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Sovereign Hill's newest exhibit completes one of the great stories of Victoria's history.

The largest gold nugget ever found was a fluke: prospectors John Deason and Richard Oates literally stumbled over the 2280oz Welcome Stranger while driving a cart near Dunolly, west of Bendigo, in 1869.

That beat the record of a group of Cornish miners who dug out a 2217oz prize - the Welcome Nugget - in the Red Hill 'deep lead' mine in Ballarat 11 years earlier.

The Welcome Nugget find was no fluke. Conditions in the 'deep leads' - underground watercourses containing rich but near-impossible-to-reach deposits of gold - were not only dark, cramped and damp but dangerously unstable.

Sovereign Hill at Ballarat are so particular about re-creating the past with such authenticity that, for many years, they knew their outdoor museum would not have been complete with-out a depiction of deep lead mining. (Visitors had been able to see the workings of a quartz mine or try shallow alluvial panning in the creek.) So a year ago

excavation began, and now the Red Hill Mine exhibit completes this golden story.

Using an original lithograph Depicting the discovery of the Welcome nugget, Sovereign Hill was able to scale down the image of the original mine to re-create the buildings and plant typical of an 1850s deep lead mine

The Red Hill Mine experience - stringent safety measures and high-tech wizardry aside - is spookily like the real thing. The entrance is down a steep stairway into a narrow tunnel, which is plunged into darkness upon the visitor's arrival. Voices come at you and soon you are following them - in a crouch for part of the journey - to the chamber where you share the moment when these intrepid fortune-hunters make their find.

Sovereign Hill tickets are available at discounts to members at RACV Shops or by calling the HolidayLine 13 13 29. And ask about packages for Sovereign Hill's spectacular sound and light show Blood On The Southern Cross.

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