Lasseter’s Reef – One Man’s Journey Uncovers The Truth

Reviewed By  Ian Banks       January 15, 2022


Author  Bill Decarli with Kristin Lee.

Distributor:      Boolarong Press
ISBN:                 9781922643063
Publisher:         Boolarong Press
Release Date:   2021  


Lasseter’s Reef has for almost a century been talked about in so many venues in Australia as many debated whether the story of a huge gold bearing reef in Central Australia was real, or simply the fictitious creation of a man, one Harold Bell Lasseter. Eventually it was believed to be a fable, but what a fable.

Over the years many had tried to find the illusive site and failed, driven by ‘gold fever’ and others adventurers like Bill Decarli, a Vietnam Vet fascinated with the story and captivated by what he believed was more than likely true. Some forty years later, he did discover Lasseter’s Reef, not where Lasseter believed it was, but in the opposite direction.

Decarli tells how a series of hunches, coincidences and an absurd desire to keep on searching, led him on a journey he never expected and how on several occasions, a chance encounter with a random piece of information kept his passion alive down through the years.

Lasseter’s life was a somewhat entrepreneurial one, with his keen mind and gift of the gab he was not one to overlook an opportunity. How he came to be on the Central Australian Gold Expedition (CAGE) between 1931-1933 was somewhat of an accident, but one that eventually cost him his life in the inhospitable region of Australia known as the Central Dessert.

Believing no man would go out there twice, the second time almost ill-equipped, with very good reason, Decarli believed there was a lot more to the fabled story than folkloric. In 1991 he set out to see for himself if Lasseter really had done what he said, found treasure in the most unlikely of places.

Nine trips later, much older, wiser and with a healthy respect for the desert lands of Central Australia he found what he had sought, Lasseter’s fabled reef, in completely the opposite direction.  And then there is the man known as Joseph Harding, a cattle ‘duffer’, who although referred to down the years, was never associated with Lasseter’s discovery, but as it turns out was the man who already knew about the quartz gold bearing reef!

Although the legend may have been presented in a fresh new light, the story is such that it definitely rates up there in Australian history, as the truth is indeed far more astonishing than the fiction ever was; as is nearly always the case.

Along the way Bill Decarli learned many, many things, about life, people, the dessert regions and acceptance that the journey needed to be as it was, as it not only touched on sacred Indigenous sites and history, but also, had to be done properly as, should he discover the real story, and find the reef, evidence needed to be well documented.

Fascinating, enjoyable and well written, Lasseter’s Reef is an absorbing story, based firmly in Australian history and folkloric, coupled with and faith and determination to try to discover the truth one way or the other.