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  THE LEGEND OF LASSETER - Page 3     ««Page 2     «« Page 1

Upon hearing the news the directors decided to provide what support they could. A ground party was despatched, which consisted of camels, and a plane was organized for aerial support. Before the aircraft could be utilized it was damaged on the ground at Alice Springs, and repairs had to be undertaken. The ground party was to go to Ayers Rock to pr However, when the aircraft arrived no ground party could be seen. It had struck trouble with the camels that had bolted one night into the desert, and the 'rescue' party had returned to Alice Springs.

As the aircraft landed, a slither of wood from the propeller flew off, narrowly missing the pilot's head. The prop was too badly damaged for the craft to take to the air. By this time Lasseter and Johns were in familiar territory. The country was difficult but with camels negotiable. They were close to their goal. About 20 miles from the reef, Lasseter left Johns with the camels and went on alone. He could not contain his elation, when he set eyes on his dream again. He stood silently, drinking in the golden hue before him.

He rejoined Johns, confirming what he had found. Johns became suspicious and after some tense days a fight broke out where a pistol was used with near disastrous consequences. A shaky truce existed as they returned to Ilbilba to bring the news to the world. Lasseter was delighted.

At Ilbilba, Johns was dispatched back to Alice Springs, with the news. Lasseter, replenished his supplies and with two camels headed back to the site. His intention was to peg the claim, take bearings and recover samples. A lone white man in this forbidding country would be easy prey, should an unfriendly tribe be encountered. Plumes of smoke occasionally appeared indicating his progress was being watched. At times black figures appeared, brandishing spears, indicating his presence was unwelcome. On other occasions, the blacks displayed a friendly pose and communications were pleasant. The camels were becoming increasingly difficult to control. He pegged the claim and started back towards Ilbilba.

Tragedy struck late in the afternoon, when both camels bolted, leaving him alone in the desert without water and with little food. He recognized the fragility of his position, and knew he would have to seek assistance from the indigenous inhabitants if he was to survive.

At Ayers rock, the pilot had been stranded for almost a week without water or food. Thirst was draining his common sense and reason. Fortunately the party sent to establish a base camp at the rock eventually arrived, rescued the pilot, repaired the propeller and the aircraft returned to Alice Springs for expert repairs. When the repairs were complete the aircraft lifted into the air again, with a pilot and co-pilot heading for Ilbilba. On this occasion with neither man familiar with the country and with inaccurate charts, they became hopelessly lost, eventually landing in formidable country. Only one thing to do with little food and no water. Walk back to Alice Springs. They began in great heart, but eventually were driven to remain near a drying water hole for the little sustenance it provided.

Search parties were organized. One left Hereinafter Mission, and another left Alice Springs, while the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) were asked to assist. A number of aircraft arrived at Alice Springs and a systematic air search commenced. At times the two starving men could see aircraft in the distance, and knew that help was near. They had been stranded for almost three weeks, when they heard the drone of the engine approaching overhead. They jumped for joy when the aircraft slowly circled and dropped food and water. Later that day a ground party arrived and rescued them from their torment. They were taken to Tempe Downs Station. Lasseter was still in the desert. By this time he had joined up with a tribe of indigenous natives. Knowing that rescue parties would be heading for him, he promised great quantities of food.

The tribal chief, Watta Mitta Mitta, was skeptical, and had encouraged his young warriors to kill him, then and there. Lasseter was a cunning man and made friends with the older lubra's (women), and an old man he called Old Warts, as he had an over abundance of them on his back. Old Warts protected Lasseter on many occasions during the harrowing weeks he was to endure, with little food or water, for both himself and his reluctant hosts. The desert was unrelenting, and unforgiving, and after many weeks of enduring unspeakable hardship, Lasseter s strength was waning. He was desperate.

At Tempe Downs Station the company commissioned the owner Bob Buck to find Lasseter. Buck was a fine bushman, with extensive experience. In one of the great feats of endurance Buck traversed the country for 11 weeks seeking tracks that would lead to Lasseter.

At last he found signs, and following them relentlessly, eventually came across a large gathering of blacks. At first they denied any knowledge of Lasseter, but eventually he was taken to the place where Lasseter had breathed his last breath.

The aborigines had not killed him, but their lack of support indeed aided his eventual demise. Buck buried him where he lay, and searched for notes and other messages. The actual location of the reef, although recorded by Lasseter, was lost, as were the samples he had buried.

To this day, the location of this fabulous wealth remains lost in the forbidding desert of Central Australia. There are those who dismiss this whole saga, as being one of the great confidence tricks of this century. Others prefer to believe the truth of the legend. In recent years, several expeditions have been mounted to this vast area without success. Innumerable questions remain unanswered. Perhaps in time, the secret of Lasseter's Reef will be discovered. In the meantime, the Legend of Lasseter continues.

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