Lasseter’s Lost Gold Reef, Dream or Reality?

Map of the area Lasseters lost legendary gold reef

Map of the area in which the 1970/1979 outcrop is located
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The story from 1970 to 1979

To test the advice of the survey crew, I further researched Lasseter’s legendary gold reef, including talking with aborigines from the Wonggai (Pindiini) and Pitjandjara (Pitjandjadjara) tribes, and, in 1973, wrote a report in which I concluded a precisely defined location for the Reef, if it existed. Lasseter's lost legendary gold reef.
In reference to this, in 1977 Dick Smith commissioned me to research the whereabouts of the ‘Kookaburra’, an aeroplane lost in the Tanami Desert in 1929 when Anderson and Hitchcock were forced down by engine trouble while flying to the Kimberleys to join the search for Kingsford Smith. This is relevant, firstly, because of the many contacts made with people from that period who were also associated in some way with Lasseter’s Reef and who were able to pass on first hand information, secondly, there was considerable overlap of newspaper stories, people and equipment used (just one example, the Thornicroft truck used to collect the bodies of Anderson and Hitchcock from the Tanami Desert was used on the Gold Quest Expedition). Due to a foolish accident which damaged the helicopter, the August 1977 Kookaburra expedition was cut short but the 1978 expedition was able to find it using information I passed on to Dick Smith by radio-telephone from Sydney. Lasseter's lost legendary gold reef.
I applied the same research and location and organisational techniques to the 1979 Lasseter’s Reef expedition as I did to the search for the Kookaburra, that is, using all available information, I located the objective as precisely as possible on a map, then organised a well equipped expedition which had the ability to determine its exact position at all times on the way to reaching that precise location.

During the 1979 Lasseter’s Lost Gold Reef Expedition, within a matter of hours of setting out from their base camp, the expedition members found a large quartz outcrop which does not appear on the topographical map of the area.

About the quartz reef found in 1979
Members of the 1979 expedition walked over approximately 20 square kilometres of an area in which quartz outcrops appeared in lines several kilometres long alternating with outcrops of ironstone. There were indications that these outcrops may extend beyond 20 km.Lasseter's lost legendary gold reef.
Although quartz outcrops are not always shown on topographical maps, if this feature had been known to the cartographer it surely would have been mapped because it is the first rock contact for over 100 kilometres in one direction and it is a large feature where there is little else to map. Possibly, it was not mapped because it did not appear on the relevant aerial photograph (1959) and the surface traverse missed it, in both cases, because it was drifted over with sand.

Samples taken from the quartz outcrop itself and its surrounds were shown to the government geologist in Alice Springs, who said that he would not say that there wasn’t gold in them. This should not be taken as a definite indication either way, because only about 10 kg of samples were looked at and this is simply not enough to make a fair test. It is significant that the latest technology metal detector was used extensively and indicated metalization all around the outcrop.

The quartz outcrop may or may not be Lasseter’s lost gold reef, but it is certainly a feature worth investigating further.

Tony pouring petrol

Near Lasseter’s Cave, Tony
filling Gerry can from one of
the 200 L drums of petrol

Lasseter's Cave

Gerry and Tony check Lasseter’s
Cave with the metal detector
and geo pick


Vehicle check before turning
off into the sandhills

Gerry and Tony on Jol

Gerry and Tony standing on
“Jol” planning the approach
to Lasseter’s legendary gold reef

Walking party

Walking party set out from
base camp (“Gibson Sands”)

Lasseter’s Reef?

Gerry and Tony standing
on the quartz outcrop

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Note: Pictures used here were taken either by Chris Russell or Cavan Lenaghan

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© Copyright 1999-2004 GERRY NOLAN