In 1929 and 1930 Harold Bell Lasseter claimed that in 1897, as a young man, he had attempted to walk from Alice Springs to the West Australian goldfields, during which he stumbled across a huge gold reef somewhere near the Northern Territory - Western Australian border. He further claimed that subsequent to this discovery he got into difficulties and was fortuitously rescued by a passing Afghan camel driver who took him to the camp of a surveyor named Harding. Harding and Lasseter were said to have later returned to the reef in the attempt to fix its location, but failed because their watches were inaccurate.
According to Lasseter, he then spent the next three decades trying to raise sufficient interest to fund an expedition into the interior. But at the time the fortunes being made from the gold rush at Kalgoorlie in Western Australia meant that no-one was prepared to risk trekking into the uncharted desert wilderness of central Australia, even if the supposed discovery was as rich as he claimed.
But by 1930, when Australia was in the grip of the Great Depression, the attractions of such desert gold were much greater, and Lasseter succeeded in securing £50,000 of funding toward an expedition to relocate the reef. Unusual for the time, this expedition included motorised vehicular transport and an aircraft. Accompanying Lasseter were experienced bushmen Fred Blakeley and Fred Colson, as well as a prospector, an engineer, an explorer and a pilot.
The group endured great logistical difficulties and physical hardships, and on reaching Mount Marjorie (now Mount Leisler), Lasseter declared that they were, in fact, 150 miles too far north. Exasperated, Blakely declared Lasseter a charlatan, and decided to end the expedition. The expedition parted with Lasseter at Ilbilba; however, he insisted on continuing onwards. Accompanied by a dingo-shooter named Paul Johns, Lasseter, whose behaviour was later reported as being increasingly erratic, set off towards The Olgas. One afternoon Lasseter returned to camp and announced that he had relocated the gold reef, however he refused to reveal its location. Johns, who by now doubted Lasseter's sanity, accused him of being a liar, a fight ensued, and Johns left Lasseter to his own devices. Lasseter himself vanished into the desert sands.
A search for Lasseter was conducted by a bushman named Bob Buck, and he succeeded in finding Lasseter's body at Winter's Glen and, some way away, personal effects in a cave at Hull's Creek; it later emerged (from a "diary" found in the cave) that after Johns left, Lasseter's camels had bolted, leaving him alone in the desert without any means of sustaining himself or returning to civilization. He had then encountered a group of nomadic Aborigines, who had rendered what assistance they could, but a weakened and blinded Lasseter eventually succumbed to malnutrition and exhaustion, having made a belated attempt to walk from the Cave to Ayers Rock (Uluru) or the Olgas (Kata Juta).
No maps showing the location of the fabled gold reef were ever found, and over subsequent decades the tale of the Reef and its discoverer has assumed mythic proportions; it is perhaps the most famous lost mine legend in Australia, and remains a holy grail among Australian prospectors.