In August 2012, a small crew of men huddles at the bottom of the enormous hole they’ve been digging since spring thaw.
Above them is 50-plus metres of worthless gravel. Below them – they hope – is the reason they’re here: the infamous Heron Channel.
Using maps and mining reports more than 100 years old, these thoroughly modern miners are looking for part of an ancient creek bed they believe the original Cariboo Gold Rush was never able to uncover.
There’s a reason this ground has been sought after for generations. Exactly 150 years ago, in 1862, a tonne-and-a-half of raw placer gold was hauled out of this channel – from just 400 feet of gravel. It is amount worth nearly $50 million today.
Those Victorian miners would have kept going, too, but their channel flooded and the remaining treasure was buried in a soggy grave until someone could invent a more effective way to remove the water.
Now, more than a century later, the Hard-Up Mining Company is digging for what history left behind: a channel they believe still holds a billion dollars worth of gold. They may strike it rich – or like many gold miners before them and since – lose everything in a race to feed their fever.
Which will it be?
Presented by CBC Television and narrated by CBC Radio One’s Mark Forsythe (BC Almanac) Wilds to Riches is a riveting, hour-long documentary following those men and women – from both the 1860s and today – who take tremendous risks while searching for gold in British Columbia’s Central Interior.
“This current gold rush isn’t all that different from the one that built the province,” says director-producer Jacy Schindel.
“Gold mining in the Cariboo continues to produce a kind of drama that mirrors the trials and tribulations of the miners who first came to this region more than 100 years ago.”
Focusing its lens on the historical boomtown of Barkerville, Wilds to Riches tells the stories of several legendary Cariboo characters through a series of historical re-enactments, photographs, and authoritative interviews. These stories intertwine with contemporary narratives as modern miners compare their experiences to the lives of the prospectors who came before them.
“With gold trading at near-record dollar values per ounce, people are once again flocking to the Cariboo Goldfields in search of the mother lode,” says producer-director Patrick Curling.
“We’ve been recording the details of this new rush since we started filming nearly four years ago and the results are honestly, astonishing.”
Wilds to Riches was written by Lisa Johnson, and directed by Schindel and Curling. It was produced by Curling, Schindel, Justin Booth and James Douglas.
Wilds to Riches will air in B.C. on CBC Television’s “Absolutely Vancouver,” July 6, at 9 p.m.