1 : Australian & New Zealand : to search for gold or gemstones typically by picking over abandoned workings
2 a : chiefly Australian & New Zealand a : to search about : rummage
b : to search for by or as if by rummaging : ferret out
Although this word claims its roots as "chiefly Australian and New Zealand," it was actually brought east by immigrants from the United Kingdom.
William Dampier* was the first English explorer to land on the coast of this exotic island in 1688. Following his lead, James Cook mapped the eastern coast and paved the way for Captain Arthur Phillip and his Fleet, all of which dropped anchor in Port Jackson, establishing The British Crown Colony of New South Whales in 1788—a nice rebound after the American Revolution.
The Australian Gold Rush began in 1851 after Edward Hargraves discovered a minuscule grain of gold near Bathurst. Hargraves was already a seasoned gold digger; he had recently returned from an unsuccessful FOSSICKING in California. While he discovered this first mini-lump Australia, he was never really a successful miner and earned his name writing and lecturing about gold mining. Those who can't do, teach.
The Aussie rush initiated the greatest population increase in the state's history—from 470,000 in 1851 to 1.7 million in 1871 (370,000 of these FOSSICKERS in 1852 alone). The gold business also brought railways and telegraphs and economical expansion.
The world's two largest ever gold nuggets were discovered in Australia during this rush. Although, there is some debate over their classification. According to Black Cat Mining, a nugget has technically "left the lode at some point and is no longer in the host rock" (whatever that means). The Holtermann piece, weighing in at around 3,000 ounces, was discovered in New South Whales in 1882. This specimen is actually considered a "gold mass" and not a nugget. Thirteen years earlier, John Deason and Richard Oats FOSSICKED the largest nugget proper (2,284 oz.) and named it the "Welcome Stranger Nugget." A nice nod to imperialism.
*First person to use the word "barbecue" in an English text.