Getting Gold without Water

Article | Updated 2 years ago

A prospector’s main tools were his pick, shovel, panning dishes and dolly pot. However, prospecting for gold in the dry Western Australian goldfields was very different from fossicking in the creeks in the eastern Australian colonies. A variety of ingenious methods were used to extract the precious ore from crushed material without the help of water.

One such method was the use of  ‘shakers,’ pieces of home made equipment that were used to rock crushed ore, which caused it to pass over a series of different sized sieves. The fine material was then winnowed. Gradually, the design of shakers evolved to make the process easier.

Image of a Prospector hand dollying

Prospector hand dollying
Image courtesy State Library of Western Australia 5341B/1

Lorden's Patent Dryblower

The Lorden Patent Cradle Dryblower was invented by Steve Lorden in 1893 while in Western Australia. The dryblower revolutionized life for gold prospectors. Lorden entered into a short-lived partnership with John Banfield to market his invention, and 300 machines were sold in the first year. The dryblowers were manufactured in Fremantle, and agencies were soon established in all mining centres.

The patentee does not claim that it will save gold from stuff containing none, but what is claimed is that if the gold exists whether of the finest flour or coarsest sort this machine will most assuredly save it. Further he does not go.

The model was constructed on the cradle principle with its adjustable screens moving in a rocking motion.  It included a pair of bellows to blast air, to separate the heavier gold from other material. The machine, designed to be carried on a horse or a camel, weighed 100 lbs.

Two men prospecting with the Lordern Dry Blower, 1890s
Prospecting with the Lordern Dry Blower, 1890s
Image courtesy State Library of Western Australia, 010179PD