Gold coins of this type were known in Valens' time as solidii. This type was introduced by Constantine I in 309 and was used until the 10th century. Formally, a gold coin in Roman times was known as aureus.”

Islamic coin found near Oslo
“An Islamic coin from 805 AD, found on the Hurum peninsula just west of Oslo, is causing a stir among Norwegian archaeologists. The silver dirhem, minted in Iran, is one of the earliest examples of coins to turn up in the Nordic countries. Several other hordes in the area have contained similar coins, but none date back as far as this. The previous finds have been 100-150 years younger. According to Houshang Khazaei, a researcher at the University of Oslo, the coin was minted in Mohammadiyyah in Iran. The ruler at the time was Harun al-Rashid, the fifth and most famous of the Abbasid caliphs. For several hundred years dirhems were minted in countries in North Africa and the Middle East. They were used in Europe too, much like the US dollar or the euro today, and likely came to Norway with Viking traders. The dirhem contains about three grams of silver. Payment was made by weight rather than according to the denomination on the coin. Therefore many were cut in half or into quarters to make small change.”

Steamship discovered with gold coins
“Rare gold coins discovered in a sunken steamship off the Louisiana coast have been put under the microscope of sorts, by coin experts. The SS New York was a 165-foot side-wheel steamship that was found under some 60 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico.
It carried within its hull coins made in old U.S. Mints of New Orleans, Charlotte, N.C., and Dahlonega, Ga. -- mints that have not been in action for many years. David Bowers, co-chairman of New York-based Stack’s Rare Coins and coin expert, said some of the coins are in uncirculated or mint condition and could be worth $50,000 to $100,000 each.”

Unfortunately, the full text of this article is now removed.

Viking treasure trove
“The island province of Gotland is a part of Sweden so when torrential rain pours down and unearths a few coins, you’d expect them to be of Swedish origin.
With two old coins emerging after the downpour, archaeologist interest perked up and exploration began.
“The result? The discovery of 52 more coins. And more interesting, all but six of the coins came from other regions and countries. They weren’t Swedish. How did they get there?
“Given that the coins were dated between the late 900s to early 1000s and taking into account the history of the island, the answer… from the Vikings.
“At one time Gotland was a Viking hub of sorts. And Viking were notorious for their travels and the "acquiring and hoarding" of multiple country coinage.
“As a point of fact, Gotland has had more Viking treasure and archaeological findings than nearly anywhere in the world.”

Rogiet hoard
In September 1998, thousands of Roman coins from the third century AD were discovered by Colin Roberts at Rogiet, Monmouthshire. This was one of the finest hoards ever recorded from Wales and were declared treasure in December 1998.
The 3,750 coins had been buried, possibly in a wooden box, around AD 295-6 (we believe this to be the date since there were no coins later than this in the box) and span a forty-year period, with twenty-two emperors represented, a sign of the political instability of the times.

Ancient coins in America
This is excerpted from a chapter called “The Coincidence of the Coins,” from the book In Plain Sight, by Gloria Farley. The write-up is about curious coin discoveries in the United States. The coins were ancient, and some were found buried so deeply that it strained imagination to think a modern collector could have lost them. “Although some of the coins presented in this chapter do not have a verifiable context, still there is enough evidence to be considered that coins were brought here anciently. It is hoped that more coins will emerge as the readers of this book become aware of what they possess. The report of coins by many authors bolsters the validity of the inscriptions, in many ancient scripts, recorded in America.”

Ancient torc discovered
“A metal detector enthusiast discovered a 2,000-year-old golden neckband worth £350,000 while out looking for bits of Second World War aircraft. Maurice Richardson discovered the Iron Age gold and silver choker, known as a torc, in a Nottinghamshire field near his Newark home. Archaeologists believe the torc, the most expensive single treasure find since 1996, was made by the Iceni tribe, once headed by Boudica, which had its power base in present-day East Anglia.
“Four other similar torcs have been discovered, but they were all found some 100 miles away in Norfolk. Dr. Jeremy Hill, head of research at the British Museum, described the Newark torc as ‘probably the most significant find of Iron Age Celtic gold jewelry made in the last 50 years’".

Many of the websites listed here are reliable sources of good information, so you might want to bookmark some of the home pages and check back occasionally. As detectors get better and go deeper, you can expect more of these important finds to pop up in the news. If you can’t make the discovery yourself, at least you can read about it. Sometimes that’s all the motivation you need to plan your next junket into the field.