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Siberia Goldfield (Waverley), Kalgoorlie-Boulder Shire, Western Australia, Australia

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Location is approximate, estimate based on other nearby localities.
 
Latitude & Longitude (WGS84): 30° South , 121° East (est.)
Margin of Error:~2km


86 kilometres north-west of Kalgoorlie, and 25 kilometres north-west of Ora Banda. Gold was discovered here in October 1893 by Billy Frost and Bob Bonner. What resulted next is an incredible story which deserves to be better known.

Many of the Mindat localities for Western Australia relate to gold discoveries in the 1890s, in the dry interior of the continent. The regions around Kalgoorlie contain salmon gum woodland and scrub, but this does mean there is any water. These plants have adapted to the dry conditions, and with no roads, maps, towns, getting lost would be an easy thing to do, and many prospectors perished. Water at Coolgardie during the goldrush there in the early 1890s cost more than gold itself.

We have a detailed description of Billy Frost: horseman, drover, overlander, buffalo hunter and discoverer of the 19 mile goldfield. In fact I suspect the following description printed in the Melbourne Argus newspaper was written by Billy himself it is so over the top: 'tall, strongly built, with a resolute devil-may-care expression which marked him as tough amongst even the tough Coolgardie crowd, able to walk miles under a sweltering sun or ride a 24 hour stage without turning a hair, with this went absolute knowledge of bushlore, ability to smell water 10 miles away, and a vocabulary as extensive and ready as his iron hard fist'.

He rode into Coolgardie with 50oz of gold and was mobbed. They had to wait for the announcement the next morning when Frost made his claim at the Warden Office. He called it Siberia, probably as an ironic joke. It came with a warning of no water and not to go. Virtually ever man by whatever means,left almost immediately with no idea of where the gold discovery was, other than 70 miles north-west of Coolgardie. The only other person to have been through the area was explorer Ernest Giles in 1875.

Hundreds of men left from Coolgardie. People who had come from jobs as clerks, shop assistants, artisans, from lush places overseas or from Victoria. They had little idea of the countryside ahead of them. The men were followed by teams of horses with water and other supplies. Later in the day another rush of men went through Coolgardie from Hannans (Kalgoorlie). It was a stampede.

Nothing was heard for a week, and then rumours began reaching Coolgardie. Rumours of men dying of thirst in the desert.

Fred Renou was Superintendent of Water Supplies in Coolgardie, and sent his young assistant Armitage to investigate. His heroic efforts saved many men. He reached the 25 Mile Well, the last known water source before the long track to Siberia. He came upon a scene of frantic confusion, with 600 men with wagons and horses, fighting over the water at the well. The well-keeper whose job is to charge for and ration the water, had been thrust aside, with threats of violence. Much of the water had been spilt by men perishing of thirst fighting over the water. At the bottom of the well were two men fighting over the trickle left. The well was dry. Armitage pulled out a gun and brought the situation to order. He placed armed guards at the well, which gradually replenished so the men could drink by the day's end.

The wagon teams had tried to proceed north to the gold discovery but had to turn back as they got bogged in the sandy terrain. Meanwhile hundreds of men had walked on ahead cross country through the scrub, believing the wagon teams with water were following behind. For 2 nights, Armitage lit a beacon on a large granite hill nearby, and several men saw this and dragged themselves into the camp almost dead. They brought with them horrific stories of men going mad from thirst and dying.

At this point, an Afghan water carter arrived at 25 Mile taking water supplies to the Bayley's Reward Mine at Coolgardie. His name was Ameer, had eight camels and two employees with him, Pindar and Jamelkin. The camels were packed with tanks of water and Armitage asked for volunteers. Only two out of the 600 men did; Lewis Davis, and William Lobban. Armitage, the Afghans, and these last two men headed north on a rescue mission. It took them a week to cover the 80 miles, as each day they had to detour following tracks of men who had wandered off course. One was followed for miles, along a trail of discarded cloths, and dragged footmarks, until lost on an ironstone ridge. Another was found naked under a bush, mouth swollen from thirst and un-able to move. Clothes, tools, swags littered the ground everywhere.

They eventually got to Siberia Soak and found it had no water, and 140 desperate men. They all made the slow march back to 25 Mile Well, with Armitage bringing up the rear picking up stragglers.

Meanwhile, without any knowledge of what was going on at 25 Mile Well, Renou sent three wagons of water, which proceeded north from 25 Mile and met up with the weary army of men marching back.

No-one knows how many men died out there. For years after various prospectors would stumble across bleached bones of one of the victims, and they would be buried in lonely bush graves.


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15 valid minerals. 1 (TL) - type locality of valid minerals.

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References

The Kalgoorlie Miner newspaper (1941): Goldfields Pioneers (28 Nov 1941)

The Australian Womens Weekly (1973): Along the Old Gold Trail of the West (14 Nov 1973)

The Western Mail newspaper (Perth) (1952): This was Siberia
(12 Jun 1952)

Elias, M., Donaldson, M.J., Giorgetta, N.(1981): Geology, Mineralogy and Chemistry of Lateritic Nickel-cobalt Deposits near Kalgoorlie Western Australia, Economic Geology (1981):76: 1775-1783

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