Yesterday there were reminders of the Gold Rush of the late 1800’s. We pedaled past a washer and an old dredge by a river. There are still people who actively pan for gold and we saw the rough wooden and grass shelters of these prospectors.
By late afternoon we left the hills and descended to the coastal road and were investigating several prospects of our own. It was not gold we sought but a different form of pay dirt — a good campsite.
After passing on several borderline spots, we staked our claim for the night in some decaying ruins and rusting equipment. The sun had set and except for looking for a spot to pitch the tent, we did not have much time to investigate. That would have to wait until morning.
We were never able to fully escape the wind, even with a graveyard full of large old rusting tanks, equipment and concrete foundations, all of which were surprisingly poor wind breaks. The calmest spot was in a shallow ravine in the hills and we decided to risk the chance of being flooded out in exchange for a break from the wind.
I must have been exhausted yesterday from the sensory overload of a full day’s worth of trying to count all the sheep we saw. Maybe it was because I spent all day counting sheep that I fell asleep right after I ate, while Sarah was talking to me. I didn’t wake until 11 hours later.
The morning was a treat. The light was good and I spent about half an hour taking pictures of old rusting equipment. I walked the foundations, inspected the old piping, and investigated stamps and markings on the equipment, trying to determine what went on here.
In the end I hypothesized that it was a mineral process plant (possibly gold) with a gravity fed washing system of some sort.
Our map showed a dot labeled “Puerto Nuevo” or New Port directly across the road but there was no evidence of docks or moorings along the coast. If there ever were any, they were long gone. What was exported from this spot?
I left the site awed by the fact that, like the prospectors, someone tried to make a life and run a business in this remote area. There would have been no improved roads, no way to communicate with the outside world other than riding or walking to Porvenier. The people that were here were from hardy stock.
We continued down the road and were left with more questions than answers. What was the site’s purpose? What happened to the people?
The answer to the last question was that they probably blew away.
After arriving in Tolhuin a few days later I was able to find some usable bandwidth.
Based on the dates I saw on some of the equipment (late 1800’s and early 1900’s) it only seemed fitting that I fire up some old software (WebCrawler, Lycos, and AltaVista) to seek out answers.
Massey-Harris was a Canadian company resulting from a merger between Massey Manufacturing Co. and the A. Harris, Son & Co. Ltd. that occurred in 1891. They began producing tractors in the 1930’s. The wheels at the site looked similar to those of images of tractors that I found online. The giveaway though was the raised “No 21” on a part that indicated at least some of the iron belonged to a thresher that first went on sale in 1941.
Another rusting piece indicated it was a product of Samuelson & Co Ltd which was active in the late 19th and the first years of the 20th century in the UK. They produced harvesting machinery, power hammers and gas engines.
With these nuggets of information I deduced the site was probably active sometime between 1930’s and 1940’s, possibly a little later.
Perhaps the site was part farm, and the concrete tanks were for holding water for irrigation. The large tanks use was still a mystery. Did they hold chemicals for gold processing or more water?
Sources: http://massey-harris.com, wikipedia.org, vintagemachinery.org, www.reading.ac.uk and discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk