What do we intend to look for?
Gold, silver, or copper deposits are interesting, but manganese, zinc and cobalt should not be passed over. Any rocks with a high sulfide content or seriously altered are of interest. The prospecting must be walking over unclaimed ground.
It is the initial survey so covering as much of the area as physically possible but with attention to detail is important. Whatever is brought back from the field has a recorded location on the sample bag and can be used to draw a broader picture on a geology or topography map.
We have a few concerns…The area we intend to explore is very dry…less than 12 centimeters of precipitation a year. How long can we extend our water supply? The van has a built-in tank that holds 20 U.S. gallons and there are two 2-gallon jugs inside. The new tires are reassuring, but the van is boxy, top-heavy and low to the ground. We hear conflicting reports about the condition of the road south from Puertocitos to Laguna Chapalla and about the types of vehicles capable of making it through. How far off-road can we expect the van to take us? How far will we have to walk to get to the areas we want to look at?
The first stop after crossing over from Canada into the US is L……’s apartment in a ‘castle’ house in old Tacoma Washington. She sets us up with supper, bed, bath. We sleep in the van for the first time, J… wrapped in his $20 Value Village mummy bag, I under an old down comforter. Warm. J…lights a fire in the bulkhead-mounted heater and spreads the Indian carpet on the cold aluminum metal floor. L…… contributes a beach chair, gear nets, a box full of chocolate, chicken, coffee, ginger tea, raspberry scones and a Spanish textbook.
In the morning, a bath. J… walks nude around the apartment. It will be months before we are so clean again, before we move in the space of a house.
Afternoon we are on I-5 entering Portland, Oregon…Powell’s Books on NW 11th and Burnside yields “The Log of the Sea of Cortez” by Steinbeck for $3.50 and a topographic atlas of Baja Norte for $12.50. Initially, J… delighted with the 1:50,000 scale; later, he determines that the scale is marked incorrectly: it’s really 1:250,000. At least the maps have Lat-Long coordinates.
Already my scalp itches…
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: Under the Lens…
This is a prospecting journal recording a trip that began mid-November when J… met geologists in Vancouver over pints of beer, burger and fries at a Pender Street pub while rain deluged outside. J… proposed a regional geological survey of northern Baja ranges along the east coast of the peninsula as far south as the border between Baja California Sur and Norte. They listened: he came away with $1000 US upfront for gas and travel expenses and $1000 US towards rock assay of samples brought back. The purpose and impetus for the trip were created. Neither of us has attempted anything quite like this before.
We begin preparations immediately. Into the van go necessary tools - long-handled spade, heavy plastic sample bags, and addresses in Mexicali and Tijuana for government offices that might supply topographic and mineral claims maps, pictures of the ground we have to cover.
On the rear wheels of the former Canadian postal van, our transportation and base camp, are two new Toyo truck tires; on the front, Michelins from the GMC Blazer replacing the ones on which we travelled 11,000 kilometers the previous year. Last year`s route maps, the wood-water-fish bucket, two red two-gallon water jugs, the grate for fires and fish. All last year`s dive gear, the new spear gun and a heavier wetsuit. In the rain drowning Nanaimo, we mount the solar panel from the boat onto the roof of the van.
I worry about being able to walk long distances in the heat. I add my old Doc Marten 1460 leather boots and put a pad of moleskin in the first aid box. The library includes Dick`s Guide to Baja Geology by Minc, Tom Richard`s Prospecting manual and a publication from the Nanaimo geology office, a rock ID book and the Spanish dictionaries. J…`s acoustic guitar. A roll of rice paper and my Chinese ink and brushes.
Behind us, we leave advice and internet comments. There is still a long way to go…two borders to cross. In the end, the only way to know is to go…
I haven`t remembered yet what I`ve forgotten…
NEXT WEEK: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground: What do we intend to look for
In the photo archives at the Museum of Central Nevada, she finds an image. A man stands upright in knee-high snake-kicker lace-up leather boots. There are four burros in the image: one burro wears a riding saddle, the other burros bear packboxes. Behind the man and the burros, Death Valley topography stretches flat as a sourdough pancake, littered with stone, dotted with sagebrush.
Under a sombrero, the man's eyes are in shadow. The aquiline nose and straight lips set stoic are accented by the brilliance of a high-noon sun. He rests one hand on a burro's neck, dwarfing it with his magnitude. In the other hand, he holds a rock hammer.
This brown-skinned man of the desert is a prospector.
"Prospectors must have good powers of observation and a memory for the appearance of rocks, combined with curiosity and great imagination. They must have a liking for living and working in the bush, and a capacity for hard work." (From the personal library of Patrick J. Burns, Geologist)
To see within the prospector breaks the rock creating a fresh surface. It is an act of will, of power, of intent. The prospector assumes control of the rock, becomes an author of its story. Underlying this act should be respect.
The fresh surface is examined. Tools -acid, knife, lens, magnet - are put to use. Expectations dissolve; the mind receives what the rock reveals. Eventually a description is required…a picture created with words, the rock placed in context, the contents related to the local environment. This is the beginning…
"Under the sombrero in the shade of its brim, she licks the surface, wetting it, tasting its acridity, coating her tongue with the dust of fracture, of clay, of salt or sulfur. Lets the sun shine on the fresh surface naked for the first time in endless time. Looking through the 10-power Bausch & Lomb lens the retina of her eye connects adjusting to focus on the details of the rock's surface.
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground...Beginning
Time throbs through the earth. Vibrations are its measure, movements from the center. Walking on its surface is like walking on water. Through the soles, the voices vibrate undulating into the soft flesh within the cranium, speaking to an ancient heart, tickling memory from the deep past, altering the consciousness of the prospector. Absorbent, the prospector breathes the dust of the past. Now the savannahs of Africa, the caves of Europe, the high deserts of the Americas influence her mind. The senses prevail over the logic of consciousness.
This past is in her memory. It stretches the muscles in her legs, surging up through her fingertips, penetrating the rods and cones of her eyes. Responding to these vibrations, she is a sensation guided by signals already within her: the time when language, words and logos mind did not exist.
She is a lioness hunting. Her strides are languid, her movement sinuous. Moving slowly, she slows time seduced by the pulse of the earth…An explanation isn’t necessary until later…
Her eyes see a rock. Distinctive, attractive features beckon, holding her gaze. She bends, touches it, picks it up, turns it in her hands, sniffs the surface, holds the lens to it. Then, with her hammer, she lays the rock back onto a hard surface and strikes it. From this point, she begins a relationship with this rock. She is an erosional force, like a carnivore, devouring the rock.
The rock evokes its time of formation. Crystallized, silicified, frozen in its structure is its story. In the prospector’s hands, the rock becomes an historical document.
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: Breaking Rock