297. YEAR 1911.

"For the past 18 years I have known of a vast gold bearing reef in Central Australia".

Lasseter to Hon. Texas Green 14/10/29.


The above quote is from a letter by Lasseter to Texas Green, soon to be Defence Minister in the newly elected Scullin Government, the Labor Party had a resounding federal election victory just two days earlier, Lasseter prefaced his letter with, "fraternal congratulations on Labor's Victory and to place before you a somewhat out of the ordinary suggestion", Lasseter goes on to outline vast plans to develop Central Australia, financed by his gold reef. This letter is the first written reference by Lasseter to his gold reef and I consider this letter and events over the weekend 12th to 14th October 1929, the beginnings of the Lasseter saga. There is no written or reliable oral record that Lasseter had told his reef story prior to 1929, and he has more or less committed himself to finding the reef in 1911. Lasseter's letter lead to a Government enquiry in the hands of some clever scientists and taken advantage of by some very shady characters indeed, but that's another story.

In this letter Lasseter does not give any details of his 1911 journey to the reef, and contradicts his date of discovery, in a letter to M. J. Calanchini, the Under Secretary of Mines in Western Australia on 14/02/30, where he wrote, "I found it 33 years ago, working West from the Macdonnell Ranges in Central Australia". Thus the beginnings of Lasseter's more common 1897 version of the discovery. With the pen of Coote the written contradiction is neatly glossed over by Lasseter making three trips to Central Australia, the first in 1897 when he discovered the reef, then in the company of Harding in 1900 and again in 1911 when he set out from Oodnadatta.

Idriess and Blakeley do not mention Lasseter's 1911 trip and the next record appears to be from Coote's 1934 book 'Hell's Airport' where Coote recalls Lasseter at that first interview in John Bailey's office that started C.A.G.E. on it's way west and into history. "In 1911 I managed to get a group of men interested and we started inland from Oodnadatta". This expedition appears to have been a haphazard affair, the men expected to find station homesteads frequently and they ran out of 'booze' and turned back to the Transcontinental Hotel. Lasseter fell off his camel on the return and slightly injured himself, he does not say how long the expedition lasted, probably a day or two, or precisely where it headed, as in the 1929 letter to Texas Green. Nevertheless Coote has vaguely accounted for 1911 and the contradiction in Lasseter's story. Of course Lasseter first saw Oodnadatta in the company Fred Blakely and George Sutherland when they passed through the town on 18/07/30.


R.Ross. 1999-2006

Coote, E. H. Hell's Airport. 29.  NAA. Series: A1/15. Item: 1930/512.