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Aussie Gold Hunters is one of those shows that can make you feel slightly exhausted just watching it.
Not because of the hard yakka involved in small-scale gold prospecting in the Western Australian outback – though there is certainly plenty of that – but because of the sheer emotional roller coaster of it all.
As the series introduces us to three pairs of professional prospectors tonight, it seems as though anything you can imagine going wrong will, indeed, go wrong sooner or later – along with a lot of other stuff that you hadn’t thought of at all.
But just as things begin to look a bit too hard, enough of that magical metal turns up to renew everyone’s optimism.
The first of the crews is husband-and-wife team Greg and Christine Clark, self-taught prospectors who have traded their life savings for a pile of equipment and a lease on a small site near Kalgoorlie. It’s no lazy stroll with a metal detector – the site is riddled with old mine shafts, and when Greg loses the only key for their excavator they quickly fall behind schedule.
Next are old mates and business partners Vernon Strange and Leon Marsh, who have spent $1 million on their operation – half of it on a custom-built 45-tonne dry-blowing plant nicknamed Goldzilla. The machine can sift the gold out of 80 tonnes of dirt an hour, but it’s hard to tow, easy to bog, and occasionally needs some serious repair.
Then there are friends Kellie Carter and Henri Chassaing, who arrive at their claim to find that it has been done over by poachers who might have stolen as much as $15,000 of gold from them. When Kellie and Henri whip out the metal detector in the hope of finding something to lift their spirits, it soon becomes clear how quickly a person can become dangerously heat-stressed in 45-degree temperatures.
The series is perfectly cast with engaging, articulate characters who provide entertainment value along with their insights into the prospecting caper.
The early episodes move briskly, contrasting the small scale of the operations against the vast expanse of the outback; conveying a sense of the old-fashioned romance involved; and building an admiration for people who have risked everything to follow their dreams. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.
Aussie Gold Hunters is on Discovery, Thursday, 7.30pm