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Sapphires in Sapphire!

Eera

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
hey ladies, been missing you all.

Anyway, I'm sure you're aware of my crying over our aborted NZ trip. We decided to use the time for a family adventure in quite the other direction - the Semi-Arid-Almost-Outback; and visit the gemfields region of Queensland - it s volcanic area about 4 hours inland from Rockhampton, which itself lies on the Tropic of Capricorn, and comprises the towns of Rubyvale, Emerald and Sapphire. All named because it's a known area for finding gems and you buy fossicking licences, grab some tools and get digging.

So we hitch up the hybrid camper-trailer (I am NOT old enough to own a caravan), spend best part of a day making our way to the Gemfields through the coal mining area of Central Queensland, then rock up to our accommodation in the caravan park. First impressions - it's a dust hole inhabited by weirdly wiry people with bad teeth and wild hair who live in tin shacks, but my, they are super friendly. Weather was nice, 30C (86F) during the day, down to 6C (42F) at night, though this made the pool freezing and the kids were turning blue each time they went in it.

We spent three days digging holes in pits and chicken scratchings in the public fossicking areas, gathered well over 100kg of gravel to sift through, and found a grand total of two sapphires. Talking to some others at the site, they mentioned there was a local who had his own private mine who was having a purple patch, and he'd take you down there and you could hack some rock out of his walls. So we tracked him down in town (wiry, bad teeth, wild hair but super friendly) and he took us to his mine - which he had hand excavated under his house. Us and the kids climbed down 6m of ladders into a network of tunnels - 100m of them - that he'd burrowed over the last 8 years (and also bear in mind I have a Masters in Mine Risk Management and was thinking all the time "This does NOT comply with the Mining and Quarrying Safety And Health Act 1999"). He pretty much asked us which bit of wall we'd like, hacked it out and gave it to us in a bucket - like I said, wonderfully friendly.

We got maybe 150 sapphires out of that bucket. Most of them are pretty fractured but I reckon there's some nice green ones which will cut well and I can get mounted in a ring or something.

We followed up by failing to find any gold in Charters Towers, a small town to the north with a long history of gold mining and mercury contamination, but happily not too much evidence of insanity in the locals. Should have realised at the end of the dry season there's no actual water there so you can't pan for it. Plus husband brought his metal detector and it turns out he's never read the manual, and it apparently has a "find random rocks" setting.

I've got to say that while I haven't skiied for 18 months now, our travel restrictions are making me look at my own backyard. Come to a couple of conclusions:

Australia has some amazing little areas to go see;
You don't need to spend much to have a good time with the family; and
Had I been a prospector in the 1800s I'd have been dead in a week.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
I've got to say that while I haven't skiied for 18 months now, our travel restrictions are making me look at my own backyard. Come to a couple of conclusions:

Australia has some amazing little areas to go see;
You don't need to spend much to have a good time with the family; and
Had I been a prospector in the 1800s I'd have been dead in a week.
:thumbsup:
 

Eera

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
That sounds like a lot of fun! I’d love to see Australia some day.
We are in the midst of planning a Big Lap right now; taking a year off work and travelling the whole way around. Honestly, there are some places I've never heard of before that make me wonder why they aren't world famous.

I mean there's an awful lot of buggerall between those areas too, but a lot of it is on point!
 

Jilly

Moderator
Staff member
I've always heard of Opal's coming from Australia, so sapphires are really interesting.
 

Eera

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Some pretty ordinary photos: kids in their not-natural environment. Good thing about remote areas is the lack of phone coverage so they're forced to put down their ipads for a bit;
Half the amount of sapphires we found, I think there's a couple of zircons in there too, have to get them sorted and assessed for cuttability. they aren't washed so you can't see the colours well;
Just a pretty of my home area from on top of the Eton range; and
We ended up staying in Townsville for the North Queensland Athletics championships, I was a track official this time, they gave me a bell and everything. Oldest qualified for Nationals in high jump, 200, 400 and 800m.

kidsinhole.jpghaul.jpglookout.jpgofficial.jpg
 

Eera

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I've always heard of Opal's coming from Australia, so sapphires are really interesting.
Western Australia is a big diamond mining area; Argyle Pink Diamonds are hugely expensive, the mine is currently shutting down so supply is going to drop off. Masses of gold in various areas too. I'd love to get out to Coober Pedy or Lightning Ridge and see the opal workings; I had a friend drove out there a couple of years ago and she had some white opal that she had picked off the side of the road; they were using it for aggregate as it wasn't quite gem quality.
 

Jenny

Angel Diva
Some pretty ordinary photos: kids in their not-natural environment. Good thing about remote areas is the lack of phone coverage so they're forced to put down their ipads for a bit;
Half the amount of sapphires we found, I think there's a couple of zircons in there too, have to get them sorted and assessed for cuttability. they aren't washed so you can't see the colours well;
Just a pretty of my home area from on top of the Eton range; and
We ended up staying in Townsville for the North Queensland Athletics championships, I was a track official this time, they gave me a bell and everything. Oldest qualified for Nationals in high jump, 200, 400 and 800m.

View attachment 16528View attachment 16529View attachment 16530View attachment 16531
Australia was one of our big vacations - a friend married an Australian and the we went down for the wedding.

Exchange student we had in high school was from Townsville.

How old is your oldest? I used to do high jump, 400, and 800 waaaaay back when I was young. Also did the 200 as part of a relay, and later on added the 1600. Qualifying for Nationals is pretty exciting!
 

newboots

Angel Diva
So that's what it takes to keep kids off their phones! Looks like an amazing trip!
 

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