Knee deep in a muddy stream and an age-old chase, prospectors have battled it out at the Northern Territory Gold Panning Championships.
Most important points:
The championships have become a fixture for Pine Creek
The historic gold mining town experienced a gold rush in the 19th century
The event also recognizes the important Chinese community that once lived in the city
The annual event was held Saturday in the Top End town of Pine Creek, about 220 kilometers south of Darwin, and attracted about 40 participants.
Gold-digging judge John Fisher said there were a few tricks that could give competitors an edge.
“The secret is, make sure there’s plenty of water in there and get rid of all that sand,” he said.
Mr Fisher said it was undeniably exciting to see newcomers – especially younger competitors new to gold prospecting – find even a small amount of gold.
A sport of speed and precision
In a gold prospecting competition, a participant enters the river with a bucket of sand.
There are a few small pieces of gold hidden in the bucket.
When the contestant puts the sand in a pan, his time begins.
When a piece of gold is discovered, a competitor takes it out of the pan and places it in a vial.
Once a panner believes they have found all the gold in their bucket of sand, they stop the clock.
However, if gold flakes are missed, a time penalty is given.
Paul Watkins, who took part in the event, said that after 35 years of panning, he had developed a nice little gold collection.
“You see the gold in the pan and you think, ‘Wow, I actually found it,’” he said.
“I’ve got enough to melt down to about the size of a 20-cent piece.”
The biggest show in town
Pine Creek’s population, now about 400, peaked at 750 in 1895.
At that time the population of the city was mainly made up of Chinese prospectors looking for gold.
Gaye Lawrence, a volunteer with the Pine Creek Heritage and Tourism Association, said the city’s traditions and Chinese heritage were highly valued.
“We thought a festival for our city would put us on the map a little bit,” she said.
“To celebrate mining history and Chinese heritage. It’s important.”