Early in the 1800s, gold was discovered in Australia. Most of the ‘strikes’ were in the vicinity of the Blue Mountains near Bathurst. In 1851, a prospector named Hargraves – who had been in California during the gold-rush two years earlier – discovered rich traces of gold in Summer Hill Creek. The news spread rapidly and within two months the whole area was swarming with prospectors. The fact that there was gold to be had sent men digging in other areas, especially around Melbourne. In time the cities were deserted and ships lay empty in the harbours, for everyone seemed bitten by the lust for gold. Towns sprang up overnight and were soon the scenes of rioting and bloodshed. The army had to be called in and a battle took place between soldiers and diggers. The incident became known as the battle of Eureka Stockade. By 1856, however, the day of the ‘amateur’ digger was almost over. Deep shafts had to be sunk to reach the gold and such mines had to be run by companies. But, in memory of the gold-rush days, Australians are still sometimes called ‘Diggers’.
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