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The First Search

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The first search for the Lost Reef

The men recruited for Lasseter’s journey were a diverse group, and included a prospector, a pilot, a mechanic and the aide-de-camp to a Governor General. The team was to be led by Fred Blakely, a very experienced miner and prospector who eventually wrote a book about his experience with Lasseter called Dream millions.

The group planned to have their supplies shipped from Darling Harbour to Alice Springs - the official starting point for their hunt.

Word of Lasseter’s story and their journey to seek the reef reached the Thornycroft motor company and the manager donated a vehicle for use during the expedition.

A light plane was also procured and renamed ‘Golden Quest’ for the journey, but an accident during take-off led to its replacement by ‘Golden Quest II.’

Doubt grows

It quickly became apparent to Blakely and most of his team that Lasseter was not at all familiar with the landscapes. Another member of the team described Lasseter’s knowledge as the kind that comes from reading about an area, not from experiencing it first hand.

Indeed, reading has become a theme in modern thinking about Lasseter. The name he had most recently adopted, Harold Bell, was the same as that of an author whose book The Mine with the Iron Door was an extremely popular novel at the time.

Throughout the journey, Lasseter seemingly did little to reassure the team or to ease their frustrations. He kept largely to himself, sleeping apart from other members of the team and spending a lot of time writing in his diary. His descriptions of the reef were vague at best and he seemed to possess almost no navigational abilities.

The expedition had set off on 30 July 1930. By early 1931 Lasseter would die of starvation in Central Australia.

Old photograph of man wearing outdoor clothing with a had leaning against a truck which has a contents on the back with a cover over it
1930 `CAGE' expedition led by Lasseter, Central Australian Gold Exploration [and the later search for him] - Man with truck
1930-1931
Digital ID: 
a1809061
View collection item detail
Bi plane with propellor on the ground outside an aircraft hanger
1930 `CAGE' expedition led by Lasseter, Central Australian Gold Exploration [and the later search for him] - plane
1930-1931
Digital ID: 
a1809023
View collection item detail
Old photograph of a dirt street in a town with trees and homes
1930 `CAGE' expedition led by Lasseter, Central Australian Gold Exploration [and the later search for him] - a street
1930-1931
Digital ID: 
a1809005
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3 Indigenous Australian men sitting down on grass and smiling
1930 `CAGE' expedition led by Lasseter, Central Australian Gold Exploration [and the later search for him]
1930-1931
Digital ID: 
a1809120
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old photograph of scrubby and trees with mountains behind them
1930 `CAGE' expedition led by Lasseter, Central Australian Gold Exploration [and the later search for him] - scenic view
1930-1931
Digital ID: 
a1809069
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Two men seated on grass on the ground wearing hats and looking down
1930 `CAGE' expedition led by Lasseter, Central Australian Gold Exploration [and the later search for him] - Two men on the search
1930-1931
Digital ID: 
a1809086
View collection item detail

This story has been developed with the support of the State Library of NSW Foundation.

We would like to acknowledge the generosity of the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation.