LETTER FROM THE DIGGINGS. TO THE EDITOR OF THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN REGISTER.
Sir— In fulfilment of my promise to many of my ac- quaintance in Adelaide, to write a correct account of the Victoria diggings, I forward you the following details:— The extent nf tli.» o-nM-fielHs rftrlifttiiirr from Mount Alex
inder is yet unknown,, and seemingly (to use a very ? Uogical phrase) almost boundless, as new and rich localities ire being daily discovered, causing constant ' rushes ' imonzst the miners, for only few are adventurous enough b look out for new .discoveries, or go, as they term it, 11 a-prospecting.' The old favourite spots have been com- ... pletcly cut up, nnd present the appearance of monster Esntrenchnients, or myriads of wells, with only narrow, winding, and dangerous paths— especially for drunkards or night-travellers — over the heaps of earth thrown up and piled between the 'holes. The burrowing underground is equally extensive, for a man can enter the earth, and emerge at the distance of some hundreds of yards, crawling from hole to hole, through subterranean chambers. There is no mistake about the gold being most abundant, for it would be difficult to pick up a panfull of earth without any speck of gold; but 'paying' spots are not so extensive or numerous. These, however, are sufficient to supply a., nat'on of diggers for years. When the various creeks are full of water, any man, let him be ever so great a ' crawler' or cripple, may easily realise his ounce a day from washing ? favourite spots of surface, or the earth thrown out from the holes. During the dry season, however, this kind of work ^ will hardly pay expenses, from the high charge of carriage to distaut watcrholes. There seems to exist a general mis take in regard to what is usually termed ' dry diggings.' These are Rpots where heavy gold is found on the primary rocks, or such as the ' Specimen Creek,' where large blocks of quartz are crushed for the gold within them. Soch
localities are rare, and the clmnces ot success less, Demaes, c»ne heavy ' rnsh ' would swamp them. A ' rush,' by the by, is where hundreds of people fly to one spot where some previous adventurer has made a good hit, or found any good '.dollop ''of gold. The gullies or creeks consist generally of soft soil, through which two ordinary workmen can easily drive five or six feet per diem, mid the average depth to the rock is about n dozen feet; that is from four to twenty. The hills, however, are of a very different character. They principally consist of a hard and almost impenetrable substance, something resembling a mixture of concrete, ironstone, quartz, and lava, or a mass of Roman cement embedding rough gravel ; and the usual means of sinking are ' gads,' i. e. iron wedges, driven .with heavy hammers, for no pick could stand it ten minutes without . becoming perfectly useless until re-pointed and steeled. To sink three inches a circumference of a dozen feet through this substance, is a good day's work for two good diggers. In some of these hils, they sink upwards of thirty feet, ' and you may imagine the disappointment when it happens that not a speck of gold is found on the rock after such hard toil to' got down. Besides the ordinary 'Diggers ' there are hundreds that do ' nothing but ' fossick,' — a term of which I cannot for the life of me make out the origin. ' Fossicking' — the accent is on the first syllable; — has various meanings ; first, picking gold out of the hole, or off the rock, with a knife, called 'fossicker ;' secondly, hunting for gold in old deserted holes , without talcing the trouble, or risking the chance of sinking ; and thirdly, stealing gold or auriferous soil from the holes of other parties at night, or on Sundays, when the holes are often left unguarded. The felony represented by the last meaning, has been very extensively carried on at some parts of the diggings, especially the Golden Gully, and -- Friar's Creek ; but the diggers are now generally more on their guard, and any ' fossicker,' in this sense, can follow his mean vocation only at the imminent risk of being shot, or having a pike driven through his brains, as all the good holes are generally well guarded until they are worked out. I have known several respectable parties who were not ashamed of openly avowing their success at this business, and such theft is generally viewed in a very venial sense, like the vulgar ideas on poaching, at home. Four is the best number for a party, and they should never exceed five, even when they own a dray, for all parties over that number can never arrange the labour satisfactorily, or long agree; and the invariable consequence is an early dissolution and upsetting of all previous arrangements. Horses or bullocks and drays are a mere drug in tho winter season, and can be had all over the diggings then for a mere song : but during
any scarcity of water, some means of conveyance is a most necessary desideratum. As to the general tone of society at the diggings, the Melboiirne journals have invariably in- dulged in the most eggregiom. misrepresentations. So far from being all or mostly ruffianly, blo!)J -thirsty, lawless, and ' Lynch- lawing' mobs, the miners are generally a most orderly, honest, and respectable class of people, and instances of improper conduct to any injurious extent are astonishingly rare where comparatively no kind of protec-, tion to person or property is provided by the Government. There occur certainly, now and then, isolated cases of rob beries and petty thefts, but nothing more than would neeea sarily happen amongst any equal number of persons promiscuously huddled together even under the best muni cipal regulations. I offered to some of the Melbourne journals an article giving this correct view of the diggers; but what do yon think ? Why, the Editors refused topub~ lish it, as it flatly contradicted their continued mUrejnre~ senlatwns, or what th:y ingeniously termed (hv.ir own '' cowit of policy J' There is lioneet journalism for you, with a vengeance ! They were, however, glad enough to abstract
he more neutral portion of my article, and publish it under he heading ' The Diggings,' an 1 hod the choek to praise ;he author for not dealing with the 'vexed question of politics !' — Vide Artfus, March 8. The papers here adopt ;hcir different 'courses of policy,' and nothing antago listic to these 'courses,' even in the shape of corres pondence,' for which no editor is accountable, ivill be admitted, although, of course, they have ilways the' right and power of reply and confu tation in their own hands. You mnst admit with me that this is a most cowardly way of ' holding the reins of public jpinion ;' but such is the fact, and you may, therefore, ex pect as much truth from the published statements of the iiggings in Melbourne as you might from an ingenious lawyer representing the case of a rich and favourite client, ir misrepresenting time of his opponent. I could enlarge for whole columns on the inefficiency and irregularity of the various public departments here, especially that of tho Police Court, which is the most monstrous nuisance and den of injust'cti I ever beheld; but as the length of this article may have already exceeded its value in your own and tho South Australian public's opinion, I must leave them alone until my next return from the diggings. By the by, Mr. Tolmer's visit to the Mount created a great sensation amongst the diggers from Adelaide, and I believe the desperate ' Gold Act ' will bring you abundance of the precious metal ; but I fully agree with His Excellency in not anticipating the substantial and lasting benefits so generally expected to result from that measure; for no thing short of remunerative gold-fields in South Australia will ever keep your colonists. at home! I am more confi dent than erer that you have plenty of gold in the colony, were it searched propurly, and the liberal encouragement of such an investigation ought to form a primary object with the Government. I should not fear, in the least, not finding a remunerative gold-field there in less than acoupU of, months' trial, but the Government terms of reward are so circumscribed and unsatisfactory as totdeter any ex perienced miner from ever leaving the sure fields of Victoria to make an essay. I would, however, direct the attention of gold-hunters to the guliios and ranges between Mount Barker and Strathalbyn, and all the elevated and undula ting chain thence to Barossa, where the country presents precisely the same appearance and characteristics as a large proportion sf the Victoria diggings ; and most of the latter, upon mere surface trial, yield no more than some localities in South Australia have done, whilst some of the most rich hills here would not vield a grain of gold from tons of
lurface. Few speculative circumstances are more promis ng than the early discovery of abundance of gold in South Australia, and the acceleration of so desirable a develop nent rests solely with the colonists themselves. I am, Sir, yours, &c., D. McLEOD. ' Melbourne, March 12, 1852. '
The Overland Escort. — It is stated that the Government of Victoria has rigniSed its intention to afford every facility for the overland escort to this province. . Ivy on Exterior Walls. — The last thing I have to mention on the subject of damp relates to ivy on exterior walls of buildings, which may be said to belong more to the consideration of the architect than to my pur pose; but as precaution is allowed to be better than cure, I trust it will not be thonzht irrelevant to notice its effect on exterior walls, which is, that if it does nol entirely eradicate damp, it may be admitted to be & repellent plac d on the exterior. I had my attention drawn to a case of this description, where damp had prevailed for a length of tint* in the walls of an apartment, but ivy having grown up* to cover the opposite exterior side, the affected parts inside became dry. The gentleman in whose house I observed the improved change accounted for it, I think, with muob reason, namely, that the close overhanging pendant leaves prevented the rain or moisture from penetrating to the wall, contrary to all other trees which are trained for bearinf fruit.— Tie Papcrhcmger'i and UpholtUrer's Oukk.