Solving a cold case

Solving a cold case

A party led by local station owner Bob Buck found Lasseter’s body and his diary was returned to his wife Rene, as per his last wishes. His grave was marked by a collection of branches and a nearby tree was engraved with his name.

A second team was sent in search of the reef, including two West Australian government geologists, Henry Talbot and Torrington Blatchford. Not only did they fail to locate any gold reef, but they reported they did not believe the area was gold-bearing at all.

Creating a legend

In spite of the huge doubts cast upon its existence, interest in Lasseter’s reef continued almost unabated and media coverage rolled on in spite of his death. The facts of the story itself fascinated the public, with one paper describing them as redolent of a fictional gold rush romance. The salacious details from Lasseter’s personal life, particularly his two wives, only helped to fuel the fire. 

Though the most popular re-telling of Lasseter’s tale ‘Lasseter's Last Ride’ by Ion Idriess appeared in 1931, serious searches for the reef were launched well into the 1970s. As recently as 2013 a documentary, ‘Lasseter’s Bones’ documented a new search for the reef and dove into a range of controversies surrounding Lasseter’s story - proving that the enduring mystery surrounding Lasseter and his lost reef is one that continues to capture our imagination.

His grave was marked by a picturesque collection of branches and a nearby tree was engraved with his name.

Documents donated by John Bailey regarding expeditions in search of Lasseter's reef, 1930-1932 - Map of Australia with markings
1930-1932
Digital ID: 
a1878003
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About this item: 

Bob Buck, the man who found Lasseter's body

The Library also holds: A collection of negatives taken by John Bailey and Francis Birtles on an expedition through Central Australia and Cape York. Location number: ON 61 and NCY 3/1-380 Mitchell Library

Mr. Ernest Brandon-Cremer was the official photographer for the expedition -- The Sun, 10/12/1931& Sunday Guardian, August 1931

17. Bob Buck, the man who found Lasseter's body in [John Bailey collection of photographs showing Bob Buck leading the expedition to recover Lasseter's body in Central Australia]
ca. 1930
Bailey, John (Jack), 1871-1947
Digital ID: 
a1808017
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old photograph of logs built into a square that represents a gravesite
[John Bailey collection of photographs showing Bob Buck leading the expedition to recover Lasseter's body in Central Australia] - Lasseter's grave in Central Australia
ca. 1930
Bailey, John (Jack), 1871-1947
Digital ID: 
a1808018
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Tree trunk and branches with tree marked with engraving
[John Bailey collection of photographs showing Bob Buck leading the expedition to recover Lasseter's body in Central Australia] Tree marked and inscribed by Buck discovered by Second Gold Expedition Company
ca. 1930
Bailey, John (Jack), 1871-1947
Digital ID: 
a1808014
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This is the camel that Bob Buck rode in search of Lasseter's body in 2nd Expedition.

The Library also holds: A collection of negatives taken by John Bailey and Francis Birtles on an expedition through Central Australia and Cape York. Location number: ON 61 and NCY 3/1-380 Mitchell Library

Mr. Ernest Brandon-Cremer was the official photographer for the expedition -- The Sun, 10/12/1931& Sunday Guardian, August 1931

11. This is the camel that Bob Buck rode in search of Lasseter's body in 2nd Expedition in [John Bailey collection of photographs showing Bob Buck leading the expedition to recover Lasseter's body in Central Australia]
ca. 1930
Bailey, John (Jack), 1871-1947
Digital ID: 
a1808011
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About this item: 

Members of 2nd Expedition including Mr Blatchford? amd Mr Talbot of the West Australian Mines Dept.

The Library also holds: A collection of negatives taken by John Bailey and Francis Birtles on an expedition through Central Australia and Cape York. Location number: ON 61 and NCY 3/1-380 Mitchell Library

Mr. Ernest Brandon-Cremer was the official photographer for the expedition -- The Sun, 10/12/1931& Sunday Guardian, August 1931

15. Members of 2nd Expedition including Mr Blatchford? amd Mr Talbot of the West Australian Mines Dept. in [John Bailey collection of photographs showing Bob Buck leading the expedition to recover Lasseter's body in Central Australia]
ca. 1930
Bailey, John (Jack), 1871-1947
Digital ID: 
a1808015
View collection item detail
About this item: 

Bob Buck leader of the expedition to recover Lasseter's body


The Library also holds: A collection of negatives taken by John Bailey and Francis Birtles on an expedition through Central Australia and Cape York. Location number: ON 61 and NCY 3/1-380 Mitchell Library

Mr. Ernest Brandon-Cremer was the official photographer for the expedition -- The Sun, 10/12/1931& Sunday Guardian, August 1931

16. Bob Buck leader of the expedition to recover Lasseter's body in [John Bailey collection of photographs showing Bob Buck leading the expedition to recover Lasseter's body in Central Australia]
ca. 1930
Bailey, John (Jack), 1871-1947
Digital ID: 
a1808016
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About this item: 

Camel team, 2nd Expedition, Ayers Rock 

The Library also holds: A collection of negatives taken by John Bailey and Francis Birtles on an expedition through Central Australia and Cape York. Location number: ON 61 and NCY 3/1-380 Mitchell Library

Mr. Ernest Brandon-Cremer was the official photographer for the expedition -- The Sun, 10/12/1931& Sunday Guardian, August 1931

21. Camel team, 2nd Expedition, Ayers Rock in [John Bailey collection of photographs showing Bob Buck leading the expedition to recover Lasseter's body in Central Australia]
ca. 1930
Bailey, John (Jack), 1871-1947
Digital ID: 
a1808021
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About this item: 

Camel team, 2nd Expedition, Ayers Rock 

The Library also holds: A collection of negatives taken by John Bailey and Francis Birtles on an expedition through Central Australia and Cape York. Location number: ON 61 and NCY 3/1-380 Mitchell Library

Mr. Ernest Brandon-Cremer was the official photographer for the expedition -- The Sun, 10/12/1931& Sunday Guardian, August 1931

Camel team, 2nd Expedition, Ayers Rock in [John Bailey collection of photographs showing Bob Buck leading the expedition to recover Lasseter's body in Central Australia]
ca. 1930
Bailey, John (Jack), 1871-1947
Digital ID: 
a1808024
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About this item: 

26. Blacks encountered by members of Central Gold Exploration Co.

The Library also holds: A collection of negatives taken by John Bailey and Francis Birtles on an expedition through Central Australia and Cape York. Location number: ON 61 and NCY 3/1-380 Mitchell Library

Mr. Ernest Brandon-Cremer was the official photographer for the expedition -- The Sun, 10/12/1931& Sunday Guardian, August 1931

26. Blacks encountered by members of Central Gold Exploration Co. in [John Bailey collection of photographs showing Bob Buck leading the expedition to recover Lasseter's body in Central Australia]
ca. 1930
Bailey, John (Jack), 1871-1947
Digital ID: 
a1808026
View collection item detail

Collections:

Central Australian Gold Exploration (CAGE) Company Limited records, 1930-1934, MLMSS 10108  

1930 `CAGE' expedition led by Lasseter, Central Australian Gold Exploration [and the later search for him], PXA 633

Harold Lasseter diary with fragments, 1930-ca. 1931, SAFE/MLMSS 3269 (Safe 2/10)

Material relating to Lewis Harold Bell Lasseter, including a letter, an envelope and a telegram, 1931, SAFE/MLMSS 9742

Lasseter family papers relating to the Lasseter expedition, 1930-1932, MLMSS 5152

John Bailey - History of Lasseter's Reef, and an explanation of the two expeditions despatched to the Central Australia of where the reef was alleged to be, 26 Sept., 1947, A 2753

Documents donated by John Bailey regarding expeditions in search of Lasseter's reef, 1930-1932, A 3043

[John Bailey collection of photographs showing Bob Buck leading the expedition to recover Lasseter's body in Central Australia], PXA 631

Letters to Frederick Blakeley concerning Lasseter expedition, 14 June 1930-18 February 1940, licence agreements dated 2nd July and 14th June 1930, photographs and published material, 1889-1903, MLMSS 8043

'Dream millions': an account of the expedition in search of Lasseter's Reef, 1930, by Fred Blakeley, A 6962-A 6963

Harry Chaplin - letter received from Erle Cox concerning Harold Lasseter, 1948, MLMSS 6397

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.