This made 100,000 men behave like animals gone mad

Come with me to Brazil in 1979.

We'll go 270 miles down from of the mouth of the Amazon river.

Pretty morning.

A kid is splashing around a muddy riverbank when he finds a shiny object about the size of a dime.

It turns out to be 6 grams of gold. 

In 1979, the price of gold was skyrocketing.

By January 1980, it was at $850 per ounce.  

For context, in 1977, it closed at $161 per ounce.

Word spread fast.

Within a week, thousands descended upon Serra Pelada 

Translated, that means, "Naked Mountain."

Thus begun the world's largest gold rush to what would become the world's largest open air gold mine.

---- a depiction from Rare Historical Photos site

“violence, death and prostitution was rampant.

The diggers scratched through the soil at the bottom of the open pit, filled it into sacks each weighing between 30 to 60 kilograms (65 and 130 pounds), and then carried the heavy sacks up some 400 meters of wood and rope ladders to the top of the mine, where it is sifted for gold. Because they work in mud, the gold diggers were called “mud hogs”. On average, workers were paid 20 cents for digging and carrying each sack, with a bonus if gold was discovered.”


It was a dirty, hard labor gamble. For money.

The presence of women and alcohol were banned at the mine site, which was a scrum of filth, animated by the seething efforts of 100,000 feverish men.

The nearby town allowed women and booze.

Thousands engaged in sex work in exchange for gold.

There were 60–80 unsolved murders in the town…

each month.

While “officially” the thousands of miners hauled out 45 tons of gold.

Those who keep track say as much as 90% was smuggled away. 

By now, you've probably made some assumptions about who would submit to this experience for the chance at instant riches.

In fact, miners came from all social classes.

Many were college educated. 

It's estimated over 100,000 flocked here to realize the dream of instant wealth.

So desperate, they walked the last 10 miles, since that's where the road ran out. 

Photographer Sebastião Salgado took mesmerizing photos of this and wrote of it...

"Every time a section finds gold, the men who carry up the loads of mud and earth have, by law, the right to pick one of the sacks they brought out. And inside they may find fortune and freedom. So their lives are a delirious sequence of climbs down into the vast hold and climbs out to the edge of the mine, bearing a sack of earth and the hope of gold."

Is that so different from what we do?

Settle for a less-than job hoping something better will come along?

Taking less-than pay?

We tote the sacks hoping one day we'll hit the jack pot?

Mania. Fever. Rush. Delirium. Rampant Desire.

On a naked mountain.

It was all over by 1986.

Your chance to play The Game will be all over soon, too.

For you, if you're interested in a more reliable, less frenzied way to freedom.

Not for gold-rushers hoping to strike it rich via a mud hog miracle. 

Doors close in two days  

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