Pockwock was explored for gold starting in 1863 but historical records say activity came to an end in 1868. So, it was a surprise to government geologists in the 1990s when they discovered that exploration work was done there sometime in the 1900s.

There is very little documentation of the work done south of Pockwock Lake, in the Hammonds Plains area of Halifax. Historical records say three shafts were dug, 37, 9 and 5 metres deep, on three quartz veins that were 122, 20 and 18 centimetres thick. Records also say the site, “not having come up to expectations,” was abandoned in 1868.

However, geologists visiting the area in the 1990s found evidence of a lot more prospecting activity than records indicate took place. In fact, there had been considerable trenching, blasting and test pitting done over an area about 100x30 metres.

It was obvious that this exploration took place much more recently than the 1860s – the trenches were dug with a bulldozer or other earth moving equipment. So, the geologists examined historical aerial photos of the area to figure out when the exploration took place. Evidence of ground disturbance from the exploration activity is apparent on aerial photos taken in 1992, but no disturbance can be seen on photos taken in 1954 and earlier. This suggests the trenching and blasting took place sometime between 1954-1992.

Additional exploration at the site took place in 2014. For example, aerial pictures taken with a drone were compiled into an image for mapping. The result was the site map below. This was likely the first time this method of mapping a site was done in Nova Scotia given how recently drone technology has become easily accessible.

The gold in the picture below came from a single bucket of quartz from one of the shafts. The ore was crushed and panned to separate the gold from its host rock. Panning means scooping up water, sand and gravel in a pan and swirling it around. The gold, which is very heavy, settles on the bottom of the pan while the lighter gravel and sand wash over the side. It is a simple but effective way to separate gold from other materials. (Learn more about panning at https://notyourgrandfathersmining.ca/panning-for-gold).

A quartz vein is shown in another picture below, just left of centre. It was tracked for about 100 metres across the site using the drone photos. Most Nova Scotian gold has been extracted from gold-bearing quartz veins that started forming 400 million years ago when North Africa and North America started colliding. Fluid leached gold from rock deep underground and flowed into cracks in rock closer to surface, forming veins of gold-bearing quartz as the fluid eventually cooled and hardened. This is how most Nova Scotia gold deposits formed.

Today, the Pockwock site is mostly overgrown but a number of rock piles and rubble from blasting are evidence of the past exploration work.

Gold was also discovered at the northern end of Pockwock Lake. Again, there is little documentation of work done there but the site is marked as a “Gold Pit” on a 1909 geological map.

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