Dis­patches From The High-tech Gold Rush

Deep in the Yukon, the world’s most suc­cess­ful prospec­tor is us­ing ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy to find flecks of gold that could be worth bil­lions. How does he find what no one else can?

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Great New Stuff - WORDS : GENESEE KEEVIL PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: DANNY WIL­COX FRA­ZIER

Shawn Ryan at one of his min­eral claims, north­west of Daw­son City, Yukon. Though he’s sold the rights to tens of thou­sands of claims to big min­ing com­pa­nies, he re­tains more for his own ex­plo­ration.

T

THE LEG­END AP­PEARS like a ghost one af­ter­noon, a long way from any­where.

Deep in a val­ley that looks a lot like ev­ery other spruce­and po­plar-filled val­ley sprawl­ing hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres south from Daw­son City, Yukon, a min­eral-stak­ing crew slogs up a creek, hump­ing chain­saws and smart­phones. This is far-flung sub­arc­tic wilder­ness – no roads, no peo­ple, just a lot of bears and buck­brush. It’s late au­tumn in 2016, and the crew is fan­ning out across boggy moose pas­ture, cross­ing icy creeks just deep enough to soak their boots.

These men are claim­ing ground the way prospec­tors have for cen­turies, with a few modern im­prove­ments: They drive spruce posts into the dirt, blaze them with an axe, and scrawl a name and some co­or­di­nates with a black Sharpie. On one, the crew scrib­bles the name of a soc­cer mom back home. Eight kilo­me­tres down, the name of an­other lo­cal par­ent is scratched onto an­other post. Each name on a post sig­nals the claim­ing of one eight-kilo­me­tre lease, which in­cludes rights to all the pre­cious met­als and min­er­als that chunk of land con­tains.

Prospect­ing is a bil­lion-us-dol­lar in­dus­try in Alaska and the Yukon – hun­dreds of small op­er­a­tions and a hand­ful of big ones em­ploy roughly 1 500 peo­ple, who do ev­ery­thing from ge­o­log­i­cal as­say to land sur­vey­ing to drilling. This crew works for a man named Shawn Ryan, who is the most fa­mous gold prospec­tor in these parts, maybe in North Amer­ica, maybe in the world. Ryan walked eight hun­dred kilo­me­tres across the Arc­tic, alone, and chased mi­grat­ing musk oxen hop­ing to gather their wool, and rev­o­lu­tionised the mush­room-for­ag­ing in­dus­try by ap­ply­ing data anal­y­sis and tech­nol­ogy no mush­room for­ager had ever used.

His suc­cess in prospect­ing for gold has been equally un­ortho­dox. Over the past sev­en­teen years, Ryan has de­vel­oped an ex­ten­sive soil-sam­pling pro­gram, us­ing ma­chines he dreamed up and built from com­po­nent parts raided from other in­dus­tries. The min­eral- ex­plo­ration com­pany he leads is called Groundtruth Ex­plo­ration, be­cause Ryan feels he can get to the truth of what lies be­neath the Earth’s sur­face bet­ter and faster than any­one else. It has made him a mil­lion­aire sev­eral times over. (On pa­per, Ryan is tech­ni­cally an in­de­pen­dent prospec­tor and his wife, Cathy Wood, works at Groundtruth. That lets him take on more jobs with­out the ap­pear­ance of a con­flict of in­ter­est. Ryan never misses a trick.) Ryan al­most sin­gle­hand­edly kicked off the Yukon’s sec­ond gold rush in 2009, and many peo­ple in his busi­ness think he’s on the verge of do­ing it again.

There are good prospec­tors out there, and then there is Shawn Ryan. Suc­cess­ful gold-find­ing has al­ways been a com­bi­na­tion of pa­tience, in­stinct, per­sis­tence, re­source­ful­ness, and a tol­er­ance for risk. In Ryan, each of these al­ways seems to be cal­i­brated in per­fect pro­por­tion. And he has in­tro­duced an­other el­e­ment to the equa­tion: tech­nol­ogy. He uses drones and data sets and high-tech car­to­graphic

in­no­va­tions and two As­tar D2 he­li­copters that he mod­i­fied to use less fuel but de­velop more lift. But the ques­tion for hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres in ev­ery direc­tion is: How does Shawn Ryan do it? Is it the tech­nol­ogy that sets him apart, or is his sense about where gold might be some­how more acute than every­one else’s? How does any­one rise to the top of his field? In one way, how­ever, Ryan is no dif­fer­ent from any other prospec­tor in the Yukon: Every­one is lim­ited to one eightk­ilo­me­tre lease a year. He wants 224 kilo­me­tres, so he went to the lo­cal soc­cer team he spon­sors and paid the chil­dren’s par­ents for their names.

It’s late in the day and one of the guys is run­ning a creek, try­ing to land one more lease, when he notices some­thing weird: The wa­ter is flow­ing the op­po­site direc­tion from the other creeks in the area. Far­ther on, some­thing else un­usual: a pile of rusty prospect­ing tools be­neath a large spruce tree, al­most hid­den by branches. They must be a hun­dred years old. He snaps a pic­ture and keeps go­ing.

A few weeks later, back in Daw­son City, the crew sits around charg­ing bat­ter­ies and dry­ing socks. Ryan pulls up, wild mush­rooms rolling around the dash of his truck, look­ing very mad sci­en­tist – scruffy hair, stub­ble, ea­ger grin. The crew smells of wood smoke. One of them pulls up a blurry pic­ture on his phone – those rusty tools. Ryan reaches over fast and zooms in. Stares for a long mo­ment.

‘ There’s this ru­mour,’ he says, lean­ing in, ‘about two na­tives in the late for­ties, early fifties. They’d walk over­land from Daw­son some hun­dred clicks to their camp at Cof­fee Creek. And there was this one spot they’d al­ways deke off the trail and hand-bomb a bunch of gold.’ Not just flakes, he says. Huge, fist-size nuggets. No one knew where this was, but there were clues. He drops his voice. ‘One clue was that the creek drained op­po­site to the way you thought it should.’ He pauses. ‘ The next was that they left all their tools be­neath a large spruce tree.’

O

ON THE PORCH of the old mo­bile home Groundtruth uses as an of­fice, a dusty baby sits eat­ing a pop­si­cle be­side a three­legged dog. It’s sum­mer 2017 in Daw­son City, the sea­son is ramp­ing up again, and it is break­ing-records hot. Ryan’s lean­ing over the rail­ing in pale, stretched- out jeans, talk­ing to a min­ing con­sul­tant in khaki shorts and a golf shirt. The guy’s up from Van­cou­ver rep­re­sent­ing a com­pany that just swal­lowed twenty thou­sand of Ryan’s claims. Ryan will tell you there’s prob­a­bly five mil­lion ounces of gold buried un­der those 964 000 acres – about R86.1 bil­lion’s worth. Which is what prospec­tors do. They claim land, prom­ise it’s full of gold, then sell it, leav­ing the buyer to do the min­ing. Ex­cept in this case, af­ter sell­ing the rights to those claims, Ryan got the min­ing com­pany to give Groundtruth a three-year, mul­ti­mil­lion- dol­lar ex­plo­ration con­tract to find the gold.

Out at the Golden Sad­dle, one of the first claims where Ryan hit pay dirt, drill oper­a­tor Ja­son Mar­wick takes sam­ples with a re­mote- con­trolled ham­mer drill. The drill, pow­ered by a Honda gas en­gine and rid­ing on re­pur­posed ATV tracks, was the first prod­uct of Ryan and Tao Hen­der­son’s DIY ap­proach to prospect­ing equip­ment.

In­side – past the sticky baby and faux-wood pan­elling – sits the ‘war room’, a ra­di­at­ing sauna of stacked 100-ter­abyte servers, Lenovo com­put­ers souped up with high- end video cards and big mon­i­tors, and buzzing Sam­sung smart­phones. Here, sur­viv­ing on pizza and cof­fee, ge­ol­o­gists hunt gold vir­tu­ally. Data streams in from Ryan’s ‘com­man­dos’ – men and women in re­flec­tive vests who jump out of chop­pers out­fit­ted with stealth drones, satel­lite in­ter­net, and re­mote­con­trol drills – in the back­coun­try. They col­lect data on a range of com­pli­cated elec­tri­cal mea­sures, like re­sis­tiv­ity and charge­abil­ity, and X-ray flu­o­res­cence, and gen­er­ate to­po­graphic mod­els – data the ge­ol­o­gists in­ter­pret to tell Groundtruth pre­cisely where to dig.

Ryan walks into the war room and stops dead in front of a screen dis­play­ing what looks like an ul­tra­sound of a boa con­stric­tor. ‘Holy cow!’ He lifts up his green ball cap with the he­li­copter on it, scratches a heap of sil­ver hair. ‘ Wow, eh. Holy cow!’ Out at one of his bush camps, maybe 160 km from Groundtruth’s trailer, a crew has dropped a R500 000 cam­era on a data cable down a 100 m drill hole – a sys­tem Ryan adapted from the oil-and-gas in­dus­try (and tested first by tap­ing a flash­light to a Gopro). In the trailer, Ryan can see into the Earth in real time, and he watches the feed wideeyed and as­ton­ished: ‘ You can’t in­vent that one. Holy cow.’

Maybe, some­where on the planet, some­one’s al­ready thought of throw­ing a rig like this down a drill hole. But Ryan’s ac­tu­ally done it.

When Ryan first got to Daw­son, a gold-rush town of faded, list­ing fa­cades, he went af­ter wild morel mush­rooms, a lu­cra­tive crop if you can find them. He re­searched the places where wild­fires burned hottest, soil tem­per­a­tures, frost fre­quen­cies, rain­fall, satel­lite im­agery, old forestry re­ports, and his own har­vests un­til he had enough data that he could fly a drone over a burn and know ex­actly where the mother lode would be. He’d chop­per in and pick a week’s worth of mush­rooms in hours. When Ryan turned his at­ten­tion to gold, he re­alised that a prospec­tor is re­ally just a glo­ri­fied bush­man: some­one who knows the land so well he thinks he can see right through it.

Ryan fills the trailer with the won­der and ex­cite­ment of a boy dig­ging for buried trea­sure. With his down-hole cam­era tech­nol­ogy, he is doc­u­ment­ing things al­most no one ever gets to see, like wa­ter rush­ing through un­der­ground aquifers. And as he scrolls down the tube, he hes­i­tates at a frag­mented im­age on one of the screens. On an­other mon­i­tor, he scans col­umns of re­sults that tell him what met­als and min­er­als are in the dirt. Cer­tain min­er­als sug­gest the pres­ence of gold nearby. The right mix could mean – ‘ There’s the ar­senic, huh. Where’s the gold, baby?’

In 2016, just be­fore he sent that stak­ing crew into the bush, Ryan dis­cov­ered some­thing. For years, he’d been hunt­ing hard-rock gold, the kind packed tightly in veins and faults un­der­ground. But gold also oc­curs as placer (raw gold that has eroded from the veins and drifted into the dirt). The kind of gold you might find in a creek bed, un­der a large spruce. Ryan started read­ing Canada’s min­ing laws – some­thing any­one can do but no one does – and dis­cov­ered he could stake the hard-rock claims he’d sold again. For placer.

Ryan scopes far­ther down that dig­i­tal drill hole, full of shad­ows and pock­ets of golden light. He keeps glanc­ing at as­say re­sults. Then he lets out a whoop: ‘ There it is! There it is, Hous­ton. Oh wow.’ Ryan is the only one still sur­prised when he finds gold. ‘ We’re not sup­posed to be sur­prised,’ he says. ‘ We’re sup­posed to be pro­fes­sion­als, right?’

O

ONE OF RYAN’S crew, Dil­lon Lan­ge­laan, is up on a ridge a cou­ple hours south of Daw­son, shacked up in a wall tent with a satel­lite dish, sur­rounded by an elec­tric bear fence. Mid­sum­mer is Groundtruth’s high sea­son, and Lan­ge­laan is one of 170 guys Ryan’s got out in the bush. An East Coast farm kid fresh out of rock school, Lan­ge­laan’s on a three­man ex­plo­ration crew, the kind feed­ing the screens back in the war room. But he’s been given a ro­botic gold-find­ing con­trap­tion that wasn’t in any of his text­books, a ma­chine cre­ated by a man every­one here calls The Doc­tor.

The Doc­tor is Tao Hen­der­son. He wears black la­tex sur­geon’s gloves, and black ev­ery­thing else, and is known to blast AC/ DC from his op­er­at­ing theatre – an in­su­lated metal Quon­set hut with a moose rack over the door, ad­ja­cent to Groundtruth’s mo­bile-home head­quar­ters. When things break, Hen­der­son fixes them. He also shrinks stuff – makes big in­dus­trial drills tiny and mo­bile. He and Ryan fer­ret out parts the way small-town boys build dune bug­gies, us­ing what­ever is ly­ing around – an old bed frame, a bench seat, a small-block en­gine. In a neigh­bour’s back­yard, they pulled the tracks off a 1970s Cushman Track­ster ATV and threw them on a ham­mer drill. The zero-turn tracks have a 45° tilt front and back for tough ter­rain, and are pow­ered in­de­pen­dently, so the ma­chine can nav­i­gate any land­scape it en­coun­ters in the bush. It is part squat tank, part giant ro­botic mosquito.

Ryan has driven two hours of bumpy back road to see this in­ven­tion do what tra­di­tional ex­plo­ration crews do by gash­ing trenches with back­hoes. They watch as the ma­chine trun­dles through the buck­brush. The oper­a­tor tugs the stubby tog­gles on a heavy rub­ber re­mote and the ham­mer drill piv­ots and spins, tee­ter­ing pre­car­i­ously be­fore rolling clum­sily down the bank. He nudges a lever and the drill head slowly rises, fold­ing for­ward like a per­son in prayer.

The jan­gling whine of the en­gine turns into a steady jack­ham­mer thwack as the drill pounds steel cas­ings down two me­tres, then re­trieves them, now full of soil sam­ples. The drill rolls over the moss with­out a trace, leav­ing be­hind a tiny drib­ble of golf-ball-size holes.

Dig­ging a lit­tle deeper than ev­ery­body else, a lit­tle more of­ten, Ryan has been stock­pil­ing dirt since 2001, col­lect­ing more than 300 000 sam­ples – ar­guably the largest geo­chem­i­cal sam­pling pro­gram on the planet. He used to plot his data on the govern­ment topo­graph­i­cal maps ev­ery­body uses, un­til he fig­ured out that they were in­ac­cu­rate. Maybe other peo­ple had no­ticed this, but Ryan ac­tu­ally de­cided to make his own,

with Sense­fly ebee drones he started test­ing in 2012, long be­fore most peo­ple had even heard of drones. These stealth boomerangs fly grids au­tonomously, shoot­ing pic­tures that are stitched to­gether into high-res­o­lu­tion 3D to­po­graphic mod­els forty times more de­tailed than Google Earth.

As the dirt-packed cas­ings are pulled from the ground and threaded off the ham­mer drill, Lan­ge­laan bashes out the sam­ples with a sledge­ham­mer, catch­ing the trickle of rocky loam in a plas­tic gold pan. ‘ You’re not only look­ing at rocks,’ says Ryan, crouch­ing down next to Lan­ge­laan, rub­bing the dirt between his fin­gers. ‘As a geo, a young guy learn­ing, you should be try­ing to fig­ure out the game.’ It’s like Sasquatch hunt­ing, Ryan likes to say, this un­re­lent­ing search for the mother lode: ‘I be­lieve the beast ex­ists, even though no one’s ever seen it.’

Lan­ge­laan just stares at Ryan. Like he can’t quite be­lieve this leg­endary prospec­tor, a guy he learned about in school, is stand­ing out here on the side of this scrubby moun­tain talk­ing to him. Lan­ge­laan has a back­log of ques­tions: How deep should they drill to hit ‘the zone’? Does bag­ging wet dirt change the as­say re­sults? Should he dry it?

You can tell Ryan recog­nises some­thing of him­self in this cu­ri­ous, kind-of-in­no­cent kid. Ryan wants Lan­ge­laan to feel the same daz­zling rush that he does when he works through these puz­zles. Lan­ge­laan drops the sledge­ham­mer and shows Ryan the mus­tard-coloured loam that keeps turn­ing up. Ryan prom­ises him a new X-ray gun to de­ter­mine min­eral con­tent.

The right tool is al­ways out there. Once, at what he calls a ‘geek con­fer­ence’ in Col­orado, Ryan found a tech­nol­ogy de­signed to spot sink­holes and as­sess fuel spills with probes that zap the dirt and chart elec­tri­cal re­sis­tiv­ity. He fig­ured if it could find that stuff un­der­ground, it should find gold veins too. So he got it, and in­stead of spac­ing the probes ev­ery fifty me­tres, like the in­struc­tions said, Ryan put his ev­ery five me­tres for a much sharper pic­ture, and packed the probes in cat lit­ter – the only ben­tonite source he could find in Daw­son – to boost con­tact. That’s what Ryan’s telling this kid, Lan­ge­laan. There’s al­ways a bet­ter way if you give your­self the time and space to think cre­atively. The job isn’t re­ally the ge­ol­ogy. The job – all jobs, re­ally – is gath­er­ing up the knowl­edge, the sci­ence, then learn­ing to let in­stinct nav­i­gate you surely through it. ‘ You’re ac­tu­ally hunt­ing,’ Ryan tells

Ryan wants to make a drill that can bore a tun­nel big enough for a ro­bot. ‘We put one on Mars. Why can’t we put one down a 15-me­tre shaft?’

him, and he hopes he sees the spe­cial joy in hunt­ing for gold (or Sasquatch): If you’re chas­ing some­thing that’s myth­i­cal, seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble to find, the hunt never re­ally ends.

F

AU­TUMN IN THE Yukon means day­light is grow­ing pre­cious, the poplars are turn­ing yel­low, and Richard Daigle is board­ing a Groundtruth he­li­copter to the placer leases Ryan’s crew staked one year ear­lier. He’s lead­ing a team that’s go­ing to spend a cou­ple weeks tak­ing drill sam­ples, the first step to as­sess­ing the vi­a­bil­ity of the claims. The sea­son is wind­ing down and it’s late to head out, but Ryan’s in­sis­tent: There’s one creek that has to be drilled be­fore the snow flies. The creek that moves in the wrong direc­tion, where the crew found the rusty tools be­neath the large spruce tree.

Gold seems to of­fer it­self up to Ryan. ‘It ac­tu­ally be­comes pretty much an­ti­cli­mac­tic when you find it,’ he says. ‘Ding, ding, ding! It’s ex­cit­ing on the first or sec­ond hole and then the eupho­ria’s over be­cause, shit, it’s re­ally there. Okay. Then you kind of stand back and go, “Shit. Okay, I guess I’m done. Ha­haha.” Then you’re like, “Oh my God. Okay. Now what?” ’ That’s why, back at Groundtruth HQ, Ryan’s got The Doc­tor try­ing to fig­ure out how to make a drill that can bore a shaft big enough to drop a ro­bot – a placer min­ing bot that doesn’t ex­ist yet. That’s the next step if Daigle’s drill sam­ples come back look­ing good. Ryan reck­ons Groundtruth can build bur­row­ing placer bots by hack­ing mini track ma­chines he found on­line with ex­ist­ing re­mote- con­trol tech­nol­ogy. ‘It’ll be easy,’ he says. ‘ We put one on Mars. Why can’t we put one down a 15-me­tre shaft?’

Daigle has a face like an oil­skin rain­coat, pati­nated from life on the land moon­light­ing for min­ing com­pa­nies – chas­ing other peo­ple’s dreams. He gazes out of the chop­per as it thumps over ridge af­ter ridge be­fore even­tu­ally perch­ing it­self above the val­ley formed by the creek that runs in re­verse. A cou­ple of guys duck out and skid down the hill to­ward a minia­ture ro­tary-air-blast (RAB) drill on tracks – an­other of The Doc­tor’s re­mote- con­trol con­trap­tions. Be­fore long, the men are sling­ing steel drill cas­ings and buck­ets of pul­verised dirt. Over the next sev­eral days, their progress is marked by puffs of white pow­der that rise from the val­ley’s black spruce, dust kicked up as the RAB jack­ham­mers into the ground and busts up ev­ery­thing in its path.

By the time the crew roll un­der that large spruce and set up one last tar­get, there’s snow on the ground. The RAB starts pound­ing and Daigle moves fast, wash­ing sam­ples pulled up by the drills, watch­ing for that tell­tale flash of light. Gold.

Of course they find it. Ryan isn’t there – he’s not in the field nearly as much as he used to be. But he knew they would. He’d done the work to know the dirt, and he knew in his gut he could trust the leg­end.

The find is good enough, he’ll say, to con­sider a full-fledged placer-min­ing op­er­a­tion. ‘Sur­pris­ingly so,’ he adds, a lit­tle tease. Even though he doesn’t know yet, he knows.

THIS WEATHER ISN’T what South­ern Cal­i­for­nia promised. It’s cold and over­cast, with a chance of ‘Why is this hap­pen­ing to me?’ My trusty pas­sen­ger/wife, Jess, and I are ready to ride up north along a foggy patch of the Pa­cific Coast High­way on the new­est edi­tion of Honda’s sofa on wheels, the 2018 Gold Wing. The rain suits are in our hard cases, the heated seat and grips are warm­ing up, and the power wind­shield is fully ex­tended. With a 1 833 cc flat-six and a seven-speed dual-clutch auto trans­mis­sion (no shift­ing) be­neath us, I won­der when lux­ury cruis­ing got so good.

In 1975, the new Honda GL1000 was a nor­mal, stripped-down, street-style bike. It housed a kick-start 999 cc flat-four and a five-speed trans­mis­sion mounted on a steel frame. Although it wasn’t in­tended specif­i­cally as a tour bike, be­cause of its de­pend­abil­ity, cus­tomers rode it long dis­tances and added on af­ter­mar­ket lug­gage bags and fair­ings. Honda en­cour­aged the re­la­tion­ship, and soon, 700 000 mid­dle-aged, leather-clad ad­ven­tur­ers were pur­su­ing their own vi­sion quests on two wheels. That num­ber is now at 700 002.

Honda fol­lowed up on the GL1000 with the first Gold Wings, con­structed specif­i­cally to ac­com­mo­date the needs of its early rid­ers. Sub­se­quent mod­els had big­ger en­gines, elec­tronic ig­ni­tion, longer wheel­bases, more room for driv­ers and pas­sen­gers, larger fuel tanks, an au­dio sys­tem, fac­tory-in­stalled fair­ings and lug­gage bags, and, in 1982, 98 , a an opt op­tional o a C CB ra­dio. ad o. And even with the huge en­gine on the 2018 model, there’s hardly any noise or shak­ing. The four drive modes are de­rived from Honda cars and trucks. In Tour mode, it eats the bumps so well that I have to make sure Jess hasn’t fallen asleep. I pair my phone with the Ap­ple Carplay sys­tem and crank up the road mu­sic.

Some light rain opens up. Any sane per­son would pull over. ‘Ah, let’s go for it,’ one of my split per­son­al­i­ties says to the other. (Nei­ther of us asks Jess.) I tog­gle it to Rain mode at cruis­ing speed, switch­ing the sen­si­tiv­ity on the ABS and the throt­tle. The new Gold Wing is 39 kilo­grams lighter than pre­vi­ous mod­els, with new stream­lined fair­ings that make me won­der how much pro­tec­tion we’ll have. But the bike han­dles with per­fect con­fi­dence, and we’re dry.

From the late ’80s to the early 2000s, the Gold Wing ex­pe­ri­enced its most sig­nif­i­cant ad­vances. In 1988, Honda added in two more cylin­ders. The 1990s weren’t much in terms

of tech­nol­ogy, but then in 2001, bam! Fuel in­jec­tion, an alu­minium frame, smoother trans­mis­sion and ABS brak­ing. By 2006, the Gold Wing of­fered in-dash GPS and the world’s first mo­tor­cy­cle airbag. In 2009, satel­lite ra­dio. And in 2012, ipod com­pat­i­bil­ity ar­rived.

Af­ter lunch, a true mir­a­cle: sun­shine. I switch to Sport mode in the Mal­ibu canyons, pull the throt­tle back, k, and wow. The Gold Wing tight­ens up with ith re­sponse that is over­whelm­ing. The e big bike takes the canyon’s tight cor­ners ners with ease and bal­ance. Jess is a pro­fes­sional ro­fes­sional pas­sen­ger, so I can pull the bike ke down low while the dou­ble-clutch smoothly oothly down­shifts and powe pow­ers out of the turn. This mo­tor­cy­cle seems to have it all. . My only sug­ges sug­ges­tion for next year: self-dri self-driv­ing mode.

The moun­tains out­side Daw­son City are filled with relics of the re­gion’s prospect­ing past – mossy, skele­tal cab­ins and over­grown scars where min­ers once trenched for gold. Some of this land is now pro­tected as part of Tomb­stone Ter­ri­to­rial Park. But where it is not, prospec­tors con­tinue to walk, drive, and chop­per in to seek their for­tunes.

For the past 17 years, Ryan has been run­ning the largest geo­chem­i­cal sam­pling pro­gram on Earth. When govern­ment maps proved not to have the ac­cu­racy he re­quired for plot­ting find­ings, he started mak­ing his own. Now, he can call up de­tailed in­for­ma­tion about his claims from just about any­where in the world – in­clud­ing his home.

Staff in the Groundtruth trailer co­or­di­nate op­er­a­tions – stream­ing data, jug­gling he­li­copter flights and res­cue op­er­a­tions, and mon­i­tor­ing for­est fires. Even as Groundtruth ex­pands to work claims in Nu­navut, New­found­land and Labrador, and finds it­self in de­mand on other con­ti­nents, ev­ery­thing runs from this trailer.

Groundtruth ge­ol­o­gist Greg Daw­son uses a loupe to ex­am­ine a rock sam­ple. Daw­son says his work at Groundtruth is ‘striv­ing to­ward fail­ure’: The faster, cheaper, and more ef­fi­ciently he can prove there’s noth­ing un­der a given sam­ple, the quicker the com­pany can get to the pay dirt – and the higher the re­turn when it strikes gold.

The all-new Gold Wing.

Honda em­braces the Gold Wing as a true tour­ing ma­chine.

The 21st cen­tury brings fuel in­jec­tion and ABS brak­ing.

The Gold Wing’s pre­de­ces­sor, the GL1000, de­buts as a stripped-down street bike.

Gold Wing lovers form a rid­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion.

Honda uses ane­choic cham­bers to make the GL1500 qui­eter. Mean­while, the num­ber of hard-core fans grows.

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