Page 112: More from the Alpine region
|Beauty . . .|
These falls were once the centre of the richest goldfield in Victoria. More than 8000 gold miners worked along the banks of this stream.
William Howitt, an English author wrote of Reids Creek in 1853:
"... for nearly two miles, a wide valley is completely covered by tents and the soil turned upside down by diggers. A more rowdy and uninviting scene I never saw..... all the trees were cut down; the ground where it was not actually dug up was eaten perfectly bare by lean horses... More shabbiness and apparent wretchedness it would be difficult to conceive. Reids Creek has the character of being a disorderly and dangerous place. There have been no less than fifteen murders committed at it..."
The pool below the falls was drained between 1918 and 1920 and nearly two thousand ounces of gold were recovered. Let me convert that to Aussie dollars using the gold price and exchange rate which apply today, 8th June 2010. One ounce of gold is worth US$1,240.25. Converted to Aussie dollars that is $1,530.47. Therefore two thousand ounces of gold would be worth $3,060,937. Phew! Not bad for two year's work, and probably tax free if they were smart.
|. . . and the beast|
|Does anybody recognise the ugly object in the picture? This the Eldorado Dredge and it is actually a ship!|
The dredge was one of the largest
ever built way back when. We found it in a place called Eldorado (or El
Dorado, depending which sign or document you look at). It is one hundred
metres long and weighs 2,142 tonnes. It floated on pontoons and was moved
and steered by on-board winches attached to five cables anchored to trees
or posts on the banks – two on each side and one at the front.
| Left:The front end with
its snout sticking forward into the water. The empty buckets run forward
beneath the water, scooping up the earth from deep down as they rise up
over the end of the snout, then run back into the bowels of the beast as
both pictures show.
(The 'snout' is really called the bucket ladder but I prefer snout, it fits with my 'beast' connotation.)
Right: Looking like chairs on a fairground ride, some of the 118 buckets on their way up from as deep as 90 feet below the water. They're empty now, of course, as the Beast has been idle for over half a century.
|The banks of cable pulleys on the front end provided reduction gearing so an electric motor was able to lift the snout clear of the water for maintenance, or lower it as far as 90 feet down for scouring the bottom. The hungry beast could eat over 12,000 tonnes of dirt per day.|
|Left: The back end of the
dredge where the waste is expelled in three grades; course first, medium
on that, fine on the top.
Right: A cable holding the dredge in position. One end goes to an on-board winch, the other was secured to a stout tree.
| The Eldorado Dredge began work in
1936 and retired in 1954 when the cost of gold processing increased sharply.
The owners tried unsuccessfully to sell it and thirty years later it passed
into government hands. It is now listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.
I'm going to leave the Eldorado Dredge here but if you'd like to look at pictures and diagrams that explain the workings of this monster far better than I, go to: http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/resources05/05_1355.pdf.