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Author Topic: Fullerton and Toppsters Most Excellent Harts Range Adventure (Part1 & 2)  (Read 7343 times)

Fullerton

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PART 1 – THE JOURNEY
I’d been dreaming of getting across to Harts Range for several years. My wife and kids can handle day trips and overnighters but a fully fledged fossicking expedition is beyond their patience levels.

So when fellow ALF member Toppster suggested we make the journey across from Mount Isa/Cloncurry respectively I said ‘let’s lock in dates’. We went with early May as it should have been the Goldilocks period of not too hot, not too cold … just right!

In Toppster’s quest to arrive within one day’s drive … my journey started with a 1:30am wakeup and pack, in the car by 2:15am and at Toppsters by 3:45am. I was already 15 minutes late cause I couldn’t remember the easiest way to his house through Mount Isa and then I couldn’t read house numbers in the dark.

After reloading gear into Toppsters durable trailer and vehicle … off we went at about 4:30am. After 12 or so hours we eventually came to the Plenty Highway turn-off and then arrived at Gem Tree about 6:00pm. Our hosts were very friendly and guided us to our site by quad bike. We had enough light left in the sky to establish ‘Topp Camp’ as I called it.

Now I encourage anyone who can to ‘camp’ with Toppster as he will spare no luxury that will fit in the car and trailer. We had a large marquee with wind breaks on the sides, three ice coolers plus a fridge/freezer, camp kitchen, tables, tabletop bbq, gas cooker, etc etc etc.

So it was we got an early sleep that night dreaming of what zircons might present themselves over the next eight days. Sleep was sometimes difficult as we were serenaded by howling dingoes close to camp in the pre-dawn hours. This wouldn’t have been a concern except that I’d decided to entrust in my basic camp …a 1946 army issue camp stretcher and battered swag open to the elements.

The chances of being woken by a dingo licking my face was a fleeting thought. Toppster meanwhile got to sleep quick in his ‘tent cot’ which I’m sure had crim-safe style fly mesh to keep out any stray Canis lupus.


« Last Edit: May 26, 2013, 12:03:24 AM by Fullerton »
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Fullerton

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PART 2 – MUD TANK ZIRCON SITE
I awoke before first light and checked my face for Canis lupis bite marks ... nope, all good ... although some people would say that it's perhaps hard to tell. Put the kettle on the gas cooker and got some bacon sizzling. Toppster’s nasal senses were soon aroused by the bacon and he joined me for a discussion of the days strategy …we agreed on a simple approach … find a hole, dig, sieve and sort.

It took us 15 minutes to drive to Mud Tank. After passing a few of the camp sites of those staying on the field, we arrived in a delirium of optimism.  Only a few people were up early and a slight chill was still in the morning air.

Toppster first tried finding his old dig from 2012 which was on the south end of the field. Seemed to be still there but currently occupied. We chose another site nearby that had been started and a lot of soil removed.

However, before I’d dug too much, I was mesmerised by the chunks of apatite about. There were pieces from match head to half football size all about the mounds. I couldn’t help but temporarily abandon the zircon hunt for an apatite foray. After 20 minutes, my pockets and arms were full of bits and pieces. Much of it is heavily fractured and weathered but to a Mud Tank newbie … this was like a new candy bar to a kid.

After realising most of the apatite isn’t actually that great, I got down to the dirty business of finding zircons. The top soil was a reasonably well baked clay loam of 20 to 40cm underneath which was our target wash layer of water-worn stones, ironstone and the occasional zircon. We got just enough zircon to keep us interested for a couple of hours but not enough to match our optimism for something better.

Eventually Toppster thought he’d try a nearby ‘starter hole’. Someone had just managed to get down to the wash layer ands maybe process a couple of buckets but hadn’t continued it. Toppster though had immediate success with several good sized pieces in his first sieve. It wasn’t long before I joined him and we began the arduous task of widening and deepening the hole for two people to work.

We continued on the hole until late afternoon and continued to find a steady stream of zircon. Our set-up consisted of mattocks, shovels, picks, hand tools and a six-pack of buckets; a shaker table with three sieves set on it; and, a willoughby that dunks another sieve into a large tub of water.  Both the willoughby and shaker table had been made by Toppster just before the expedition. We had 100L water (5 containers) to wash the sieved wash material.

After finding more than a dozen cutters each plus several zircon specimens showing nice crystal faces, we declared the first day a success and retired to Gem Tree and the gloriously warm showers that soothed aching muscles.

We repeated the daily cycle (up pre-dawn for sizzling bacon and a hot coffee, drive to Mud tank, dig, sieve and sort, drive back to camp) for the next three days. At times the zircon abounded and at other times seemed to almost disappear. But we kept widening the hole and following the bottom wash layer. We noticed this seemed to undulate and many zircon were found in hollows in the wash bed. Within a few days, we’d already excavated an area the size of a large spa.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2013, 08:48:13 AM by Fullerton »
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steveo

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Looks like a lot of fun, would love to go along on a trip like that. But been a while since I've rought it.
Steve

Curran

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Sounds like an awesome trip  :D would love to tag along with you guys I never get to dig that long before my friends wanna go home
The bbbbbbird bird bird bird is the word has everybody heard about the word

Curran

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To demonstrate the lengths I will go for some colour I once treked from Oberon to porters retreat with all I could carry on a push bike due to no car took me 6.5 hours would do it again if I have to
The bbbbbbird bird bird bird is the word has everybody heard about the word

mehoose

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cool write up Fullerton, maybe a cot for yourself?... you did have a "Where Isa he?"  moment ;D
Keep em comin!!!

Fullerton

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Funny mehoose.

Parts 3 (Garnet interlude) and 4 (The mother zircon session) and 5 (Return journey and trip weigh-in) tomorrow night hopefully. Or I could just take an image of the zircon haul and let you use your imagination.
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mehoose

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I'll wait, enjoy the read. You never know what little pearlers(ammo) manage to slip in.   8)
Keep em comin!!!

Jimnyjerry

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Great read Fullerton.  :)

It pays to go with someone who has been before.
Maybe one day I will get up there.  It is a lot further than I go for agates.
I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once.

Jay

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Oh Fullerton, Keep it coming, just enjoy these stories so much.  How I wish I could still do it. 

fishaholic5

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Good stuff :)
It looks like you had fun 8)

Cheers
Wal

chookie2

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Fullerton you and Toppster are keeping the dream alive for us.Always wanted to go to Gemtree/Mudtank etc....maybe when I find a buddy to go with it will happen. Thanks for sharing and don't stop now we are hanging for the next episode! ;D ;D beers
Happy Fossicking from Chookie

Geology Rocks, I really dig it.
My rocks are gneiss, don’t take them for granite.

Tripz

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Sounds like U had a ball, next time I want to go with a buddy as well, 3 weeks in that bush by yourself get`s a bit long, worth it though. Think U dug 2 the right of the gate, did you walk into a trio by the names of Clayton, Val and Rick. They had 2 vehicles .

Good to see there is still plenty coming out of there, looking forward to reading more of your adventures. beers

Fullerton

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Yes, for a serious fossicking trip to Harts Range you need a serious fossicking companion ... and someone to share the expense of travelling to such a remote area. I was just lucky enough to live close enough to another keen fossicker.

Quote
did you walk into a trio by the names of Clayton, Val and Rick.
There were several groups of fossickers that we spoke with but we didn't get their names. Some people who had two vehciles worked close by (40m away) from us and they had the very best of gear (flash looking custom-made shaker tables and willoubies).

The fields weren't exactly crowded so it's more than likely we did see them.

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harryopal

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Fullerton, thanks for `taking us along' on your trip. Very generous with the pics and text.

I was to have caught up with you out Cloncurry way a couple of years ago making the trip in a Toyota Coaster `home' but had fuel supply problems and had to bleed the system about six times. Recently got a 4wd Holden Rodeo and am presently making a fold up `Half Star Hotel' for the tray. Still looking to make another trip out West.
Yours tropically, Harryopal Townsville.
harryopal

 

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