Featured Image: View up above Stewart today (Image: District of Stewart)
THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE of Northern BC has probably had more holes drilled into it that anywhere else on the planet in the last c.40 years, with millions of investor $$$ invested/wasted on inaccessible plays by companies just looking to finance their own lifestyles and spend a few months mountain climbing and bear spotting.
Today it is one of my least and most favourite regions, with some of the finest people, finest geology and finest natural landscapes on the planet. But really, we have only heard of it because of the constant over-zealous marketing work of new juniors in the area… Who have conveniently forgotten that this entire ‘triangular’ concept was based on a series of historic accidents.
Before the founding of camps and towns, the Nisga’a people called the head of the Portland Canal Skam-A-Kounst referring to it as a safe space, which later came to prove somewhat ironic. There are several stories as to how the first prospectors arrived from the south. Here by our imaginary crackling fire, roasting chestnuts and bratwurst, I shall retell my favourite, although it’s origin comes after several beers in the back bar of the King Edward in Stewart with an esteemed geologist friend, I certainly can’t reference it.
A steamer left Portland, Oregon in 1897 for the famed gold claims of Alaska, loaded with seasoned miners and desperate optimists, hoping to stake their fortune in the ground. Running into a headwind and overloaded with cargo, the captain of the day calculated that he would not have sufficient fuel for the planned journey, and his return.
‘Take the next right’ said the captain, folding a battered map closed and pointing ahead to the Portland Canal ‘We’ll drop them off here’.
At the head of the canal, where the Nass River meets the sea, the tired hopefuls were unloaded, under the impression they had made it to Alaska in good time and their claims awaited. Their camp set, they spread out into the valleys, panning, and picking through millennia of glacial till and steep cliff fall. What the captain had not expected, was that his poor ship piloting skills had landed his passengers into one of the richest mineralised regions on the planet.
In the following years and up until WWI, the accidental camp was formally renamed ‘Stewart’ by two rich licence dealing brothers and grew to some 10,000, a bustling and successful town. One local scamster saw an opportunity, through the desperation of those failing to find gold or silver, he sold them some magic beans. He registered land grants further inland than had ever been explored by the prospectors (or even formally mapped) and let loose rumours in the taverns of riches and treasures in the deepest ‘Golden Triangle’.
Desperation led a small (drunkard) group to trust in his fallacy. They pooled their last and the few nuggets they had scraped from their barren claims on the hillside and set out upriver. To the scamster’s surprise, they hit gold… To his shock and awe, all of the adventurers who followed them continued to hit gold all across this supposed ‘Triangle’.
What we now take for granted as a series of exceptional geological events that led to an unusual mineral endowment of a region… Was discovered by the mistake of a ship’s captain and a scam artist.
Never let anybody tell you that luck is not the most important factor in any mining venture.
The moral of the story is (please insert something suitable that your children will relate to here). Sweet mining dreams.
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