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The legend of Lasseter’s lost gold reef
The legend of Lasseter’s lost gold reef is one of Australia’s most famous and talked about legends.
Harold Lasseter claimed to have discovered a rich reef of gold in Central Australia with gold “as thick as plums in a pudding”.
Lasseter’s story was that he stumbled on a quartz gold reef seven miles long, four to seven feet high, and 12 feet wide in Central Australia. Was this really true?
Nothing captures the Australian imagination quite like the thought of striking it lucky.
Some years ago I inherited a copy of ‘Lasseter’s Diary’ and have been curious about Lasseter and his lost gold reef ever since.
After moving to Alice Springs in 2001, I began following Lasseter’s story more closely. Not with any expectation of hunting down the lost gold treasure, but out of curiosity.
I wondered if this legend could possibly be true.
There appears to be considerable overlap of legend and reality .. but we Aussies love a good story!
While most Australians have heard the story of this fabled gold reef, it is not known how many have attempted to re-trace Lasseter’s steps.
Lasseter’s details of the discovery are sometimes conflicting and its exact location continues to remain a mystery … if it even exists.
A curious fellow
Lasseter went by a variety of nicknames, including Das and Possum. He had two legal names, two wives and called two nations home.
Lasseter was born in country Victoria, however had travelled extensively and spent time in the US where he married and converted to Mormonism. He later returned to South Sydney and worked on the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Touted the best-equipped gold-seeking exploration in Australia’s history, it was a failure in all regards.
Soon after setting off in search of his holy grail, several of his party labelled him a charlatan following a number of disagreements. At no time did Lasseter share the precise location of the gold reef.
The terrain was unsuitable for trucks and the airplane he chartered crashed. Following the abandonment of the motorised expedition, Lasseter partnered with dingo trapper, Paul Johns to continue the venture. Again there was dissent.
Lasseter decided to go it alone. It is thought that he ventured as far west as Lake Christopher in Western Australia. On his return trip his camels bolted leaving him stranded in the Petermann Ranges in Central Australia.
In early 1931 his remains and personal effects were found in a remote desert cave. There was no indication he had found the lost reef and no map was ever found.
Australia’s infamous gold rush era
Although fortunes were being made from the Kalgoorlie gold rush in Western Australia an expedition into the unknown desert wilderness of Central Australia didn’t raise enough interest.
Lasseter began writing to federal and state politicians to in an attempt secure funding for his expedition. In his letters, Lasseter recounted that he’d been searching for rubies in Central Australia when he was 17 and had stumbled across an incredibly rich reef of gold.
He claimed the gold reef was in the Western MacDonnell ranges in Central Australia and that the gold reef was some sixteen kilometres long.
He was unsuccessful in securing funding from the Government, but finally successful with the Australian Workers’ Union. In 1930 Lasseter mounted an expedition to find his “lost” gold reef.
Continued expeditions search for gold
Since then at least 13 major expeditions have set out to find the treasure, but all have failed. No maps indicating the likely location of the infamous gold reef have ever been found.
Over decades, the tale of Lasseter’s lost gold reef has grown and is now perhaps the most famous legend in Australia.
In typical Australian tongue in cheek humour, the local Alice Springs Casino is named “Lasseter’s Casino“. Everyone knows there’s no gold to be found there either!
Lasseter’s Last Ride
The main impetus was provided by the publication of Ion Idriess’s 1931 book, Lasseter’s Last Ride. Although accepted as a factual account, Lasseter’s Last Ride was largely fiction.
Seventy-five years later not a gram of gold has been found where Lasseter’s Reef was allegedly located.
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So it’s no surprise one of our greatest legends involves a search for a mysterious vein of gold. Aussie love a good mystery and when coupled with a stroke of lucky – winner winner!