Lasseter’s Lost Gold Reef, Dream or Reality?

Lasseter's Diary
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The story to 1970

‘Lasseter's Reef’, a name that conjures visions of a vast, glistering reef of gold-filled quartz—of untold riches—a vision that has led many people to disappointment and sometimes death in the harsh, desolate waste-land of Gibson’s Desert, in the most remote part of Australia. Harold Lasseter himself died near there late in 1930.

There are many versions of the legend of Lasseter’s Lost Gold Reef. However, the generally accepted story is that Harold Bell Lasseter claimed to have found a fabulous reef of gold somewhere in the centre of Australia in 1897 and again with a man named Harding, in 1900.

In answer to the question, ‘Whereabouts, approximately, is the Reef?’ Lasseter replied, ‘Near the borders of Western and Central Australia. I cannot tell you exactly where, but it is either in Central Australia or just over the border into Western Australia. Had our instruments been correct I could give the exact bearings, but I will have to depend on landmarks. I found it by the landmarks with Harding, so there is no doubt I could do it again.’

In 1930, he tried again with a full scale expedition financed by the Central Australian Gold Exploration Co. Ltd (C.A.G.E.), also known as the 'Gold Quest Expedition', which initially included one aircraft, a truck and a radio to report progress to the C.A.G.E. office in Sydney. Lasseter’s last known message is carved into a tree at the Western end of the Rawlinson Range—it is the date, ‘2.12.30’. He would have died soon after but the exact date is unknown.

Since 1930 there have been scores of expeditions to find Lasseter’s Lost Reef, including at least two that resulted in documentary films.

These expeditions had to rely solely on scant historical records of Lasseter’s efforts as a basis for their searches and in many cases expedition members were physically and mentally overwhelmed by their first visit to the area. Even under normal circumstances this would make it difficult to act logically and objectively but, coupled with the added pressures of the presence of nomadic Aborigines and the fever of looking for a massive gold reef, their actual “search” became incidental to “survival”. Some of the expeditions were large and well equipped, others poorly equipped and badly prepared but all had the same result—until early in 1970, when a survey crew came across an unmapped quartz outcrop west of the Northern Territory Western Australian border but south of where most of the previous expeditions had searched.

All the men felt that their “find” was significant enough to relate it in exact detail to me and to urge a further investigation.


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