Harold Bell Lasseter, born in 1880, was only 20 years old in 1900 when he attempted to walk alone from Alice Springs to the WA coast. He would have perished, had he not been found by a surveyor named Harding.
It was during this trip that he claimed finding a huge reef of gold 10 miles long at the western edge of the Macdonnell Ranges. He later told the story many times, perhpas because the story changed (giving a date that would have made him 17 at the time) no searches were undertaken.
In 1930 he gained the interest of the Australian Workers Union, the Great Depression was biting hard, and the prospect of finding a reef of gold on such a scale was irresistable, so the company (C.A.G.E) was formed with a capital of £5,000.
After initially considering hiring a Fokker tri-motor for £2,300, the company purchased a DH60M Moth for £605. The Moth was registered as VH-UMR and the Co. named it Golden Quest.
Fred Blakely, bushman, was the leader and the pilot and second in charge was Errol Coote. A local Alice Springs carrier, Fred Colson was among several other recruits. Coote left Mascot on July 16th 1930, arriving in the Alice on the 18th. and landed the Moth on a street in the town, parking it behind the Government Resident's Office, until a base camp could be established.
The party was going to use the now deserted base camp set up by the MacKay Expedition (see story) at Ilbilba about 300 km to the west of the Alice, and with two trucks they set out on the 21st July.
A series of incidents followed, including:
Lasseter left the base camp with 7 camels on 15th. September 1930, heading SW in search of the reef that he had claimed to have seen from the air, in Golden Quest 2.
After about 6 weeks his camels bolted, leaving him on foot, he was able to recover most of his supplies and was assisted to a cave at Tjuunti by aborigines and lived there for about 60 days waiting in vain for rescue, keeping a diary and writing letters to his wife.
These he buried under the ashes of his fireplace, before trying to walk out. Lasseter got to about Shaw Creek when he collapsed and died, and was buried by an aboriginal couple who marked his grave.
This was about the end of January 1931, just a couple of weeks after the expedition pulled out, leaving him to his fate, even though Coote wanted to carry on and search for him, and more significantly, there also were 3 RAAF aircraft in the area.
Local station owner Bob Buck found the grave, fenced it and retrieved the diary and letters in March 1931, returning to the Alice in May.
For some more authoritative and complete information on Lasseter see LASSETERIA. This is an online commentary and occasional apocrypha on Harold Lasseter and the search for that fabulous golden reef. According to its author it is written for those who have read Lasseter's Last Ride or Hell's Airport or perhaps Dream Millions, or any of a dozen or so books and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles written on one of Australia's most enduring frauds and legendary characters.