Chapter 53 - Seeing Gold with Their Own Eyes
Shen Yu was not familiar with Lop Nor’s native minerals, and she only had a vague impression of Xinjiang in general. In her mind, the area was known for having the desert basin, the remains of the Silk Road, and for producing Hami melons and raisins.
When she saw Tang Can looking carefully at the grains of sand in his hand, she sidled over to take a peek. Her brief glance didn’t show anything particular. All of the sand looked the same to her. But she didn’t realize that there was something different.
Everyone knew that there were particles of gold dust mixed in with regular sand. Sand from both the rivers and oceans had it. However, the amount of gold contained in the sand was miniscule, not enough to be worth much. Furthermore, it was very difficult to extract the gold from the sand, so it wasn’t worth the time and effort trying.
“Do you think there’s something different about the sand here?” Tang Can raised a fistful of sand towards Mazha. He smiled at Shen Yu gently, knowing that she had very little knowledge in this area.
After hearing his commanding officer mention it, Mazha scooped up a bit of sand. He carefully examined it and then said, “Indeed, it’s not the same as other sand!”
Out of curiosity, Guo Pingan followed Mazha’s lead and also conducted his own inspection of the sand. Ultimately, he ended up agreeing with the other soldier.
Shen Yu looked at one of them and then the other. She also picked up some sand to look at it. After staring at it for a long time, she still couldn’t figure out what they were talking about. To her unpracticed eye, all she noticed was that the sand here was not pure sand, around half of it was mixed with some kind of dirt. It was different from the sand she was used to in her life.
At this time, Guo Pingan voiced his inexperience, showing the young woman that she wasn’t the only one lost in the dark here. He asked Tang Can inquisitively, “Officer Tang, what is it? What is it that you see is different?"
Mazha chuckled and an expression of superiority crossed his face. “You’re still too green! Both Officer Tang and I have eyes like eagles! Anywhere there is a speck of gold, we can both spot it!” He boasted proudly.
Guo Pingan wanted to discount the other soldier’s obvious boastings, but he still believed in his commanding officer.
Seeing the mysterious expressions on their faces, Shen Yu had to ask more. However, both Mazha and Tang Can merely smiled secretively and refused to divulge further details. So, Shen Yu deliberately exercised some reverse psychology on them.
“Stop trying to make us believe your ridiculous stories!” scoffed the young woman. “I’ve always thought the stories of gold in Lop Nor to be a foundless rumor. Lop Nor definitely is the site of many old civilizations, so how could it be possible that there is still gold here? The more I think about it, the more I think all of those hearsays about the gold are false!”
But Shen Yu’s efforts were all in vain. Neither Mazha nor Tang Can had any reaction to what she just said. In fact, Guo Pingan refuted her earlier comments, “Reporter Shen, this just means you’re not fully up to date on things here. We’re trying to find dog’s head gold! Around 4 billion years ago, there was a meteor shower that lasted for 200 million years. The meteorites that hit the earth brought over lots of gold and platinum into the earth’s crust. All dog’s head gold comes from outer space and is buried into the earth. It’s hard to predict where this gold may end up. It can be found in the rivers, oceans, on mountains or in valleys!”
Shen Yu nodded her head silently, but inside she was more confused than before. She wasn’t sure what to believe now and all these thoughts made her head spin. It was too easy for her opinions to be pushed from one side to the other with incomplete information.
Guo Pingan had found a topic of his liking and continued on, forgetting that talking too much could get him into hot water. “Gold can run around! It’s long been said that ginseng can run around, but no one has ever been able to get to the bottom of that phenomenon. However, the fact that gold migrates has been proven to be true!”
Shen Yu was astonished. She had never heard of something as odd as this!
The young soldier subconsciously tried to push up his glasses again and, once again, his hands touched air. He repeatedly muttered, “I forgot I forgot. I’m not wearing my glasses now…” After he finished, he grinned at the young woman and picked up the conversation, “Gold is several times more dense compared to dirt. When it’s buried beneath the soil, it will slowly sink. Rain will exacerbate this process. Because the dirt around it is not always of the same density, the gold will not move in a straight direction. Differing levels in water from rainfall can vastly change the landscape. Thus, it is possible to dig for gold in one place and have it move later on! This has all been vouched for by science!”
The explanation seemed to open a whole new world to Shen Yu. She now understood what they meant by gold “running” away. Although there was very little rainfall in the desert, sand was very light compared to other types of dirt. Therefore, it was easy for gold to sink into sandy ground. When sandstorms blew over, they could end up uncovering the gold that had sunken earlier!
After listening to Guo Pingan’s long-winded explanation, Mazha realized that although this man was a relatively new recruit, this soldier had a broad and vast knowledge in many subjects. He was a man to be reckoned with! However, in terms of experience, Guo Pingan could not compare to either Tang Can or himself. Therefore, Mazha interjected somewhat snobbily, “Alright, alright! Look at you, explaining things all dry and boring like a textbook. Let’s look at something practical okay? I want you guys to look closely at the sand and tell me if there’s something unusual about it.”
Guo Pingan asked in disbelief, “What is there to look at? Isn’t this just ordinary sand?”
Mazha guffawed. “You amateur! Don’t look down on sand! You can learn a lot from something so ordinary!” He flicked his hands, clearly uninterested in trying to talk to someone who was not knowledgeable in this area.
Guo Pingan thristed to find out exactly what he was missing. He clung onto Mazha like a tick and hounded the other soldier. Just what piece was he not getting?
Shen Yu was also curious but she could also tell that Mazha kept them deliberately in suspense. She glanced at Tang Can, waiting for him to enlighten them.
Tang Can smiled brightly but granted the chance to show off to Mazha this time. The young soldier slowly explained, “This is the expertise that comes from experience! Haven’t you heard of the stories of tomb robbers? Some of those thieves often had a saying that they could sniff out a burial site by relying on their nose! Although they were exaggerating a bit, they weren’t completely lying. They relied on their experiences. What did the builders of these mausoleums follow? They adhered to Fengshui. In order for us to find gold, you need to look at the sand! Look closely at the sand again. The color of this sand is slightly deeper, around a red-yellow color, and it also seems to sparkle a little, right?”
Shen Yu snatched a handful of sand and looked at it. Earlier, no matter how hard she looked, she still couldn’t see anything. Now that she heard from Mazha what to look for, she was able to see the difference. However, like before, she didn’t understand the point. She asked him, “If this was gold, wouldn’t the sand look more yellow and not red since gold is yellow? I thought only copper was colored red.”
Mazha pointed a finger at her. “Amateurs will always remain amateurs! The gold that you’re talking about has been purified, so of course its color is completely yellow. However, the raw gold you find outside is often mixed with other metals and minerals. Most gold comes in ores mixed with copper or quartz. Only dog’s head gold and rarer gold ores have a higher percentage of gold in it. In those forms, gold may shine yellow. In all the other types, it shines red!”
Her eyes widened as she tried to digest everything the soldier just explained. She had very few encounters with gold in her everyday life, so obviously she would not be able to tell that the sand here had bits of gold in it. After listening to the whole nine yards, she felt kind of dizzy and overwhelmed.
Tang Can came a bit closer to her and smiled. “Actually, the reasoning is quite simple. The composition of the sand will tell you whether there is any gold in the area. What you’re looking for is quartz. Quartz is considered a rock-forming mineral. This type of mineral appears in areas where volcanoes come together to form mountains, and it needs heat to form. If it appears in the desert, it means something else happened there to form it. That would most likely be a meteorite hitting the earth!”
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