Oh no, not more bloody rocks…! Yes, it’s more rocks, shiny, colourful and when I’m exceptionally lucky, nice clear rocks like many of the ones in the picture above. This is an assortment of what I’ve found in the central Queensland gemfields around the Rubyvale/Sapphire areas. The variety in colours of the sapphire and zircon up here is far more exciting than down in Inverell where I was a few weeks back.
A couple I met back in Tingha have a small mine up here in Rubyvale and they suggested I get up here to one of the free fossicking areas called Glenalva and their words were “get in a hole someone has already started and dig for a few weeks, you’ll find stuff.”
So here I am set up at Glenalva, I scored a pretty good campsite, nice and flat with carpet laid out on the ground, a big rock fire place behind the car, an old ironing board in front of the car to sort my rocks on, what more could a fossicker want. So I started my digging, i found a hole, set up my sieves, grabbed my little camp spade and got stuck in. Stuck in to solid rock and clay which was like concrete. I persevered for a few hours but found that the hard digging, my tiny spade and the constant barrage of huge mosquitoes was just too much.
The mozzies were thick, it was the middle of the day and I was being attacked constantly and they were biting through clothes without a problem, through a long sleeved cotton shirt and t-shirt. I then spoke with a couple who were camped about 100m away who had already been here for 5 weeks, they had multiple picks, long handle spades, huge custom made sieves, many buckets and a willoughby for washing the rocks. Working as a team they had been processing 30-40 20L buckets a day and in 5 weeks they had a couple of “cutters” about 10 carats each and a matchbox full of rubbish. I wasn’t liking the sounds of this so I headed off to explore the local fossicking areas by car to do a bit of specking (looking for gems on the ground).
This was another fossicking area closer to Rubyvale called Graves hill, as with most of the fossicking places, there are people camped intermittently through the areas, you can see one on the left then another way down the track. I later met a guy who had been camping here for over a week digging and he said he’d found nothing at all, not a speck so he was on his way to the pub.
Although I’d promised myself I wouldn’t, I thought perhaps I’d visit some places in town and buy a bucket of dirt, just to get my eye in so I knew what I was looking for again. I’d spent the last couple of weeks looking for opal so I had to get back into the sapphire zone. I went to a place on the main street of Rubyvale called Bobby Dazzler, paid my $15 and started to sieve and wash. I found a few small bits but nothing to really get excited about, they were all tiny and there wasn’t much of it. So the following day I tried more digging back in my hole near camp, I also started another hole but the slowness of digging with my tiny camping spade and a little rock pick was futile. The mozzies were still attacking me aggressively.
OK, time to get serious, I was going to buy a long handle full size spade and a pick. I figured I’d been pretty serious about this fossicking for a while now and if I planned to do more of it I would need these tools in the future, so trip into town.
Maybe while I’m in town I could try a different place for a bucket of dirt. The Miners cottage had a load of cars parked outside so I wandered in to give it a try, this place had a much nicer ambiance than the last one, the people seemed happier and there was some 50s and 60s music playing. I paid my $15, grabbed my bucket and hopped into it, this was far better than the last place, there was a lot more sapphire to be found and the sizes of some pieces were fantastic.
Also you got scones jam and cream and cups of tea or coffee included in the price of your bucket of dirt. This was my sort of fossicking, there were no mozzies, each bucket had loads of sapphire and zircon to find, food and drink included. It was another 3 or 4 days before I got to use the pick and spade that I’d bought, the picture above was my second day at miners cottage and by the count of the little coloured cups I’d done 5 buckets and the owner Gae offered me a sixth bucket for free. And yes, that’s at least my second scone for the day.
After my first trip to the miners cottage when I washed 3 buckets, I decided to compare Gae’s buckets with what I’d got from Bobby Dazzler, Gae’s are on the right, bobby on the left. The bag on the left had a total weight of 22 carats, the other three bags were 84 carats, 112 carats and 143 carats in weight.
So digging out at camp by myself in rock hard dirt probably finding nothing, being eaten by mosquitoes, or the easy life, coffee and scones, loads of sapphire and zircon, no mozzies, yakking to people? Easy choice, ok, less healthy on the wallet and the waist in town but at least I’m getting stuff. And while I’m doing comparisons, I decided to compare my finds from Inverell with what I’ve got here so far.
The top 2 containers are what I’ve got here at Rubyvale, 468g or 2340 carats from 17 buckets for a total cost of $255 and 3 days of enjoyable light work. The two bottom containers are Inverell, 169g or 845 carats for a total cost of $490 of camping and fossicking fees and 14 days of back breaking digging and sieving in some pretty horrible conditions some days. Almost 3 times the quantity of stone at almost half the price. So far as quality goes? Well it’s Australian sapphire, most of it isn’t brilliant but I think I’m getting higher percentage of cutters up here. If you look two photos back up the page at the bags you’ll see there’s a top row of bags with potential cutters in them. Gae checks your finds when you are ready to leave and for the beginners she spends a lot of time throwing out rocks, but she also check each stone of any size with a good spot light and separates out what she thinks has cutting potential and there are a few with potential.
Yes, I’ve probably got little to no chance of finding a fantastic stone of great size and clarity washing the buckets, but I’m a “work smarter not harder ” kind of guy. I can’t move as much dirt as the couple near where I’m camped, and the fact that they have found nothing great after 5 weeks of constant digging, and by their account got nothing last year either, I think I’m on a winner with the buckets.
Though I did end up spending some more time digging back at Glenalva. I found a spot about 150m from where I was camped where the dirt was a little easier to sieve and I managed to find one small 3.5ct piece of rubbish, I was trying to look upon the digging as not a means of finding sapphire but purely a means of exercise.
Gemfest was also on while I was here, this is a once a year celebration of the gems to be found within the central Queensland gem fields. As with most shows of it’s type there a range of things to see and do though this just seemed out of place here.
Especially considering that opposite them and surrounding them were displays of real dinosaur bits many millions of years old.
But according to them they aren’t, fossils were created during the big flood in the bible, I got a bit side tracked on their website and read a little about how old they thought the world was, evidently about 10 thousand years or so. The articles seem to be written quite scientifically, lots of references throughout. But when you check the referenced links they link to either their own same website, or very similar websites. And when you dig even further, like the article about actual tissue and red blood cells being found in a T-rex bone, which they claim is proof that dinosaurs were around only a few thousands of years ago. Well the woman who discovered this, herself a devout christian had this to say about the “young earthers”.
“Creation magazine claimed that Schweitzer’s research was “powerful testimony against the whole idea of dinosaurs living millions of years ago. It speaks volumes for the Bible’s account of a recent creation.”
This drives Schweitzer crazy. Geologists have established that the Hell Creek Formation, where B. rex was found, is 68 million years old, and so are the bones buried in it. She’s horrified that some Christians accuse her of hiding the true meaning of her data. “They treat you really bad,” she says. “They twist your words and they manipulate your data.”
As a totally off topic line of conversation I’ve been musing about the variety of people I’ve met while I’m travelling, and more importantly those I connect well with, and “variety” is the key word. Of course there have been many I’ve spent time with having conversations, laughs and experiences with along the way but some that stick in my mind have been “Pom” the cantankerous 72 year old fishing mad ex-cocky living at Fowlers Bay. Claudi the 26 year old German psychologist backpacker I spent 5 weeks travelling with. Sue, the ex-adult novelty sales lady I kept running into throughout Victoria and NSW. And more recently, Jody the around 60 year old transgender (man to lady) person I met here in Rubyvale while fossicking for sapphires. Perhaps this is a reflection of myself that I find myself clicking with the more unusual people I meet along the way. Perhaps I’m just picking extremes from all the people I’ve met, I don’t know, for sure there’s been a variety, some I’d prefer to forget, like the sexist, homophobic, bigoted priest in Bega.
I’ve also found many couples to be a quite clicky for lack of a better word, like the couple camped near me here at Glenalva, I’ve spoken with them a few times and each time they have asked when I’m leaving. Perhaps there’s nothing in that, but I get a strong vibe from the wife Elizabeth that she doesn’t like me and doesn’t want to have anything to do with me, last time I was speaking with her husband and showing him some of the stones I’d been getting, she walked past and ignored my hello, when he asked her to look at some of my stones she kept walking and mumbled something inaudible.
Normally in a free camping environment people tend to share and talk but they have never once asked me if I wanted to come over and say hello or have drinks, while a few people from vans camped around them tend to migrate to their van every afternoon for a sun downer, all couples of course. The abnormal solo traveler is up on the hill. Still I can only imagine how Jody feels travelling around by herself, she is a solo traveler but then also transgender, which I’m sure keeps away many of the grey nomads so prevalent in QLD at this time of year.