Was It Luck Finding a 40 oz. Gold Nugget?
By Bill Bartholomae
Jan Kralik reached his hand in the icy water and picked up a giant nugget. "I didn't know whether to jump up and down or scream."
Jan started his prospecting many years ago in rivers in Oregon. He loved the outdoors and gold prospecting was just the ticket.
He learned the techniques of suction dredging by trial and error. When his confidence increased he decided to go to Nome, Alaska
where the gold is plentiful. To get more experience he took a job as panner on the BIMA, one of the largest bucket line dredges
operating at that time. Getting out of town for the weekend Jan would go to Gold Run Creek to do some panning. When the BIMA
project ended Jan went back to Gold Run Creek to work with an 8 inch suction dredge in some areas that looked promising while he
was prospecting with a shovel and pan. Learning about the area is critical to being successful in any mining venture. Jan's next project was to work off the beach of Nome with
a larger custom made dredge. Jan would work hard each day when waves were flat and the visibility was good. You have to work
Bill Bartholomae and Jan Kralik
with mother nature and not against it. Gold is found on Nome beach just as it was found 100 years ago. Several miners come up
during the summer to use highbankers on the beach and dredges in the Bering Sea east of Nome on public lands. Jan is an accomplished
jeweler. During the winter months, when every thing is frozen solid, Jan makes beautiful gold jewelry from the course gold he mines.
When storms or winds come to the Bering Sea Jan likes to get out of town and travels to Gold Run Creek where he has a cabin. Jan's
relaxation is to use a 5 inch dredge in the creek instead of his offshore 8 inch dredge. When he is not dredging
he is prospecting with his shovel and pan. He also enjoys hiking down the river
with his family to have a picnic along the river, But always bringing his pan along with him.
Jan at his cabin with his family
When his offshore season ended with the Bering Sea freezing up solid, Jan went back to Gold Run Creek. Being late fall 2002 the creek
was frozen over and the ground frozen. Jan has been practicing dowsing as a prospecting tool for over ten years, and wanted to test an
area known for large nuggets. The old timers reported finding large gold in this area where the mining camp known as Sullivan Camp was
located in the early 1900s. In 1936 the author's father operated a small bucket line dredge. Checking the creek banks was difficult,
even at high noon he could scrape only about 1 inch in the frozen gravel. But still it was fun after hardworking season to enjoy this
beautiful place. Jan continued his dowsing in the area of the inside curve of the creek. His signal was indicating a good spot in the
Bucket Line Dredge operating in 1936,
William Bartholomae Sr.
creek, which was covered with ice and overflow. "At that point I told myself, I think next year I put the dredge right here."
Son Michael is fast becoming a experienced dredger.
After an early breakup Jan started the 2003 season by dredging off the Nome beach.
When a storm came in, Jan knew that it would take a few days for the ocean visibility to improve. This is the time he has been waiting
for since last fall. He and his son Michael got his 4 inch Keene dredge ready for the trip to Gold Run. This 12 year old dredge is still
in good shape for going through heavy duty use in salt water off the Nome beach. And it survived an attack by a grizzly bear at Gold Run
over 10 years ago. After breakfast we put the dredge in the creek and started the hole where that strong signal was. "You do not know
which way to throw the rocks. Usually you throw them where the good gold is and have to move them again. First I try to make face upstream.
You got to understand this creek was worked by a bucket line dredge in the 1930s. Before that the old timers mined the creek by hand." Jan
being an experienced dredger recognized edge of bucket line dredge and the work of the old timers. The modern dredges are very efficient and
can recover gold left by the previous miners. He worked for about 2 hours the time it takes to go through a tank of gas. During this time,
all I could think about was how strong the signal was while dowsing last fall. Was there really gold in that area? After gassing up the
motor it was Michael's turn to dredge. He was eager to put the nozzle in the hole his father started. Michael
worked for about an hour. Since it was his first time dredging this year he wanted to take a break. Remembering he is only twelve years old
he thought, "Well, I wanted him to do some more, finally I said all right, so Michael you take a break." Jan put on his mask and snorkel, and
started the motor and put the throttle on high. He walked over to where Michael left the nozzle. He put his face in the water to look around.
Jan with his Keene 5 inch dredge.
The trick to dredging is to be able to see how you are moving the nozzle. "I looked around under water and right in front of me with no
overburden on it was beautiful nugget. I took my gloves off to feel it, look at it and do not know what
to think. I didn't know whether to jump up and down or scream." Jan just stood there quietly enjoying an outstanding moment. Slowly he walked
over to Michael and handed the nugget to him. "First his face turned pale. I knew what it was in the moment he figured out that if he stayed
dredging a little longer it would be his find." After a while he forgot about it and they enjoyed the wonderful moments inspecting and holding
nugget with smiles on their faces. It took about an hour to settle down after their find.
Michael and Jan holding 40 Oz. Nugget.
They only found one giant nugget that day, but they did find some smaller nuggets. Jan now has more confidence in dowsing and is anxious to do
more prospecting. This is a rare find. Conditions were just right. Most of the bed rock in this area of Alaska is decomposed and soft, due to
constant freezing and thawing. The bucket line dredge would dig into the bedrock and recover the gold. But in this location the bed rock was
still solid. This nugget was in a crevice and the bucket bounced right over the nugget. This left this beautiful nugget behind for Jan to find.
The old adage that the harder you work the luckier you get rings true. Jan has spent 10 years studying the creek and panning out hundreds of test
holes, and loved every moment. "I thank God for the opportunity to find this nugget, and to Bill Bartholomae and his family for the wonderful
moments in our lives at Gold Run Creek."
Gold Run Nugget 40.885 Troy Oz., 11 centimeters across.
© Bill Bartholomae 2021