He claimed that the fabulously rich reef that he had seen was a gold deposit!
Far out beyond the Petermann Range in the scorched desert of central Australia lies the gold reef of Lewis Harold Bell Lasseter.
He was literate and well-spoken despite being self educated, and was described by those who knew him as opinionated and eccentric. He traveled to both Australia and the Unites States of America, worked at a variety of occupations, married twice and fathered five children.
In a move that made him quite famous, he sensationally claimed to have found a reef with an insane amount of gold, an entity now known as Lasseter’s Reef.
But it would take him almost 14 years to raise enough money to fund an expedition. So hazardous was the first trek, that it had been abandoned. It wasn’t until 1930 that he was able to finance a second party to dig out the riches he had seen.
One by one, the gold-hunters perished in the desert, leaving Lasseter alone with two camels. He became sand-blinded and in March 1931, his body was found in a cave, dead from starvation, by Bob Buck, a central Australian bushman and pastoralist sent to search for him. It was later re-interred in the Alice Springs cemetery.
The book Lasseter Did Not Lie by A. Stapleton rejects the idea that Lasseter was no more than a con-man. The book claims that he may have been largely telling the truth, with supporting evidence as well.
The purpose of the book was to refute Fred Blakeley, leader of Lasseter’s 1930 expedition, and others who had branded Lasseter a charlatan who ripped off his investors in a clever scheme to convince them that such a bizarre gold reef existed. Blakeley even claimed that Lasseter did not die in Central Australia but escaped to America.
Although Lasseter has been accused of romancing or lying about his gold reef, it is clear that many of Lasseter’s associates spread lies about him as they were being blamed for his death having left him unsupported for months in the unforgiving desert. Even government officials helped spread untruths concerning Lasseter in an attempt to destroy the idea of a rich gold find in Central Australia. This was because in the 1930s, prospectors were getting into difficulties and the government wanted to minimize or reduce expensive search and rescue operations.
Regardless, the legend of the reef lives on-glinting and tempting in the sun beyond the Petermann mounatins.