Water Blasting

Relics from the goldmining days are commonly on display in Otago and I never get tired of seeing them. The Otago Gold Rush began near Lawrence when Gabriel Read discovered gold at what came to be called Gabriel’s Gully, in May 1861.

In Lawrence on Saturday I found a fine sluice gun or monitor on display. These were used to direct high-pressure water at hillsides and river banks in order to wash material down to where it could be processed in order to retrieve any gold that might be present.

Of course this was enormously destructive! The Otago landscapes subjected to sluicing were forever altered and today it’s really obvious where sluicing took place. I believe massive quantities of sediment entered the Otago river systems at this time due to sluicing.

Sluice gun or monitor



Further Reading

  • Photo of a sluice gun in action  at Blue Spur near Lawrence in the 1880s.  You can see the sluice gun directing water under high-pressure at a hillside and the water running back down until it eventually reaches a sluice box.
  • Video clip of a sluice gun in action – you need to scroll down to the heading ‘Methods used to find gold in the gold rushes of the 1800s’ (about half way down the web page) via this link:  Goldrush Online

Text and photos by Liz; Exploring Colour (2019)

10 thoughts on “Water Blasting

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  1. Exciting and interesting Liz!
    Just for fun I let google translate to Swedish and I must say it’s not so very well done but you can hardly understand. Probably it will improve and it is good that it exists.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I imagine the automatic translation could easily get ‘confused’ with words like “monitor” that have multiple meanings! I used to have the ‘translate’ widget on my blog but I must have forgotten to put it back last time I re-arranged my blog design.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The sluice gun was a destructive device, as you pointed out, but it looks like it would be fun to operate. I was stunned to see a news report last year, showing miners using a cyanide solution to leach gold out of the rocks.
    But there are still streams in the Rockies, where you can try panning, that seems pretty harmless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does look fun to operate, hence my fascination! Re cyanide, it was used here, from Te Ara Encyclopedia: “The development of the cyanide process for extracting gold and silver from crushed quartz revolutionised hard-rock gold mining in New Zealand in the 1890s. Before cyanide, a mercury amalgam was used to chemically recover gold and silver, but it was only half as effective. Cyanide allowed far more of the gold and silver to be recovered, making previously marginal mining operations profitable. These large vats hold cyanide and crushed ore.”

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        1. I’ve just found that arsenic often occurs naturally near gold. Over on the West Coast of the South Island is a place called Waiuta that was processing gold in the 30s-50s. They ‘roasted’ arsenic-bearing ore to get the gold. A quote from the Minister for the Environment in 2015 said “The levels of arsenic are among the highest recorded anywhere in the world at 400,000 parts per million on land, or 500 times the safe level, and in water at 300 parts per million, or 33,000 times the safe limit for drinking water,” Interesting article (with a very scenic photo). At: https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/66644317/

          Liked by 1 person

  3. We’d like to think modern methods are superior and less harmful. In many cases they are but there are still old ways, or even new such as the fracking being employed in the U.S., that are just as or even more harmful to the environment. It’s nice that such relics are maintained for memories of the old ways and to keep alive the history of a place though.

    Liked by 1 person

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