ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Gilded Life

The history of gold hunting in New Zealand is replete with the little-known story of a gold-digger with an Indian connection.

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s collection The Return of Sherlock Holmes, there is a story of a vile and vindictive sea captain named Peter Carey, a man so perpetually drunk that it only added to his other sins: of hurling abuse at his family and picking fights with neighbours, so much so that he lived apart, alone in an outhouse, where he was found dead one afternoon, a harpoon through him, and no one was left much the sadder. The story was titled “Black Peter”, suggestive of the evil in the sea captain.

Black Peter wasn’t just a mere character in fiction. Fifty years before Conan Doyle’s collection was published, a man called Edward Peters, who bore the same egregious nickname, unexpectedly discovered gold in Otago, in the South Island of New Zealand. This was in 1857 when the heady days of the Gold Rush were still on. The rush had been on since the 1840s when prospectors and adventurers crossed seas in search of fortune, moving between California, Australia and, last of all, New Zealand.

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