John Reeves Stumbled Upon a Goldmine of Ice Age Fossils

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John Reeves

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John Reeves is an Alaskan gold miner who first came to public prominence on the 2012 National Geographic docu-series "Goldfathers." More recently, his ongoing search for gold uncovered the remains of thousands of Ice Age animals lying beneath the permafrost on his property. The discovery is featured in the 2019 documentary "Boneyard Alaska" and popular Instagram account @theboneyardalaska. www.fairbanksgoldco.com

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So how do you get these bones? How does this all start? Getting to that. Okay. And the way I discovered the bones was after I bought the property. There was a stripping pile done by an adjacent miner that was dumping overburden on this on these flat tailings. And I had a tour guide and a big guy. I said, Josh, run over there and find me a mammoth tusk. I'd never found a mammoth tusk, but I'd heard they were finding them over there. And the ground they were dumping on was on my ground. So he went and he says, what did he look like? I said, well, they looked like tree trunks, only they got a curve to them. So he went and he was gone half an hour. He comes back with a seven foot tusk over his shoulder. I went, holy shit. I said, go get me another one. He came back an hour later with another one, about three feet long, a broken one. So I walked over there to look at this area where the mining was going to take place. And they ended up mining it. They had a right to mine it. The company took out about 3,000 ounces out of this one little area. And I was like, goddamn, this stuff stinks. So one day we were walking around the area after they had mined it, moved on to another place. And we followed the smell. We walked around the side of this hill. And we got up in this little draw. And my kids were with me too. We were picking bones off the ground, little shards, little leg bones and stuff. So we filled up a garbage bag with those. We went back again and again and again. And then I took an excavator back, built a little road around the side so we get back to it with a machine. Took a couple of digs out of the muck, found a mammoth tusk. I said, oh, boy, let's get something going. So we got a big floating barge and put a pump on it, 471 Jimmy, with a giant. They're called giants, but they're actually hydraulic monitors. They look like big long pipes that you spray water out of. And our pump was a 8-inch intake, 6-inch outtake. And we nozzled it down to 2 inches, 2 and 1-1-1-2 inches. We could fire the water way out there and wash the overburden away. The overburden there is about 60 feet high. It's permafrost, silt. And underneath that, you have your gravel layer. Underneath the gravel, you have the gold and the bedrock. And the gravel layer and the muck interface is where most of the bones are. So we started finding lots of bones. I mean a lot of bones. And in the first three years, we found thousands and thousands of tusks and bison heads and bones. And by the way, all those skulls you got out there in your building here, you ain't got a step bison skull. I'm going to fix that shit. Okay. Okay. I'm going to. And then I don't even know how many we have. We stopped counting. And mammoth tusks, same thing. When did step bisons go extinct? 12,000 years ago. Wow. And so the permafrost is slowly melting and you're hosing it down and pulling it. So the stench is literally like this ancient rotting biological material. It stinks. Wow. It's organic. But it's been frozen forever. Thousands, 20,000 years, 30,000 years, 50,000 years. So this is you with the hose spraying it onto the side of this wall. So the way you do it is you just spray the side of these, like what would you call that hill? It's a muck bench. A muck bench. Yes, sir. So you spray that until you see something poking through? Yes, sir. Well, you spray it and then you walk up there and you turn the nozzle off the side and you'll pick up the bones, the little pieces, leg bones, back bones. Why is there so much in this one area? Nobody knows. Really? Well, that's what's so crazy. Like when I watched the documentary on your place, when you show this giant room where you have all these buckets of femurs and skulls and tusks and you have those paleontologists who are just like, they can't even believe what they're seeing. Yeah. That's because a lot of those animals, they say, never lived up there during the Ice Age. So when they see it and they still think that, I just say, well, they sure as fuck died here. So it's changing their ideas of what existed in that area? Yes, sir. Wow. And what's the oldest bones you guys have found? We don't know. We've sampled maybe four or five of them. It costs $400 a sample, do a carbon 14 test on them. If I was to sample my entire collection today, it'd cost $100 million because we have close to a quarter million fossils now. The whole place is crazy. I mean, it's so hard to believe that this one area has so many bones. They have no idea of like, did these animals fall into a muck pit? Was it? Why are they there? They don't know. No. Because there's so many of them and we're talking bones. We're not even talking fossils. Because they froze, which is very, very unusual. The documentary you saw that Dick Mole, a paleontologist. What an unfortunate name, by the way. Dick Mole. You know, I see what you're saying there. I know you do. Yeah. He's one of the good ones. He came up and spent a few days with the filmmaker that made that film, by the way. The filmmaker is an artist's purim, just through and through. I met him when he was working for National Geographic. Then he came to me and he says, hey, I'd like to make a documentary about the Boneyard. So I gave him unfettered access for four years. He said, do what you got to do. Just stay out of our way. Don't make me worry about finding you under a muck bench or a tree falling on you. Just go do your thing. So he did. The stuff that you're seeing there, and you saw in that video that you watched the documentary, it's like nobody knows why any of that stuff is there. Is that the most unusual sight that they've ever discovered in terms of just the sheer quantity of bones? Yes. Wow. And you just found it by accident. Yeah. It just makes you think, how many more of those are out there? Well, I know one more. Really? And you're going to have to go to the next creek down. Yep. So this area where you're extracting these bones from, how big is the actual area where you're finding these? Five acres. That's it. That's it. Wow. And I get blamed. Well, I have a, you're there. I got to be honest with you on a little thing here. When you first mentioned the Boneyard Alaska and talked about our site, I don't know how you found it, but you found it. And you had, who'd you have on here? It was Forrest Gollant. Yeah, it was Forrest Gollant. And I picked up 5,000 followers on my Instagram account that day. And I said to myself, the only guy I'm going to talk to about this site is Joe Rogan, ever. And I used you as a crutch for three solid fucking years because I didn't want to talk to anybody about this. But everybody's so interested in it. And I said, I'll talk to Joe Rogan. That's it. I've had countless opportunities to talk to newscasters and network reality TV people that want to do blah, blah, blah, blah. No, I ain't going to do it. I'll talk to Joe Rogan about it. Well, thank you for that. No, thank you for that. My pleasure. Well, it's just so unusual. At first, I just thought, oh, you probably found a couple things on this place. And then as I'm going over your Instagram page, I'm seeing all the stuff that you're pulling out of there. I'm like, this doesn't even seem real. Like how could this one area have so many bones and so many tusks? How many tusks do you have? Mammoth tusks? We stopped counting. Not because we can't count that high. It's just because what's the point? Thousands? I have a friend that says I got 10,000 dead woolly mammoth on my ground. Wow. In five acres. That's insane. Have any of these paleontologists speculated on why this one area would have so many dead animals? No. If they have, they haven't told me. And so you dated a few of them. And what were the dates from those few? They went from as recent as 3,000 years ago to 22,000 years ago. Wow. And the reason this site is so interesting to them is because it's all from one little area. So the context is there. And it spans what's called the extinction event. Graham is in Randall. Yeah. The highest impact theory. Yeah. And so I'm kind of going along with them because people- But that would make sense why they're all there. Well you got to remember that the world, the Pleistocene started what, two and a half million years ago and stopped about 11,800 years ago. So that whole area was ice, except for the ice-free corridor between Siberia and Alaska and the lower 48. They went right through where we're at. So there was migration happening coming through there. And these animals lived there for tens of thousands of years. The grazers. Well, wherever there's grazers, there's going to be carnivores. You have the short-faced bear. You got the cave lions. We found all that stuff. You found short-faced bears? Yes, sir. Really? Yeah. You got a short-faced bear head? Yes. What does that look like? It's huge. How big is it? Probably about that long. When they stood up on their hind legs, they were 12 feet. Yeah, we've shown photos of these replicas standing next to people. Yeah. There's nuts. Yeah. And not only that, but you have a little mini-factoid for you. It takes a mammal 21 seconds to take a leak. Did you know that? No. Check it out. Okay. By the way, I hope you have your bullshit detector on. I know you got one. And anytime you want to throw it on, you throw it on me. I believe you. No. I'm just telling you. Okay. Some of this stuff sounds no fucking way. There it goes. 20 seconds. Empty their bladders in about 20 seconds. Yeah. The golden rule. Yeah. All mammals weigh more than 2.2 pounds. Empty their full bladders in about 20 seconds. Unless you've been drinking. I've gone 100 seconds before. I bet you have. It's kind of a contest. Yeah. So anyways, you got to remember also that a grizzly bear can cover about 100 yards in eight seconds. And they got some pretty powerful noses on them. So all these animals that stop to take a piss, they get whacked. That's my theory. I don't think that's a good theory. It probably not. I have another theory though that I discovered in Florida. What? Pelicans flying groups of prime numbers. They do? Seems like that to me. I pay attention to shit like that, Joe. Okay. If you say, look, there's a group of eight pelicans flying over there. I'll go bullshit. There's one and then there's seven behind it. Mmm. There, there's 23 of them. Yeah, you're right. Prime number. Interesting. But I threw that out on my Instagram one time to challenge people. You'll find a group of pelicans or pelicans flying in an odd number. And it was kind of hard for them. So you ain't got pelicans around here, but. No, I'm not a fan. You ever see pelicans swallow seagulls? They just grab a seagull, swallow it whole. They're ruthless motherfuckers. Oh, they are. Like people think of pelicans. Oh, they carry, it's like a stork. They carry the baby. Those are big birds. No. That thing is to swallow giant things. That's why their mouth is so big. I saw a pelican last year. Drew was with me and it has a fish stuck sideways in its gullet. He couldn't hack it out. He couldn't get it out. And there was another pelican around there to help it put his beak in there and pull it out. I mean, this thing was gagging on it. Don't even know what happened to him. They probably figured it out. You'd think. Yeah, I mean, they're evolutionarily designed to swallow enormous things. Just think, they were goddamn dinosaurs about 60 million years ago. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Yeah. So. It's a wild place. So this mass extinction event theory does explain why there would be so many all in this one area.