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Gold Mining in Nome, Alaska

This is the Nome River shortly before it empties into the Bering Sea (technically, Norton Sound), close to the site where the Three Lucky Swedes discovered the first gold strike in Nome in 1898. The story is rumors of gold along the Alaska coast inspired the three men to go in search of gold. They spent most of a summer and their savings without finding gold. Broke and desolate, the three were walking along the bank of the Nome River when one of them supposedly kicked a shoe against the sand in frustration and uncovered a large gold nugget. The rest is history.


An abandoned gold dredge near Nome, Alaska. Large gold dredges like this one aren't effective at completely recovering the gold in dirt - they tend to collect larger nuggets and miss anything less than a few grams. Old dredges were the worst, leaving as much as 40% of the gold in the waste pile, with efficiency increasing as technology improved. When gold prices are extremely high, it can make sense to dredge old waste piles and recover previously missed gold. Since the 1980s, however, gold prices have been very low and there are no large-scale dredges in operation today, and the depressed gold market has brought hard times to Nome. If it weren't for tourism, Nome would be well on its way to becoming a ghost town, so if you're considering an excursion to Nome on your trip to Alaska and find it too expensive, remember you're helping to preserve Alaska's history and go, anyway - it's well worth it.

This fellow is dredging for gold about 50 feet from the beach. I mentioned earlier the water was every bit of 42 degrees Fahrenheit (5.5 degrees Celsius). Every few minutes, he has to dive in and feed sediment into the dredge's intake. Brrr! Above, you can see he's getting ready go under - it takes grim determination to let go of the platform.


And there he went!


These people are taking a different dredging approach. They've blocked the flow of a drainage pipe and are using the pool as a water source for the dredge. This strategy has the benefit of staying dry.


When our friend dredging offshore in the wetsuit calls it a day, this is what he has to look forward to for drying off and getting warm!

During the summer you'll see more than a few people gold mining along the beach. That's because there are no permanent claims on the beach, which is to say, a claim can't be sold - the beach is a free-for-all. The law for mining on the beach is your claim is as far as you can reach with your shovel and it's yours until you move off the spot.


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