Fanciful Fossicking

Sapphires and Black Panthers in the Glen Innes Highlands

What do wild black panthers and pretty sapphires have in common? This pelican pick!

In 1872, some local miners discovered tin in the Glen Innes Highlands area, on Ngoorabul country in rural NSW.

Being on top of one of the world’s richest mineral belts, other resources including arsenic and precious stones like sapphires, emeralds and topaz, were also soon found.

This attracted many miners and their families to the area, who were captivated by the idea of finding wealth hidden in the dirt beneath their feet. This pelican pick would have been owned by someone hoping to strike it big through digging up something shiny.

By 1900, the Glen Innes Highlands area had quickly grown to a population of 7,000, including around 2,000 Chinese Australians. However, these miners and fossickers had more to worry about than the hot Australian sun.

In 1902, at the height of the Glen Innes Highland’s mining boom, a wild black panther was spotted and killed. No one knows how or why a panther was in the area, though afterwards there were many more sightings.

Today, while none of the mines are still operational, the area is still a very popular fossicking destination. People come from all over Australia to try their luck at finding a glittering sapphire or perhaps a shimmering topaz. While the pelican pick was a good choice of tool for fossicking, perhaps it also provided a trusty defence against any black panthers skulking the area.