“Eh, watch the canaries now!” The gravely voice of an eighteenth century miner came through the loudspeaker, guiding us through the inky blackness of the mine. “If the air’s befouled, they’ll drop dead and we’ll know it’s not safe!” “Oops.” Dad whispered. “It’s my fault.”
Unfortunately, in this country everyone can understand everything we say. The group behind us burst into laughter. “Dad!” I was caught between mortification and the insuppressible desire to burst into laughter. He grinned. “What?” I shook my head. Apparently gold fever wasn’t a serious problem for him. Goof fever, however…
Our weekend trips out of town are slowly becoming a tradition. In the previous few weekends we’ve visited the Melbourne aquarium, the wool museum, and driven along the Great Ocean Road. We’ve seen a few whales, plenty of sheep, a couple of koalas, and miles of coastline. This weekend it was time for something different. So we decided to take a trip back in time.
Sovereign Hill is a gold mining museum of the highest degree. Unlike most museums, which have cases full of musty old artifacts and very few hands-on activities, Sovereign Hill is entirely hands-on. The museum is a to-scale replica of what a gold mining town might look like in the 1850’s, complete with restaurants, hotels, shops, smithies, and ore processing factories, all of which are run by costumed goldfield characters. The activities to be tried there are endless. You can make your own candles, pan for gold, watch the confectioner make raspberry drops, ride carriages, watch gold being smelted and turned into bars, and try on top hats, to name just a few.
We could’ve spent all day there. As it was, we spent as much time as we possibly could, and loved every moment of it. Interestingly enough, a massive mining operation is still underway deep beneath the museum. Though we of course weren’t allowed to see that in action, we could try panning for gold in a little stream that ran through the museum. Elisha raced off to the shop to buy a glass bottle to put our findings in, and we got to work. A few miners came by to show us the proper technique, and before long we had about fifteen dollars worth of gold in our bottle. Though that isn’t really very much at all in the grand scheme of things, it’s certainly the most I’ve ever found!