A Brief History
On February 5, 1869, prospectors Richard Oates and John Deason of Australia found the incredibly large alluvial gold nugget known as “Welcome Stranger,” a rock weighing almost 300 pounds!
Found just 1.2 inches under the ground in a place called Bulldog Gully outside Moliagul, Victoria, Australia, the lucky prospectors dug out the giant rock that weighed (before trimming of non-gold matter) 293 ½ pounds and 1 ½ ounces. The men did not know exactly how big the nugget was at first, because no scales capable of weighing such a huge nugget were available, so the nugget was broken into 3 pieces for weighing. The trimmed weight of the gold contained in the nugget was a whopping 2315.5 Troy ounces, or about 193 pounds. (At today’s price of gold around $1200 US per Troy oz, that is worth around $2,778,600 US! The price of gold fluctuates daily.)
Worth around $3 million US in today’s money, the prospectors were paid only ₤9381 by the London Chartered Bank of Australia. The gold was melted down and cast into bars, then shipped off to the Bank of England in London. The “Welcome Stranger” nugget beat the previous record held by the “Welcome Nugget” of 1858 (also of Australia), by about 100 ounces. The actual weight of the gold contained is estimated at around 3 pounds more than the credited amount, as the prospectors had broken off flakes of the lucky rock as presents.
Deason made bad business investments and lost most of his money, though he lived to age 85. Oates fared better economically, and lived to the age of 79. Both men had been born (1829 and 1827 respectively) in the area of Cornwall, England.
The massive nugget is memorialized by an obelisk more or less where the nugget was found, erected in 1897. A replica of the nugget can be seen at the City Museum of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The descendants of John Deason are also said to own a replica of the mighty chunk of gold. A statue depicting the miners unearthing the nugget can be found in Redruth, England as well.
As you can imagine, finding tremendous hunks of gold such as these made Victoria the object of a gold rush in the 1850’s and 1860’s. In 1856 alone, over 3 million Troy ounces of gold were recovered! (That is $3.6 Billion US in today’s money.) Funneling up to 2 tonnes of gold per week to Melbourne and on to London, the gold paid off all of the UK’s debts and contributed mightily toward the expansion of the empire and the economy. During the gold rush the population of Australia more than doubled.
If I ever get the chance to visit Australia, you better believe it will be with metal detector in my hands! Question for students (and subscribers): Have you ever used a metal detector? If so, did you discover anything interesting? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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The featured image in this article, a photograph of miners and their wives posing with the finders of the nugget, Richard Oates, John Deason and his wife, is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain in its source country for the following reason: This image is of Australian origin and is now in the public domain because its term of copyright has expired. According to the Australian Copyright Council (ACC), ACC Information Sheet G023v17 (Duration of copyright) (). It is also in the public domain in the United States for the following reason: This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1924.
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