by G.M. "DOC" Lousignont, Ph.D.
© 2002 G.M. Lousignont, Ph.D.
Not wishing to think I am anything less than a manly man, who loves to be in the great outdoors, regardless of the weather or temperature, and sweat manly sweat, and develop manly smells emanating from my armpits that make cacti within a 100 yard radius die, I struck out into the desert this past Thursday June 6th, 2002, in 111 degree heat! ARGHH Me HARDIES!
Well, there is a benefit to hunting in this kind of heat. It slows you down so much that you actually may find a nugget. I only found one nugget but I don't think I would have found it if I was going at my normal rate. The nuggie was under a big flat rock measuring about 10 inches by 20 inches by 3 inches thick. You could not hear the nugster through the rock, but you could barely hear it at the edge of the rock. Armed with by trusty Minelab GP Extreme, and 14 inch ** Manufacturing coil I stood there for what seemed like 10 minutes rubbing my coil back and forth against the edge of that rock in a heat induced stupor. I was trying to decide whether it was a target. All of a sudden, after a gulp of water, I had this brilliant idea! MOVE THE DAMN ROCK! You see all the expensive equipment in the world is no substitute for using your head!
As soon as I moved the rock and was able to put the coil over the target I got a nice clear crisp signal. Six to seven inches, two fist sized rocks, twenty minutes, a gallon of sweat and 27 dead cactus later, I popped out this nice little 1.2 pennyweight nuggamoola.
I just knelt there on the ground looking at that pretty little gold nugget laying on top of the pile of dirt glistening in all of its glory in the hot desert sun. My mind raced as I realized that since the beginning of time when God and Mother Nature collaborated to create and deposit this anomaly of geological formations, I was the first person to ever lay eyes on this "tear from the sun." If that doesn't give you a special feeling and make you feel more connected to life, then you just don't get what this prospecting thing is all about.
I tried to pick the nugget up, but in my depleted condition I was too weak to lift it. I would have never recovered it if not for the fact that I passed out and fell face first into the pile of dirt and the nugget lodged between the gap in my front teeth.
All kidding aside, this heat is not for the weak of heart, or body, or spirit! If you are not in good physical condition then don't attempt to hunt in these extreme conditions. I hunt all year round and have always hunted the whole summer. The hottest temperatures I hunted in last year was 117. After nine hours in the sun I was able to stand my shirt in a corner; it was so stiff from all the salt deposited on it from sweat.
A couple of recommendations.
In this kind of heat allow yourself a gallon and a half of water for the day with a 2 gallon emergency backup in your truck. You may need this extra water to pour on yourself in case of heat related illness. I carry a 5 gallon Hinckley & Schmitt type water jug in case of being stranded. I always carry enough canned goods to see me through a week. I carry a GPS with me at all times, and I have one of the old type lunch box looking 5 watt cell phones. I have to pay $29.95 extra a month to have this cell phone because naturally it has a different phone number than my little portable phone, however, I can get a good reliable cell signal anywhere I hunt. A dollar a day is worth the protection of being in touch with the outside world in case of an emergency.
Get yourself some light tan colored long sleeve lightweight cotton t-shirts! Yes long sleeves! They are not uncomfortable and keeping the sun off of your arms protects you from skin cancer and actually keeps you cooler. Wear sunscreen! Wear sunscreen! Wear sunscreen! Oh, and another thing, did I mention that you should WEAR SUNSCREEN!
I have had 15 skin cancer lesions removed from my face, arms, shoulders, chest. All as a result of sun damaged I got as a child. Don't screw around with skin cancer! Fortunately the cancers I had were all basal cell carcinomas which are very slow growing and are easily removed, completely. However, I know other nugget hunters that have had melanomas removed! Melanomas are the deadliest kind of skin cancer; very often fatal if not caught in time.
Which brings me to my next point, always wear gloves! Oh I know it's not macho to wear gloves! Who gives a rat's patoot! The melanoma that my Aussie friend had removed was on his hand!
In addition to gloves protecting your hand from the sun there are other good reasons.
#1. Dry desert dirt has a very drying effect on your hands. You will soon have all the moisture sucked out of your hands and they will crack and bleed and be very painful. No one will want to hold hands with you at the movies.
#2. Gloves protect your hands from abrasions when moving rocks. They protect against blisters when wielding a pick.
#3. They protect your hands when you pick up dirt as you never know what's in the dirt. Hoss Blackman while in Australia, picked up a handful of dirt and got bitten by a white centipede. Not deadly, but very painful.
Get yourself cabretta leather roping gloves. This is the same leather they make golf gloves out of and they are very supple, thin and soft. You will not even know you are wearing gloves!
I bought a Platypus 2 liter water bladder with the tubing and bite valve. Get one, and use it, you must stay hydrated.
Forget the fancy dancy ones that come in a backpack, they are a pain in the rear. Just get the bladder and then fashion your own holder. I used neoprene with a fabric on one side that is like the loop side of velcro. I then sewed a piece of fabric onto it making a long horizontal pocket, and sewed a piece of hook velcro on the one end. I put the bladder in the pocket and wrap this around my lower back like a belt, above my battery pack. I secure it in front with the velcro tab that sticks to the material on the neoprene.
Now here's a trick. The night before you go out, throw that bladder in the freezer. When you get out to the field, strap that baby on with that solid piece of ice in the middle of your back smack dab over your kidneys. As you hunt the ice melts and provides an icy refreshing drink as the remaining ice helps to keep you cooled down.
I can't overemphasize how important it is to use one of these hydration bladders as opposed to a canteen. With a canteen you have to stop, get your canteen, use both hands to open it, take a drink and then resume your hunting. Net result? You don't drink as much or as often as you should because it is too inconvenient.
In extreme heat you should be hydrating no less than every 10 minutes. With a hydration bladder this is a no brainer. The sipper bite valve on the end of the tubing has a small clamp that allows you to attach it close to your mouth. I clamp it to my suspenders, and the bite valve sits to the right of my mouth. If I need a drink I turn my head slightly, grab the bite valve in my mouth, gently depress the valve with my teeth and drink till by heart's content. I never have to stop, or miss a swing.
Now it's all about finding gold right? Well yes, as long as you can do it safely, but it's about having fun too. Well you are more likely to find gold and have fun if you are operating at your peak, and your body cannot do that without proper hydration. Don't argue, I have a wife and children for that! Get a hydration bladder and use it!
Another important factor when working in extreme heat is Hyponatremia. No that's not being put into a trance where your subconscious mind is programmed to find gold; that's hypnosis! Hey, I wonder if being hypnotized would improve my gold finding abilities? Anything for science!
Hyponatremia is a condition suffered when the body gets low on sodium. When you are drinking a lot of water, and profusely sweating the sodium level in your blood stream becomes severely diluted. It is recommended that you ingest one gram of sodium per hour. Now as soon as someone says sodium, someone always thinks of salt! Salt is Sodium Chloride. In order to get one gram of Sodium you would need to ingest 2.5 grams of salt. That will yield 1 gram of Sodium and 1.5 grams of Chloride.
You can take salt tablets, however they give the body a jolt of Sodium and then the Sodium level falls off. It is better to carry along some salty type foods. Pretzels, corn chips, Wheat Thins, or similar snacks will help you keep your sodium levels up and also provide carbohydrates for energy.
The spectrum of symptoms can range from mild to severe and can include nausea, muscle cramps, disorientation, slurred speech, confusion, and inappropriate behavior. As it progresses, victims may experience seizures or coma, and death can occur. Severe hyponatremia is a true medical emergency. http://www.rice.edu/~jenky/sports/salt.html
Sale $ 24.95
Detector Protector Hat
Wear a hat with a piece of clothe to cover your neck. You can either get a Protector Detector hat like I have available, or take a baseball hat and sew a piece of fabric into it. Sew the fabric all the way around so it covers your ears as well. Use a jersey type material. Jersey is soft and absorbent. Put your headphones on over the material. In this way perspiration from your ears, under hot headphones, is absorbed and wicked outside to evaporate. Your ears stay dry and cool.
If you are out of shape then don't venture too far from your car. There are three conditions that can occur in this kind of heat. One is heat cramps. This is not life threatening. The next is heat exhaustion which is serious.
The other which is very serious is heat stroke! If you do not know the difference, all the symptoms, or the treatment, you can get detailed information by looking it up on the internet.
Briefly, heat cramps are caused by muscle contractions in both the gastronomies or hamstring area (back of calves). Water, cool air and rest is the treatment.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion can range from mild to severe and can include nausea, muscle cramps, disorientation, slurred speech, confusion, elevated body temperature, and inappropriate behavior. (That's what my wife calls my love of gold prospecting; inappropriate behavior!) As it progresses, victims may experience seizures or coma, and death can occur. Get yourself somewhere cool and shady. Increase your intakes of liquids, and replace electrolytes with things like sports drinks. Place cool rags on your body or soak your clothes with your emergency water supply. If body temperature remains elevated even after treatment, it's best to consult your doctor.
Heat stroke is a medical emergency and the person exhibiting symptoms should be immediately evacuated for medical attention.
I have suffered from both heat exhaustion and heat stroke prior to learning how to survive desert heat.
The two primary indications of heat stroke are a red flushed face and that you stop sweating. You will usually become disoriented and not be thinking clearly. If you stop sweating you are in trouble and in the throws of heat stroke, which can be fatal. You must treat yourself immediately, and follow up with medical attention as soon as possible.
If you get over heated, head for your car, start it up, pour water on your clothes and turn the air conditioner on. Start hydrating yourself like crazy. I like to keep sports drinks in the cooler of my car for just such an emergency. Call it quits for the day. If you feel you may be suffering from heat stroke call for help. Remember a body temperature approaching 106 or above can cause headaches, rapid pulse, seizures, unconsciousness, coma and death!
If towards mid day you start to get a headache that is a sure sign that you have not had enough to drink, and you are getting dehydrated. Make sure you carry food with you. Whether or not you have lunch back at the car in a cooler, ALWAYS, sun or snow, take along a couple of granola bars in case you need energy.
That's all I can type for now as my two fingers are tired. I'm sure you can all think of some additional helpful hints for keeping cool, while acting a fool, trying to find the golden jewel!
If you happen to run across my dry rotting sun bleached bones in the desert someday, pour a little water on me in memory. You can have my metal detector but keep your hands off my gold!
Remember, Be Careful Out There!