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Subject: ‘Geology’

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‘The Lost Dutchman’ was an elusive goldmine in Arizona

Posted in America, Geology, Historical articles, History on Wednesday, 19 March 2014

This edited article about treasure hunters first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 597 published on 23 June 1973.

Arizona Afterglow,  picture, image, illustration
Arizona Afterglow by Fernand Lungren

The boy who had stumbled into Simon Novinger’s ranch was something of a curiosity, even in the Arizona of the 1860s. He was a white Indian. Orphaned as a baby when redskins attacked his parents’ wagon train, he had been brought up by a number of tribes, who had each taken turns at raising the boy. Then, when it had been decided that he had reached the age of 14, he had been turned out to fend for himself.

Novinger fed the pathetic misfit, unwanted by Indians and yet totally ignorant of the ways of his own people. He gave him clothing and odd jobs around the ranch. Then one day a neighbour called to collect payment on a deal completed some time before, and as was usual in those parts. Novinger brought out a deerskin pouch and from it paid his debt in nuggets of raw gold. The white Indian watched the transaction with interest, and when they were alone he asked his benefactor a question in the Apache tongue.

“Yellow metal good for trade?”

“The very best,” Novinger assured him in the same language. “White men will trade horses, food, guns, for it. Anything.”

The boy considered the information for a while. Then he gestured towards the distant Superstition Mountains, “I know where a man may pick up as much yellow metal as he wants. Before today I did not know it was of value. Now I go to become a rich man.”

Amused, Novinger watched him go, never to return. It was not until later that a thought struck him. What a fool he had been! The boy had lived with Apaches. And who else but an Apache was reputed to know the secret of the lost Peralta mine?

Whether the Indian-raised boy knew the secret or not, the rancher never found out. Years later he was to look in vain for the mine himself, as were scores of men after him. But he was correct in thinking that the Apache Indians knew more than most about the strange, lost fabulously rich load of gold. For it was their braves who had found it in the first place.

No one knows quite when they found it, but find it they undoubtedly did, high up in the bleak, boulder strewn hills east of a point where the town of Phoenix stands today. They certainly knew that the ore was there by the time pioneer priests entered the region in the 16th century.

To the tribesmen the gold was valueless, no more than a soft, pretty looking metal with which to make ornaments. They showed the place to a Mexican priest. And two hundred years later another priest passed on the secret to Don Miguel de Peralta de Cordoba, when this fortunate nobleman was granted all the land in that area by King Ferdinand VI of Spain.

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America’s bonanza kings made millions from the gold rushes

Posted in America, Geology, Historical articles, History on Friday, 7 February 2014

This edited article about America first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 547 published on 8 July 1972.

Miners sign up,  picture, image, illustration
Miners flocked to work for Sam Curtis who knew where to find rich ores in an amazingly fertile area at depths of up to 1,500 feet, by Gerry Embleton

It was said of J. P. Jones, the ex-miner, United States senator and bonanza king who owned a mine in the fabulous Comstock Lode at Virginia City, Nevada, that he counted his dollars by millions, and that he had about five times as many millions as he had fingers and toes.

Jones was only one of the bonanza kings of Virginia City and the Comstock Lode, an incredibly rich vein of silver and gold in the hills nearby the boom town. The vein was found in 1859 by a group of prospectors, but not by Henry Comstock, a “claim jumper” who cut in on the true finders by producing papers belonging to someone else “proving” he owned the site. Fortunately he was bought out before anyone realised just how stupendous the find was. He later died in poverty.

Nowadays a bonanza can mean any profitable or promising, enterprise, or a stupendous piece of luck. A pools bonanza explains itself. But in mining terms it means a spectacularly rich body of ore, usually gold or silver.

A bonanza king is not simply someone who struck it rich. Most of those who did tended to lose their fortunes in gambling sprees, or from robbers, “lead poisoning,” bad luck or sheer lack of business sense. Many men who struck it rich in the great Californian gold rush of 1848-9, the Klondike stampede of 1898 and other rushes in the American West, Australia, South Africa, and elsewhere, died paupers.

The true bonanza king was a man who made his fortune from mining and, by shrewd financial dealings, made that fortune grow and grow. However, there was another group of men that some term bonanza kings, and we must meet them before the genuine articles.

These other kings were men who made millions not mining but in mining areas. Such a man was Domenico Ghirardelli, who started on the millionaire’s trail by selling chocolates and sweets to the Californian miners. Other, more obvious candidates for riches than this Italian immigrant were merchants and financial wizards like Henry Huntington, Leland Stanford and the De Youngs.

These men, and a handful more, were sneered at as “grocers,” but early in their careers they had seen that goods were more valuable than gold in a gold rush because everyone needed them. This applied particularly to the Klondike stampede in Canada’s far North-West, where household items, even ordinary ones, became valuable and luxuries priceless. They were paid for in gold or a pile of gold dust. One smoke-filled Klondike dance hall was making ¬£1,000 a day for its owner, who had certainly found his bonanza.

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Buckland and Mantell proved that dinosaurs had existed

Posted in Dinosaurs, Discoveries, Geology, Historical articles, History, Prehistory, Religion, Science on Tuesday, 4 February 2014

This edited article about dinosaurs first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 541 published on 27 May 1972.

Megalosaurus,  picture, image, illustration
Fossilised Megalosaurus remains were found in Stonesfield by Dean Buckland

Dean William Buckland had good cause to look astonished when he dug into a slate quarry at Stonesfield and found what he could only describe as the remains of a giant lizard.

A set of the most unusual teeth he had ever seen attached to a massive jaw, part of a pelvis, a section of a shoulder blade, and several large backbones were all part of a giant skeleton which must have once belonged to some grotesque monster of prehistoric times. Dean Buckland worked out that the creature must have measured fifty feet long and eight feet high, classified it as a reptile, and gave it the name of ‘Megalosaurus’.

Remains of such creatures had been found before this discovery which was made at the beginning of the 19th century. The first hints of these long-buried monsters of the past had been found in various parts of the U.S.A. A bone dug up here, a footprint found there, but there had never been enough evidence to establish the fact that dinosaurs had ever really existed. No records were kept of these first discoveries such as the thigh bone found in New Jersey in the 18th century, or the giant rib discovered on the south bank of Yellowstone River in 1806. These early finds were virtually ignored. Prehistoric monsters were found only in fairy tales, they surely had never existed.

But had they? The work of two English pioneers in dinosaur discovery did much to refute such an attitude. Dean Buckland, the geologist who had found parts of the giant skeleton of the creature he named Megalosaurus, and Dr. Gideon Mantell were to become the founders of modern palaeontology, and to provide irrefutable evidence of the existence of such monsters.

In March 1822, Doctor Mantell and his wife were visiting a patient in Lewes, Sussex. It was here that the second dinosaur remains to be found in England were discovered by accident in a pile of rubble which been put aside for road repairs. Mrs Mantell had noticed something glinting in the rubble heap, and when she and her husband went closer to investigate they found that the glint came from some fossilised teeth embedded in a piece of stone. His curiosity aroused, Dr Mantell returned to the site for some weeks afterwards and, to his great delight, found not only more teeth, but also a number of large fossilised bones, none of which he could identify.

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The Klondike Stampede was the last great Gold Rush

Posted in America, Famous news stories, Geology, Historical articles, History on Wednesday, 29 January 2014

This edited article about the Klondike Gold Rush first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 531 published on 18 March 1972.

Klondike,  picture, image, illustration
The Klondike Stampede up the Chilkoot with a man panning for gold during the Klondike gold rush, by Graham Coton

At the south fork of the creek, the three prospectors stopped to ease their backs. All day they had been “panning” the stream for gold – stooping over and over again to gather specimens of silt, then carefully washing away the sand in the hope that what was left in the pan would glint with the magic yellow metal.

The gold was there all right, perhaps 10 cents worth in a pan of sand – encouraging, but nothing to get excited about in the bleak areas around the mouth of the Klondike River in Canada’s vast North West. It was a part of the world where every lonely prospector believed fervently that this week – next week – sometime he would make the big strike and become rich overnight.

“Well boys,” George Carmack, the leader of the party said at last, “let’s see what they’ve got.” And he nodded towards smoke that was rising from a camp ahead.

The camp turned out to be that of a man called Robert Henderson, who listened without enthusiasm to Carmack’s suggestion that they should join forces. “There’s a chance here for you, George,” he said at last. “But I don’t want any Indians staking on my creek.”

And with those words he threw away the chance of a hundred kings’ ransoms.

Carmack was not an Indian, although he would have liked to have been. He admired and understood the local tribes; and his two companions – Tagish Charlie and Shookum Jim – were full-blooded redskins and his close friends. Carmack was deeply offended that Henderson should discriminate between them, and he promptly led the way out of the camp.

“Never mind,” he told Tim and Charlie in fluent Chinook. “We’ll find a place of our own.”

A few minutes later, at a spot called Rabbit Creek, he looked down and saw sticking out of the ground a lump of gold as big as his thumb. All around, gold lay between the flaky slabs of rock like cheese in a sandwich. The three men performed a kind of war dance. The unbelievable had happened. The land had given up its secret wealth to George Washington Carmack and his two Indian friends.

The date was August 17th, 1896.

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San Francisco is built on the tremulous San Andreas Fault

Posted in America, Disasters, Famous landmarks, Famous news stories, Geography, Geology on Saturday, 18 January 2014

This edited article about America first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 518 published on 18 December 1971.

San Francisco earthquake, picture, image, illustration
San Francisco earthquake of 18 April 1906

The great ball of flame explodes upwards – a Catherine-wheel of sparks lighting the black night sky.

Along the street the cry runs . . . “Fire . . . Fire . . . F-I-R-E!”

Wooden shacks crackle, canvas tents flare. Men and women, mouths agape, stagger from blazing gambling booths, crammed rooming-houses, upturned boats, shoving, screaming, coughing, fighting, shouting, swearing . . .

1849. San Francisco is burning again, for the third time in as many months.

Hours later only a few buildings remain, blackened and smoking. But in one, sealed in an iron safe, are hundreds of fortunes in gold dust. San Francisco will rise again – and soon, stronger and cockier than ever, until the next disaster wrecks its flimsy buildings.

It is not yet a proper town, let alone a city, but in less than a year it has grown from the tiny mission station of Yerba Buena, on California’s isolated west coast, to a big, brash, bustling community of thousands: a rich, if ramshackle, trading post where fortunes change hands daily.

Why? Because in January 1848 James Marshall discovered gold in the American River, 110 miles to the north-east, while building a sawmill on its banks.

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Ramshackle pioneers gave the Klondike its fame and historic identity

Posted in America, Famous news stories, Geology, Historical articles, History on Thursday, 12 December 2013

This edited article about the Klondike first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 490 published on 5 June 1971.

Chilkoot Pass, picture, image, illustration
Over Chilkoot Pass during The Gold Rush in Alaska

In winter, the Chilkoot Pass was a nightmare. But for men crazed with the lust for gold, it was a pathway to wealth, or so they hoped. It was 1896. Gold had been found in the Yukon territory of North West Canada in a creek that has become world-famous as the Klondike.

Thousands of men, starving in the American depression, crowded into boats and headed for the beach at Dyea. They then worked their way along the river to the notorious Chilkoot Glacier, which blocked the way into the Yukon gold region. The pass which led over it was to haunt the memories of those who negotiated its treacherous and punishing snows.

Howling gales and blinding snow blizzards buffeted them without respite as they moved upwards, inch by inch, in a single file that snaked its way from the bottom to the very top of the pass, Almost dropping from fatigue, they dragged themselves on hoping, often in vain, that they would reach to the top without getting frostbite.

Once over the Chilkoot, the miners descended into the gold region and began their tireless hunt for the wealth which they believed was waiting to be found.

If all the stories told about the Yukon were true, the miners would all have become millionaires. But they didn’t! Many began as paupers and remained poor. Others found gold – but still ended up with none.

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The fruitless hunt for Charles Breyfogle’s desert El Dorado

Posted in America, Geology, Historical articles, History on Tuesday, 26 November 2013

This edited article about the Californian Gold Rush first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 463 published on 28 November 1970.

Death valley gold rush, picture, image, illustration
Four men head for Funeral Mountain and Death Valley beyond, not knowing that Paiute Indians were watching them

Although cars speed across the valley, it is still one of the most savagely desolate places on earth. Some “Forty-Niners,” heading for the Californian goldfields in 1849, named it Death Valley after just managing to escape from it alive.

In summer, Death Valley is the hottest and driest place in the United States. To the east are the Funeral Mountains of Nevada, to the west in California are the towering, jagged Panamints. Between them is the valley, a terrifying wasteland of sun-scorched sand dunes and strangely shaped rock formations, some of it the lowest lying land in the whole Western Hemisphere.

This desolate area has produced millions of dollars’ worth of silver and gold and vast amounts of borax. It has also produced at least twenty tales of lost mines. One of them, the Lost Breyfogle, ranks with the Lost Dutchman Mine and the Lost Adams Diggings as one of the three most famous stories of lost treasure in America.

Charles Breyfogle had been looking for another lost mine when he stumbled on the gold that bears his name. He was a middle-aged ex-local politician and part-time prospector, who had settled in the small silver-boom town of Geneva, Nevada, to run a hotel and an estate agency. But Geneva rapidly turned into an empty Ghost Town when the mining boom moved elsewhere. So in 1864 he set off to look for a famous lost mine called the Lost Gunsight in Death Valley. It was nearly his last journey anywhere.

Heading for the Valley, he ran into three men he wrongly took to be prospectors. They turned out to be on their way to the East via Texas to fight in the Civil War on the Southern side. They were then in the territory of the Paiute Indians, a backward tribe who had learnt, like other more advanced Indians, to look on the White Man as an enemy.

The going got steadily rougher as they approached the Funerals. One night the ground was so rocky that they could find nowhere to sleep. Finally, the three would-be soldiers bedded down on a small flattish piece of ground, while Breyfogle was forced to perch below them on a narrow ledge.

That night the Paiutes struck. Breyfogle heard screams and yells above him, then a war-whoop of triumph, then silence. Grabbing his shoes, he fled for his life, lacerating his feet on rocks and thorns as he ran.

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Adams found gold nuggets the size of acorns in dangerous Apache country

Posted in America, Geology, Historical articles, History on Tuesday, 26 November 2013

This edited article about the New Mexico gold rush first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 462 published on 21 November 1970.

Adams and diggers, picture, image, illustration
Thee men went crazy when Adams discovered a walled-in canyon where gold nuggets could be picked from a stream at the bottom of a waterfall

They are still searching for the fabulous treasure that Adams lost and found over a century ago. History does not relate his first name. He is “Adams of the diggings” or just plain Adams, the man who discovered a walled-in canyon somewhere in New Mexico in country where gold nuggets as big as acorns could be picked from a stream.

The fact that no one knows just where in an area of about 4,800 square miles to begin looking, has not stopped hundreds following hunches or “information,” or even doing what an old-timer called Cooney did. He became so baffled that he used to turn to his mule each morning and say: “Which way today, Black Pete?” And the way the mule pointed they went!

The story begins in 1864 when twenty Californians were examining some gold they had found near a friendly Pima Indian village in Arizona. A freight-carrier named Adams arrived on the scene with only his horses, his wagon and trailer having been burnt by Apaches. The Californians made offers for the horses until another newcomer appeared at their camp.

He was a young Mexican who also wanted a horse, but had no money, or even an idea of the value of gold. When shown a gold coin he told his astounded listeners where they could find the yellow metal in chunks!

The Mexican had been brought up with the Apaches who also had no interest in gold. He offered to take the men to the spot if they gave him two horses, a rifle and ammunition, plus the 50-dollar piece he had been shown. He said they could shoot him if he failed. Gold lust mounted swiftly in the camp!

They set off, heading towards New Mexico. The route they took has been argued about ever since, especially as Adams, after the dreadful fate that overtook the party, became impossibly vague about it.

It was a fearful journey through some of the ruggedest country in all America. Finally they reached a crack in a mountain wall, hidden by a giant boulder. They went through it into a small canyon with a twenty-foot high waterfall tumbling down into it.

The men went crazy. In the whole history of gold strikes there have been few moments to equal that one. Most of the party did not even bother to get their picks. They ran to the stream below the waterfall and started digging with sticks and their bare hands.

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Some Australian strikes were nothing more than gold diggers’ illusions

Posted in Australia, Geology, Historical articles, History, News on Friday, 15 November 2013

This edited article about Australia first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 460 published on 7 November 1970.

Coolgardie gold rush, picture, image, illustration
A gold rush that wasn't was started in Western Australia when a man called McCann was said to have found gold

A local paper broke the news, and soon afterwards the gold-rich town of Coolgardie in Western Australia was in an uproar. A new and incredibly rich gold field had been found, so the paper claimed, to the south of the town.

Rumour was rampant, as groups of men set off in every direction to the alleged spots – and there were plenty of them – where the gold was said to be. They took to the bush on foot, on bicycles, on horses, and even on camels, which had been imported earlier to cope with local desert conditions. It was 1892 and the temporary citizens of Coolgardie and district were on the move.

One paper had named a miner called McCann as the man who had made the actual gold strike. The question being asked was, where was McCann?

Soon, thousands of angry miners were pouring back into town, their tempers, regularly on the boil, becoming more frayed every minute. They blamed the papers for publishing false information and the papers blamed McCann. This was gold fever gone sour and therefore at its worst.

Western Australia had been very much cut off from the rest of the nation until gold was found there in the late 1880s, nearly 40 years after the first great Australian gold rush. The sheer distance to get to the new gold fields made it a hard place for treasure-hunters to reach, and dust, hostile Aborigines and thirst added to their difficulties, making it the most rugged of all Australian gold rushes. Many died, but some of those that survived struck it unbelievably rich, making Western Australia the wealthiest gold-mining area on the continent, incidentally, hastening its political union to the rest of Australia.

The Coolgardie goldfield was discovered in 1892 and a town sprang up full of tough “diggers” of many nationalities. Yet the miners, like miners everywhere, believed in a rough frontier justice, which in Australia was known as “Diggers’ justice.” For instance, one Western Australian miner cheated a mate of £80 worth of gold, for which he was almost hanged without a trial. Finally, something almost worse happened! He was expelled from his camp and details of his “trial” were sent to goldfield newspapers everywhere, so that wherever he went he was treated as a social outcast, a veritable leper.

His crime had been bad enough, but to start a false gold-strike story was considered far, far worse. Yet perhaps McCann really had struck gold. But where was he?

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The Klondike Stampede was the last mass hysterical rush for gold in modern times

Posted in Adventure, America, Famous news stories, Geology, Historical articles, History on Thursday, 14 November 2013

This edited article about the Klondike originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 459 published on 31 October 1970.

Klondike Stampede, picture, image, illustration
Ships left North American ports packed with prospectors heading north to the Klondike, by Graham Coton

The last great gold rush was also the hardest to endure. It was the last time the world was stricken with gold fever on a vast scale, the last time office boys left their desks and headed for the docks, the last time men set out in their thousands when the magic words “Gold Strike!” sounded.

They headed for a remote spot called the Klondike to take part in an epic known ever since as the Klondike Stampede.

It all started on 17th August, 1896, at Bonanza Creek, a tributary of the Klondike River in Canada’s North-West near the Alaskan border. There an American named George Carmack and two Indians, “Tagish” Charley and “Skookum” Joe, followed up a tip from another prospector, a Canadian called Robert Henderson, who had just struck a little gold himself.

The three did not strike a little: they struck it rich! They found gold lying so thick between slabs of rock that it looked like a giant cheese sandwich. They did a war dance to celebrate, and soon the news rapidly spread around the small community of prospectors in the area.

At first the outside world knew nothing of the find. The Klondike was almost completely cut off from it, and was to remain so until the winter was over, though a detachment of Mounties were soon on the spot to keep order, an almost unique occurrence in the history of gold rushes!

All winter long fortunes were made and sometimes gambled away overnight in the small, booming town of Dawson. There was so much gold about that it became less valuable than salt, which was in short supply! One of those who did not strike it rich was the unfortunate Henderson, who many believe was the true discoverer of gold.

Then, the following July the world heard the news. Two boatloads of “Bonanza Kings,” having sailed across Alaska down the mighty Yukon River, then south to Seattle and San Francisco respectively, with every suitcase, box, jar and cask crammed with gold, sent the world mad with a new disease. The papers called it “Klondicitis.”

A stampede for the Klondike at once began, few people having any idea how inaccessible it was. Some set out in dangerously overcrowded boats to the Yukon River and got frozen in for the winter! Others had a nightmare journey overland. Most of those who finally made it by these routes found that the Gold Rush was over!

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