Historical Locations connected with Lasseter’s Grave,

Petermann Ranges, Central Australia

 

WARNING : This article contains the names and images of deceased aboriginal persons.

 

Introduction

The name Lasseter evokes a range of recollections. At one extreme, is his claim of knowing the location of a fabulous gold reef in the Central Australian desert. At another extreme, it may be recalled that Lasseter survived for some time in an isolated outback cave and finally died a lonely death in early 1931.

This article does not repeat the Lasseter story or the search for his reef of gold as that saga can be found in various books and elsewhere. Instead this article is about reconciling various locations, from the literature, connected with where Lasseter died and where he lay before his remains were finally buried in the Pioneer Cemetery at Alice Springs.

The information in this article has been verified by documentary evidence or third-party eye-witness accounts as much as possible. Such an approach had to be adopted as various accounts of the Lasseter saga follow the Mark Twain premise Never let the truth get in the way of a good story!

While reading the following it should be remembered that between 1927 and 1932 what is today the Northern Territory was in fact divided into two separate administrations. Considered to be too big an area to be properly administered from one location, under the Northern Australia Act of 1926, on 1 February 1927, that part of Northern Territory situated north of the 20 degree parallel of south latitude, became known as North Australia and that part south of the 20th parallel was called Central Australia. Each region had its own Government Resident with separate administrations in Darwin and Alice Springs respectively. This Act was repealed, however, in 1932 but for the period under discussion there essentially existed the Territory of Central Australia, laconically Centralia. Thus, Lasseter’s claim that his find was near the border of Western and Central Australia reflected the existence of that geographical arrangement.

 

An overview of the accepted facts

Lewis Hubert Lasseter was born on 27 September 1880 at Bamganie about 45 kilometres north-west of Geelong in Victoria. After moving to the United States, he was married there in 1903. Later, he returned to Australia and took the name Lewis Harold Bell Lasseter.

Claiming to know the location of a vast gold bearing reef in Central Australia, Lasseter was able to secure a position as the guide of the so-called Central Australian Gold Exploration Company, commonly called the CAGE Expedition, that aimed to rediscover and fix the gold reef’s position. For his efforts he was to be paid £10 per week and his life was insured for £500. It is understood that he also had his contract worded such that he could not be dismissed for any reason. Given the economic position of Australia at that time, some credence can be given to the £10 per week being a strong inducement for Lasseter continuing the search alone, the search that ended tragically in his demise.

Figure 1 : Haasts Bluff with Fred Blakeley's memorial in the foreground;

(left) by Chris McLaughlin (http://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/people/arts/display/101625-frederick-blakeley) and

(right) after McGowan (2006).

 

The CAGE Expedition comprised eight men under the leadership of Frederick Fred Blakeley (1882-1962). Please refer to Figure 1 above. Blakeley took the position of expedition leader after a meeting with Lasseter in Sydney in 1930. This meeting being arranged by John Jack Bailey (1871-1947) then President of the Australian Workers Union (AWU). Lasseter had contacted the AWU to see if they could advise him on how to approach the Minister of the Interior (Bailey, 1947). As a large section of Central Australia had been declared a native reserve, entry was now by permit only obtainable via the Minister. When the Central Australian Gold Exploration Company was formed none other than John Bailey became company chairman with Ernest, his son, made company secretary.

After Lasseter had first approached Bailey with his story, Bailey contacted Arthur Blakeley. According to John Bailey, his son Ernest H Bailey who was Secretary of the AWU at that time, was also at the meeting with Lasseter. Arthur Blakeley (1886-1972), had been President of the AWU between 1919 and 1923, and was now Minister for Home Affairs in the government of James Henry Jim Scullin (1876-1953). Minister Blakeley in turn contacted his older brother Fred, who had had some experience with the outback and prospecting. According to Bailey (1947) all the above took place in June 1930. 

Figure 2 : Central Australian Gold Expedition’s (CAGE) camp site at Ilbpilla with Thornycroft truck, 1930

(courtesy State Library of New South Wales).

 

Seemingly before all the above events took place, on 1 June 1930, Lasseter had written to the Department of Home and Territories. Please refer to Annexure A for more detail. In essence, his letter to the department revealed that Lasseter had an official map which had been issued to him in the previous January by the then Home and Territories department. In an effort to get the authorities to endorse the use of an apparently unofficially produced map, Lasseter referred to the backing of a syndicate whose existence had yet to be discussed! 

As is determined in Annexure A, Lasseter’s map by the Department of Home and Territories had to be published between 1916 and 1928. Appreciating the map compilation process and cost of map production in the early 1900s it is highly likely that Lasseter’s map was the 1922 Home and Territories General Map of the Northern Territory.

Lasseter had contended that a truck could travel to the area to be explored. When the expedition’s Thornycroft, six wheel, 2.5 ton truck however, failed to negotiate the first significant topography, all but Lasseter abandoned the search. Please refer to Figure 2 above.

Figure 3 : Harold Lasseter (left) and Paul Johns (right) with their camels, 1930

(courtesy National Library of Australia).

 

Lasseter then continued on with his search aided by Albert Paul Johns who owned a string of camels. Please refer to Figure 3 above. Johns’ occupation was described as a dogger or dingo hunter, but appears to have also had a much darker side. Johns and Lasseter soon had a falling out. Johns then returned to civilisation but Lasseter with two camels ventured on. Johns thus became the last white man to see Lasseter alive!

Sometime after Johns’ departure, Lasseter’s two camels ran off with Lasseter’s supplies and he was left with just the possessions on his person. For a time, he sheltered in a cave. Eventually he decided to return to Mount Olga in the hope that a relief party might be there. Unfortunately, Lasseter perished along the way even though he was helped at times by local Aboriginals.

Meanwhile, the news got back to civilisation that Lasseter was now alone. A search party was arranged to be led by a local bushman, Robert Henry Bob Buck (1881-1960). Buck then lived about 50 miles south of Hermannsburg at Middleton Ponds, south of today’s Tempe Downs homestead.

Buck, with two Aboriginals, travelled to a rockhole in the Petermann Ranges. On arrival, they found an old aboriginal camped there. This aboriginal was able to lead Buck’s party to Lasseter’s body. There Buck and his companions buried Lasseter including an arm, apparently taken by dingoes, that was found nearby. Buck also collected some of Lasseter’s personal possessions before starting his return journey.

Enroute Alice Springs, Buck met Walter Gill at Hermannsburg. Hearing that Gill had a car, Buck then requested Gill drive him to Alice Springs. Gill obliged, and at Alice Springs Buck handed over to the police the items as listed in Figure 4 below. Buck had already telegraphed John Bailey at 10:20 AM on 27 April 1931 stating Report finding remains Lassetter at head Shaw Creek Peterman Ranges have reported to police and handed in writings revolver etc found with body stop time absent ten weeks kindly wire £114 Alice Springs today enable me return my station today Robert Buck (verbatim copy of telegram wording).

Figure 4 : List of Lasseter’s personal possessions provided to the Police by Bob Buck on 2 May 1931.

 

Almost immediately, Buck returned to the Petermanns as guide to Walter Gill. Gill it seems, while intrigued with Buck’s story of his burying Lasseter, really wanted to find out more about the unknown tribe Buck mentioned that he had encountered.

Walter Gill (1895-1969) was born in Prahran, Victoria. After serving in World War 1, Gill worked in Fiji. A windfall decided him to return to Australia, where he set out to drive all around the continent and to look for an occupation which suited him. During this time he went to Hermannsburg, in the Centre, where he met [Buck]…and set out on the arduous journey to the Petermann Ranges. Gill’s journey is described in his 1968 book titled, Petermann Journey : Searching for a forgotten tribe; a tribe he wrote : if I could catch up with them - absolutely unspoiled by contact with white men.

After some three months, Buck with Walter Gill arrived back at the site of Lasseter’s burial. Gill stated : our camels spilled out on some high ground overlooking the bed of a creek in a valley marked on the map, Winters Glen. And there, at a little distance from the far bank was Lasseter's grave. Gill was less than impressed by Buck’s burial of Lasseter. Buck had said : well, I just dug a bloody 'ole an' poured th' poor bastard in. Gill suggested that the grave be fenced with post and rails. While this was being done Gill said : I went to the only sizeable tree in the vicinity-a salmon gum (sic) standing at least fifteen yards away-and carved this inscription in the smooth bark. This tree was said to be : on the nor'-west side of the grave. After doing so, Gill realised that in his wood working of Lassiter (sic). Died. Jan. 1931., he had spelt Lasseter’s name incorrectly. Also, the inscribed words were only cut into the bark and not the wood of the tree, so would be grown over as the tree grew. (Salmon Gums-Eucalyptus salmonophloia - are native to Western Australia. Instead, the subject tree was more likely to have been a Ghost Gum (Corymbia aparrerinja) which are native to Central Australia. These trees have smooth, white to cream and pink-tinged bark, which sheds seasonally. They occur on rocky slopes, red sandplains and usually dry creekflats). Please refer to Figure 5 below.

Gill, however, did find the place nearby where the Aboriginals had built a shelter for Lasseter and had since scattered the branches as was their custom on death. He noted : on the spot where he [Lasseter] died, the sands were still stained with putrefaction in the shape of a human body.

In the three months between Buck’s two visits to Lasseter’s gravesite there is a story that Walter Smith also came across the site (Ross, 2016). (Walter Smith became the prospector and camelman on the 1931 Eclipse Gold Expedition). Smith claimed that he had to rebury Lasseter as Buck had not done a thorough job : dingoes had dug down and dragged a leg off. According to Smith this was Lasseter's third burial: first was the aboriginal way; secondly Buck’s interment; and thirdly Smith’s reburial! 

Figure 5 : Gill’s carved inscription

(courtesy http _prod.static9.net.au___media_Network_Images_160510vintagelasseter.jpg).

 

Edwin Cooper was the Assistant Wireless Operator on the second CAGE Expedition under the leadership of Bob Buck. Cooper was responsible for carving a headboard for Lasseter's grave and reworked Gill's inscription. For copyright reasons the photograph showing Lasseter’s grave with its fence and Cooper’s headboard cannot be reproduced for this article. The photograph however, maybe viewed via the following [http://digital.sl.nsw.gov.au/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=FL946449&embedded=true&toolbar=false] link to the State Library of New South Wales

Some thirty-six years later on 1 April 1967, an article appeared on page 3 of the Sunday Mail newspaper titled Lasseter : Here is the Truth. In this article Pastor Friedrich Wilhelm Albrecht (1894-1984), stated that : When on an expedition eight years later [1939], we could still see a few bushes sticking up from the shelter they had made for him [Lasseter] for his last few days in this world. Of the four posts around the grave, one had been white ant eaten and fallen down; three were still there. (Pastor Albrecht had been Superintendent of the Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission and was awarded an MBE in 1958 for his work among the Aborigines). Albrecht recounts his version of the 1939 expedition in his paper titled Journeying with Missionary FW Albrecht in 1939.

In his 1972 book Doctor and the Aborigines, Dr Charles Duguid recounted his being asked by Albrecht to join an expedition in June 1939 along with Theodor George Henry Ted Strehlow. Strehlow was at that time Chief Patrol Officer of the Northern Territory. The party travelled from Ernabella in South Australia west to the Musgraves then north to the Petermanns. Duguid mentioned they travelled via Piltardi (sic) waterhole, undertook the day’s [camel] ride to Lasseter’s bush gravesite, an utterly desolate place, and later Lasseter’s Cave.

Newspaper reports then appeared in late 1957-early 1958 about Lee Robinson and Alton Frazer being committed for trial before the Supreme Court at Alice Springs. They were charged with disturbing the grave of a person unknown. Seemingly without any permission or authority Robinson and Frazer found the grave and had bought Lasseter’s bones back to Alice Springs.

The act of returning Lasseter’s remains was to form part of a then forthcoming American CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System an American radio and TV network) television show, High Adventure. Each episode of this television series being filmed in a different country of the world. American commentator turned explorer, Lowell Thomas (1892–1981), was the host. As it turned out, the documentary was banned in Australia because it showed aboriginal sacred places. If found guilty, Robinson’s and Fraser’s offence carried a seven year jail term, but ultimately the case did not proceed. (Lee Robinson (1923-2003), was an Australian producer, director and screenwriter who made seven episodes of High Adventure between 1955 and 1958).

Figure 6 : Plaque at Lasseter’s cave in 1975 (courtesy Laurie McLean).

 

Lewis Harold Bell Lasseter was finally interred at Alice Springs on 27 June 1958. As a finale, in 1976 a plaque was placed on Lasseter’s grave which was marked by a carving of a prospector. The carving was donated by Lowell Thomas and Eddie Connellan. (Edward John Eddie Connellan, 1912-1983, aviator, pastoralist and businessman, registered the name Connellan Airways in July 1943. Until 1980, CONNAIR was synonymous with air travel in the Northern Territory).

Between 1931 and 1957 Lasseter’s remains had thus lain in a bush grave. What evidence now existed about Lasseter’s gravesite and particularly those associated locations which are not depicted on a modern map?

What was unknown for most of this investigation was that Lasseter’s bush gravesite had been marked back in 1975. Yet almost until this investigation had been completed no indication of this fact had been found. The lack of specific information and the identification of locations relevant to the Lasseter story thus became the driver behind documenting this investigation.

 

Natmap’s Activities in the Winter Glen country

The first readily available information regarding Lasseter, had been a photograph provided by Laurie McLean some years earlier. The photograph, taken in September 1975 during Laurie’s years of field work with Natmap, was of the plaque at Lasseter’s cave. Please refer to Figure 6 above.

The inscription reads :

Kulpi Tjuntinya (Lasseter’s Cave)

          Lewis Harold Bell Lasseter shelterered (sic) in this cave for approximately 25 days during January 1931. He was stranded without food after his camels bolted at a point 15 Km. east of here.

          Although weak from starvation he set out, about 25 th January, to walk the 140 Km. to Mount Olga, hoping to meet up with his relief party.

          Carrying 1.7 litres of water and assisted by a friendly aboriginal family he reached Irving Creek in the Pottoyu Hills a distance of 55 Km where he died about 28 th January 1931.

 

Erected by Docker River Social Club Inc. for Mr. R. Lasseter

  26 TH APRIL 1974

 

(Note : The original misspelling of the word ‘sheltered’ was corrected in later years.)

Today the Docker River Aboriginal Community is known as Kaltukatjara, and is on the Tjukaruru Road that runs west from Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). This road continues past Kaltukatjara and onto the Giles Meteorological Station. Past Kaltukatjara however, the road is called the Great Central Road. Travelling west from Kata Tjuta on the Tjukaruru Road to Kaltukatjara, Lasseter’s cave is just off the road some 40 kilometres before reaching Kaltukatjara. It should be noted that a permit is needed to travel the Tjukaruru Road and all tracks leading south from the Tjukaruru Road are private. To the south are the Musgrave Ranges of South Australia. East-west access in this region, is provided by the Gunbarrel Highway.

In 1951 Natmap’s David Hocking took astrofixes to provide mapping control for the uncontoured national R502 1: 250,000 scale series. Dave however, only travelled as far west as the longitude through The Olgas. In 1958 the triangulation of the geodetic survey of Australia was extended west through the Musgrave Ranges of South Australia to the South Australian border with Western Australia and later beyond. Part of this triangulation scheme included triangulation stations on Ayers Rock and Mount Connor. Ford (1979) recorded that : The old pole in the large cairn on Mt Woodroffe was still in good order with the engraved name still clearly readable; it was brought down and taken to the Surveyor General SA on the way home…during this period the party had the pleasure of establishing the station mark on Ayers Rock and building our normal cairn with pole and vanes. This was replaced with the current Direction Plaque in 1970 [no longer in existence]. Also of interest was the establishing of a station mark and cairn on Mt Olga…the party was only to put in a station mark, clear the odd bushes and improve the existing cairn so that it could be intersected from our primary stations…the old cairn was dismantled (it was not a survey cairn, having been built by those who had climbed Mt Olga), and a station mark was set in the centre. There was a bottle at the site containing the names of some thirty previous climbers…Nos 3 and 4 were DR Hocking and FJ McCoy of National Mapping (in 1951).

The geodetic survey was also continued to the north in 1958, branching to the north-west near Aileron, about 135 kilometres from Alice Springs, and continuing to connect near Halls Creek. Later in 1960, from Mount Hardy on this loop of the geodetic survey a traverse was connected to Mount Fanny in the Rawlinson Range on the 1958 triangulation west of the Musgrave Ranges. The proximity of this first order control meant that no further ground survey stations were established within the area described above.

In 1970, for the Aerodist (airborne distance measuring) operations the airborne measuring aircraft VH-EXZ used the airfields at Papunya Aboriginal community about 240 kilometres west of Alice Springs; then at Ayers Rock; and finally, at Docker River as its bases.

The levelling traverses near this region follow the road network so do not cross the area. Please refer to the map at Figure 7.

Figure 7 : Map of the Petermann region central Australia, showing astrofixes (yellow stars), geodetic traverses (blue triangles), control stations fixed by Aerodist (red circles), levelling traverses (green and orange depending on modern track use). Not shown for clarity are the east-west terrain profiles at approximately 10 kilometre intervals over the region.

For generating the contours from aerial photography, for the later contoured National Topographic Map Series (NTMS), the required height control points were extracted from terrain profiles related to the Australian Height Datum. The terrain profiles were acquired using Natmap’s airborne Laser Terrain Profiler (WREMAPS1) along predefined flight paths. Natmap’s terrain profiling field party with the laser profiling system mounted in its contracted aircraft VH-EXP operated from Ayers Rock in 1975.

Within the Winter Glen country of the Petermann region is a solitary astrofix NMA/G/33 at approximately 25° 30’ south, 129° 45’ east, but no other detail was able to be found. If it survived over 50 years of environmental impact, the only indication of National Mapping related activity is a single blazed tree near this one point!

Mapping from these activities being the International Map of the World (IMW) series at 1: 1,000,000 scale and the earlier 1: 250,000 scale maps of the R502 topographic series showed no helpful information regarding Lasseter.

The later geoMAP 250K (Geoscience Australia, 2009) map series, as revised, is today the most readily available topographic map series. Map sheet SG52-07, Petermann Ranges, depicts the location of Lasseter’s cave and Irving Creek. On this map, Irving Creek runs from the south-west to the north-east and is crossed by the Tjukaruru Road. Also, on this map scaling 55 kilometres from Lasseter’s cave, as noted on the plaque in Figure 6 above, indicated that Lasseter’s grave could have been anywhere along a forty kilometre stretch of Irving Creek south of the Tjukaruru Road.

Extant tourist maps showed the location of Lasseter’s cave on the Hull River and also show the Irving Creek. The 2012 Alice Springs to Uluru Digital Map by Westprint Heritage Maps had Lasseter’s gravesite marked. This location was almost 50 kilometres (straight-line distance) from the cave site. There was no other information on the derivation of this position, so it was just noted for further reference.

From the web, the LASSETERIA site by Robert Ross (2016) emerged. Therein it was found that in his diary Lasseter had written : if only they knew I am at Winters Glen.

Winters Glen

Winters Glen was named by Giles in 1874 after a William Winter of Stanhope, Victoria, who subscribed to Giles’ exploration. In his journal Australia Twice Traversed, Chapter 2.11, from 21st May to 20th July, 1874, Giles wrote :

 

…we made a more northerly detour, as our former line had been through and over very rough hills, and in so doing we found on the 1st of June another splendid watering-place, where several creeks joined and ran down through a rocky defile, or glen, to the north. There was plenty of both rock and sand water here, and it was a very pretty and excellent little place. I called it Winter's Glen, and the main creek of the three in which it lies, Irving Creek. This water may easily be found by a future traveller, from its bearing from a high, long-pointed hill abruptly ending to the west, which I named Mount Phillips. This is a very conspicuous mount in this region, being, like many of the others named on this line, detached to allow watercourses to pass northwards, and yet forming a part of the long northern wall, of which the Petermann Range is formed…The water gorge at Winter's Glen bears west from the highest point of Mount Phillips, and four miles away.

 

Figure 8 below is a section of a map showing the results of Giles’ expeditions from 1872 to 1874. Compiled in the office of The Surveyor General, the map is signed in 1874 by then South Australian Surveyor General George Woodroffe Goyder (1826-1898). The location of Winters Glen was depicted on this map and is highlighted here with a blue pin. From this information it was clear that Winters Glen was on Irving Creek and west of Mount Phillips.

Please note for later reference, that several creeks are shown in the map at Figure 8 to flow in a northerly direction towards Lake Amadeus. All were named by Giles in 1874. In turn, north-west of Winters Glen on Irving Creek is The Shaw, The Chirnside and The Hull. On today’s maps these watercourses are shown as Shaw Creek, Chirnside Creek and Hull River. Giles’ map also indicates that The Chirnside is a tributary of The Shaw. It would appear that it was only after aerial photography of the region was available, post World War Two, could it be determined that Irving Creek, Shaw Creek, Chirnside Creek and the Hull River were all separate watercourses. Furthermore, these watercourses while appearing to flow towards Lake Amadeus disappear in the desert long before reaching the Lake. (Teitkens had originally made this same finding in 1889).

A search of the National Library of Australia’s (NLA) map collection revealed, that in the years following Giles’ expeditions, a range of maps were published that contained the location named Winters Glen. Table 1 below is a summary of some of the maps viewed online and shows the map date, type, mapping authority and NLA reference.

Year

Type

Mapping Authority

NLA Reference

1885

Pastoral

Surveyor General, South Australia

nla.obj-230705067

1886

Atlas

Picturesque Atlas Publishing Co., Sydney

nla.obj-148379306

1897

Plan

Surveyor General, South Australia

nla.obj-231441593

1898

Geological

Commissioner of Crown Lands, South Australia

nla.obj-231441704

1915

Pastoral

Department of External Affairs

nla.obj-233532456

1922

General

Department of Home and Territories

nla.obj-232105262

Table 1 : A sample of maps found to have the location named Winters Glen depicted.

Figure 9 below shows a section of the 1922 General Map of the Northern Territory by the then Department of Home and Territories showing Winters Glen. Although on this map Winters Glen is shown to be on the Irvine (sic) rather than the Irving, its relationship to Mount Phillips is correct. It is not until the plan of 1897 that Winters Glen appeared with the annotation Perm’t Water (Permanent Water). This annotation continued right up to the modern era where it and the location Winters Glen then were no longer depicted on maps.

 

Figure 8 : Section of an 1874 map showing the results of Giles’ expeditions with the location of Winters Glen indicated by the blue pin

(courtesy National Library of Australia nla.obj-231439545).

 

Figure 9 : Section of the 1922 General Map of the Northern Territory by the Department of Home and Territories with the location of Winters Glen indicated by the blue pin

(courtesy National Library of Australia nla.obj-232105262).

 

It can only be surmised that because the actual position of Winters Glen could not be verified, its location was omitted from the more modern mapping. Nevertheless, Winters Glen’s historical significance meant that the name continues to exist in the Northern Territory (NT) Place Names Register and thus is also listed in the Gazetteer of Australia Place Names (Geoscience Australia, 2012) as an Australian place name. The Gazetteer of Australia Place Names (Geoscience Australia, 2012) contains more than 370,000 geographical names across Australia and its external Territories. This gazetteer is coordinated by the Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping and derived from State, Territory and Commonwealth Government agencies. If the name of a place or feature is not listed by the State or Commonwealth in their respective gazetteer, then the name is not official and that name will not be found on any State or Commonwealth map. The Northern Territory Place Names Register, from which the Commonwealth’s entry was derived, also provided detail describing the History/Origin of the name thus that gazetteer became the preferred source for place names and their location.

The NT Place Names Register entry for Winters Glen reads :

Name

Winters Glen

Feature

Valley

Authority ID

NT21136

State or Territory

Northern Territory

Country Code

Australia (AU)

Status

Historical name

COORDINATES (degrees)

Latitude

-25.198226

Longitude

129.786258

http://www.ntlis.nt.gov.au/placenames/view.jsp?id=21136

History/Origin : Named by Ernest Giles during his 1873-4 exploration, after William Winter of Stanhope, Victoria, who subscribed to Giles' exploration.

 

The above Gazetteer coordinates for Winters Glen were plotted using Google Earth. The plotted coordinates for Winters Glen showed the location to be in rough, uneven terrain and away from any significant watercourse. Giles had clearly noted that his party had moved north to avoid rough hills. Giles’ party was thus probably travelling a path of least resistance when he came across and named Winters Glen. Such a path would have been along the more open valley and not through the rocky, broken hills running north-west to south-east, today’s Pottoyu Hills.  

Giles was very specific in describing Winters Glen; it was where several creeks joined and ran down through a rocky defile to the north; the main creek was one of three; and it was 4 miles west of Mount Phillips. Nevertheless, even if Giles’ distance of 4 miles was accurate to within ±0.5 mile and the westerly direction accurate to within ±10 degrees, Winters Glen lies in an area of some 5 square kilometres. Within that area are several candidate locations for Winters Glen.

Figure 10 : Section of SG5207 Petermann Ranges R502 series, 1: 250,000 scale map (left) with section of Geological Sketch Plan for Petermann and Bloods Ranges, compiled from data in Mr FR George’s notebooks by WR Murray 30 January 1907 (in George, 1907) (right) showing location of Winters Glen to be on unnamed watercourse to the east of Irving Creek.

 

The George 1905 expedition recorded that it camped at Winters Glen on 21 November 1905 (George, 1907). The position of this campsite is depicted on the plan accompanying the report. Please refer to Figure 10 above. George’s campsite however, appears to be on the unnamed watercourse to the east of Irving Creek. Furthermore, the camp was south-west of Mount Phillips rather than west. For investigative purposes, the position of George’s 1905 camp was interpreted to be at 25° 15’S, 129° 51’E.

It is clear that the Petermann region contains a number of tree lined, sandy bottomed watercourses, draining to the north-east, all of which have created valley(s) or glen(s) along the way. In addition, there are probably in a good season numerous rockholes that also fill with water. It would seem then that many locations in this region could be regarded as equivalent to Giles’ Winters Glen in their character. Thus, with multiple locations appearing to match Giles’ idyllic description it is perhaps why this region, as described by Blakeley, was regarded as the Winter Glen country. Furthermore, with multiple possibilities for the location of Winters Glen, it is perhaps the reason that the location of Winters Glen disappeared from modern mapping.    

Figure 11 : Enhanced Google Earth image with Gazetteer position of Winters Glen plotted and the approximate position of Winters Glen as indicated by George (1907) in relation to Mount Bowley and Mount Phillips.

 

Unable to pinpoint a location for Winters Glen and even though the current gazetteer position has the location removed from any watercourse confluence, an alternative suggestion was not considered prudent. Please refer to Figure 11 above.

 

Lasseter’s Gravesite as Gazetted

The Gazetteer was then searched using Lasseter as a keyword. Two entries were listed being Lasseters Cave and Lasseter Grave (sic). The entry for Lasseters Cave appeared correct but the Lasseter Grave entry reads :

Name

Lasseter Grave

Feature

Cemetery

Authority ID

NT14362

State or Territory

Northern Territory

Country Code

Australia (AU)

Status

Historical name

COORDINATES (degrees)

Latitude

-25.043799

Longitude

129.333068

http://www.ntlis.nt.gov.au/placenames/view.jsp?id=14362

History/Origin : Lasseter died around 30 January 1931 and was buried by friendly Aboriginals of the Petermann Ranges (Arthur Groom - "I saw a Strange Land"). He was later reburied by Bob Buck.

 

The above Gazetteer coordinates for Lasseter Grave (sic) were again plotted using Google Earth. The Lasseter Grave location was only some 7 kilometres south west of the cave bearing his name. Such a location for Lasseter’s grave seemed to be contrary to the basic evidence regarding Lasseter’s last easterly movements. Nevertheless, Groom’s (1950) account was reviewed to evaluate his contribution. After climbing Ayers Rock, Groom described what he saw on the horizon. He wrote : Mount Olga's many domes rose above the sea of sand-hills; but there were other mountains beyond, a strange, encircling concourse of rocky silhouettes and distant shapes of the far Petermanns to westward, and the Musgrave Ranges in a chain of peak after peak to southward…Two days' travel to westward was the lonely grave of prospector Henry Lasseter (sic), who died of dysentery and starvation on 30 January 1931; buried crudely by friendly natives of the Petermann Ranges, reburied by old Bob Buck, Central Australian wanderer. To base coordinates on such a tenuous description today seems unthinkable. Given however, that other accounts of Lasseter’s exploits had not yet been published perhaps Groom was the only reliable source at the time the place name was gazetted. Whatever the reason then, it is not the case today, and so the existing gazetted location for Lasseter Grave was discounted.

 

Other Information about Lasseter’s Gravesite

The simplest solution to locating Lasseter’s gravesite would have been to locate the map(s) he had used and evaluate that information. Strangely however, little could be found about what if any maps Lasseter had accessed. This investigation proved to be such that the details were moved to Annexure A : Mapping and Maps of the Lasseter Era.

In the Sunday Mail article mentioned above, Pastor Friedrich Wilhelm Albrecht, wrote that when Bob Buck went out to find Lasseter his destination was Piltardi (sic) in the Peterman (sic) Ranges. At Piltardi, described as a rockhole, Buck met the old aboriginal who led Buck’s party to the site of Lasseter’s death : not far away, just across the range, and then a little to the west…they didn't have to go far, only about 12 miles.

Gill (1968), in his conversation with Buck at Hermannsburg, asked Buck about when he first found out the whereabouts of Lasseter. Buck’s reply was : not till the night we was camped on th' spring at Putta Putta (sic)…a soak on a dry water course north of th' ranges. Other events in Gill’s book indicate that Albrecht has confused two separate events. When Buck went to first find and ultimately bury Lasseter, Buck went to Putta Putta (sic) where he met the old aboriginal. Later when Buck took Gill back to Lasseter’s grave that party first headed to Albrecht’s Piltardi rockhole which Gill recorded as Piltati. This confusion in rockhole names and their spelling is discussed in detail below.

A location spelt Putta Putta is in the Gazetteer but this place is far away on the Sandover River on the opposite side of the Northern Territory. A location spelt Puta Puta however, is marked on modern maps. Puta Puta is located where Chirnside Creek cuts through the Petermann Ranges as it flows to the north. The likelihood that water had historically been available at Puta Puta was confirmed by the depiction of an unnamed Soak at this location in the 1959 R502 1: 250,000 scale map sheet SG52-07 Petermann Ranges.

Native Patrol Officer, R Macaulay wrote in his December 1959 report that he had visited a number of aboriginal communities in October–November 1959. Among the communities listed as visited were Kaltukatjarra (Docker Creek), Tundi (Hull River), Putta Putta (Shaw River). As noted above Chirnside Creek would still have been viewed as a tributary of the more significant Shaw Creek. Thus Macaulay’s Putta Putta (Shaw River) and today’s Puta Puta on Chirnside Creek are more than likely in the same area. This fact is somewhat supported by Porter (2011) referring to Lasseter dying near here [Puta Puta].

Gill in his 1968 book referred to the fact that his party had a map. On one occasion he stated I had taken the map. The map appears to be a copy of Giles’ exploration map similar to that shown in Figure 8 above. This fact is indicated by Gill referring to locations only marked thereon and not appearing on later maps. Unfortunately, Gill’s inexperience with map reading and topographic interpretation, means that doubts arise periodically in the accuracy of his positional record. While Gill also documented daily mileages of travel, these are not necessarily the straight line distance between points but must be taken as such for this analysis.

Piltati (sic) Rockhole was described by Gill : as tucked coyly away in the hollow between two spurs on the northern slope of the Petermann Range. It lies about five miles east of the Shaw River. Such a description was too generic for this country. A smaller geographic region needed to be isolated in order to fix the location of Gill’s Piltati Rockhole. Further, Gill seemed to have confused his creeks and his reference to Shaw Creek looked suspicious. Gill’s about five miles east of the Shaw River would have put his party on Irving Creek and this clearly was not the case.

Buck and Gill’s party had camped at Piltati (sic) on their way into the Petermanns and on their return to Alice Springs. Piltati was also recorded as the first place they reached in the Petermanns and the last place they left. The map from Gill (1968), at Figure 12 below, provided an indication of the location for Piltati. Gill’s Piltati appeared to be east of Irving Creek on the north side of the Petermanns. Mileages to and from the Piltati campsite were also available and if they in turn could be related to existing map features, might narrow the search area. Further, Gill wrote : An earlier visitor had built a cairn of stones on a spur overlooking the water [Piltati]…I climbed to it. Bearings on the landmarks I recognized were Katamala Cone 139°, Stevenson's Peak 143° 5', Mount Olga 98° 5', Blood's Range 357°, Kalipurna Hills 364°, Mount Currie (in the McNicoll Range) 79° and Mount Walanna 322°. I also photographed Button at the cairn (please refer to Figure 13 below noting that the cairn was not built by Giles as Gill stated).

These data were exciting as if they were relatively accurate and the points in the terrain could be identified on a modern map, a survey calculation known as a resection could be performed. Such a calculation would theoretically provide the geographical position of Gill at the time he took those bearings. For various reasons, the most reliable points were identified as being Katamala Cone, Stevenson's Peak, Mount Olga and Mount Currie. For best results, a resection needs points equally spread around the observer’s horizon. Although this was not the case here, at least having four points permitted three separate calculations, each calculation based on a different combination of three rays to their respective points. The results of the resection calculations indicated that Piltati was around the latitude of Mount Phillips and within a 10 mile radius to the east.

To narrow the area further the daily mileages listed by Gill were then examined. On the trip into the Petermanns the campsites could not be located with any certainty and too much error occurred scaling from the nearest recognisable point being Mount Olga. On the return journey however, Buck and Gill’s party travelled direct from Puta Puta to Piltati a distance Gill recorded as 18 miles.

Figure 12 : Section of map from inside front cover of Gill (1968) indicating the approximate position of Piltati Rockhole and that Buck and Gill in 1931 traversed the same valley as Giles in 1874.

 

Figure 13 : Rock cairn now known to be above Piltadinnya (sic) Rockhole said by Terry (1930) to have been built by Oliffe of the Mackay and Basedow 1926 expedition

(after Gill, 1968).

 

Accepting 18 miles as the distance from Puta Puta to Piltati and correcting Gill’s record that Piltati was about five miles east of Irving Creek not Shaw Creek, on the north side of the Petermann Ranges there were less than a handful of places where a rockhole meeting Gill’s description could be located. Figure 19 below shows the probable location of Piltati Rockhole tucked coyly away in the hollow between two spurs on the northern slope. This location is some 5 miles east of Irving Creek and is within the 10 mile radius given by the resection results.

On the map of the The Mackay Exploring Expedition 1926, and that of the Endeavour Mining Company NL Expedition in 1930/31, under Michael Terry, Piltadinnya, was described respectively as a Waterhole and as Rockholes. Please refer to Figure 14 below. More on these two expeditions can be found at Annexure A.

Figure 14 : Maps of expeditions by Mackay and Basedow in 1926 (top) and by Terry in 1930 (bottom), highlighting common locations in blue and Piltadinnya Rockhole in red.

 

Terry’s map is to scale based on adjusted vehicle mileages. Scaling from well defined features like Mount Olga and Katamala Cone confirmed that the rockhole identified in Figure 19 was that shown on Mackay’s and Terry’s maps as Piltadinnya Rockhole.

Terry recorded in his 1930 log that on Wednesday 6 August 1930 : decided to push on to our objective which is Mount McCulloch at the east end of the Petermann close to which Mackay records Piltadinnya – a soak fed by rock holes in a gorge behind it. While camped at Piltadinnya (Terry’s Camp 14, please refer to Figures 16 and 17 below) Terry noted that : On the rock we observed

J. Tregurtha. (#)

N. Davey. (*)

W.L.

H. Brown.  (*)

1896.

H. Oliffe.   (*)

7.27.

1926.

 

1926.

 

 

 

(#) J Tregurtha was James Edmund Tregurtha (1867-1959), originally from New South Wales he was a prospector's prospector and worked at the sites of most of Western Australia's major goldrushes and even the Klondyke rush in Alaska (Robinson et al, 2003 and Layman et al, 2011).

 (*) These men known to have been members of the 1926 Mackay & Basedow expedition.

There is also a small cairn on top of the range immediately east of Piltadinnya probably by Giles (sic) which I must examine later. Terry was back at Piltadinnya on Saturday 13 September 1930. Terry then recorded : at Piltadinnya where Williams and I climbed to the cairn evidently built by Oliffe. Took a general round of bearings and photo…Piltadinnya has dried up very much…Water should be obtained for a long time by sinking in the sand and the large rockhole high in the quartsite (sic) must be nearly permanent. Please refer to Figure 15 below which is believed to be the photograph Terry referred to above. (Herbert Bert Oliffe was a member of the Mackay and Basedow 1926 expedition).

Terry gave the date of his visit to the Piltadinnya cairn as Saturday 13 September 1930. This is the same cairn as photographed by Gill as shown in Figure 13 above. The date of Gill’s visit was just on eight months later, Friday 29 May 1931.

Figure 15 : Expedition member looking toward Mount Phillips from a ridge near Piltadinnya, Northern Territory, 1930

(photograph and caption courtesy National Library of Australia - nla.obj-149247090);

from hat and dress here and in other photographs the man in this photograph is Bill Williams of Terry’s 1930 expedition.

 

            

Figures 16 and 17 : (left) Terry 1930 expedition member beside a rock pool at Piltadinnya, also known as
Piltardi, Petermann Ranges, Northern Territory, 1930 (photograph and caption courtesy National Library of Australia - nla.obj-149243816); and (right) Three of Terry’s 1930 expedition members at a campsite at Piltadinnya, also known as Piltardi, Petermann Ranges, Northern Territory, 1930

(photograph and caption courtesy National Library of Australia - nla.obj-149242921).

   

Figure 18 : Terry’s 1930 photograph of the landscape around Mount Phillips seen from a ridge near Piltadinnya, Northern Territory, 1930

(photograph and caption courtesy National Library of Australia - nla.obj-149250754).

 

In addition, in their jointly authored 1926 paper, The Mackay Exploring Expedition, Central Australia, in The Geographical Journal by Donald Mackay and Herbert Basedow, a description of Piltadinnya Rockhole is given. Mackay’s party were then camped at the base of Mount McCulloch. There : the natives told us that there was a big water on the northern side of the ridge from our camp. After circling round some hills about 6 miles and turn­ing north-west we came to Piltadinnya water, at the base of a quartzite gorge where there was a natural reservoir and, some 20 feet higher up, two fine rock holes containing a large supply of water. The drainage of a big valley lying to the north-west is the feeder. As shown in Figure 19 below, the Rockhole identified from Gill (1968) is also about 6 miles (2.5 miles plus 3.5 miles) from Mount McCulloch as described by Mackay. Moreover, it has the mentioned, large, north-west catchment.

Figure 19 : Google Earth with the probable position of Rockhole indicated in the enlarged insert based on the foregoing analysis. Distances from Mackay’s camp at Mount McCulloch also shown.

 

One last check was made on the relationship of Mount Phillips to the ridge near Piltadinnya based on the photograph in Figure 18 above. The photograph of the distinctive Mount Phillips was one of many taken by Terry during the 1930 expedition. In other photographs he captured his Morris Commercial truck, the men and the tracks the vehicle left in the sand. Even though there seemed to be no details of the camera Terry used, all the photographs were scanned at the same resolution so can be considered the product of a simulated camera. Using the dimensions of the real world objects Terry captured on film and measuring their image dimensions the geometry of the simulated camera can be determined. In turn, the distance Mount Phillips is from the camera on the ridge near Piltadinnya based on the photograph in Figure 18 above, can be derived. The results gave Mount Phillips to be 3.5 to 4.5 kilometres away. The scaled distance from Mount Phillips to the Rockhole in Figure 18 above was 3.7 kilometres.

As mentioned above, George’s 1905 expedition moved through this area. As described in Annexure A, George was told about : a party of white men who visited the locality a long time ago. They had camels, and went to a big rockhole. They made marks on the stone, and then travelled south to near where we are camped. George found the rockhole north of Mount Phillips and recorded : a stone here is marked "J. Tregurtha, 1896." This is the inscription as seen by Terry in 1930 and already described above. On the George’s (1907) expedition’s plan this rockhole is named Billadinya.

All the above evidence supports the conclusion that the rockhole identified in Figure 19 is :

-

the rockhole described in George (1907), recorded as Billadinya

-

the rockhole described in Mackay and Basedow (1926), recorded as Piltadinnya

-

the rockhole described in Terry (1930), also recorded as Piltadinnya

-

the rockhole referred to as Piltardi by Pastor Friedrich Wilhelm Albrecht in Journeying with Missionary FW Albrecht in 1939, then again in his 1967 Sunday Mail newspaper article, and also by Duguid (1972) in his recall of the expedition arranged by Albrecht in June 1939;

-

the rockhole described in Gill (1968) which he recorded as Piltati.

In order to avoid confusion however, for the remainder of this discussion this rockhole will continue to be called Piltati as described in Gill (1968).

After camping at Piltati, Buck and Gill went on to visit Lasseter’s grave two days later. On leaving Piltati, Gill wrote : after following the northern face of the range for a few miles to the eastern end, we turned it and entered a wide valley thickly timbered with ironwood and peppermint. Now our direction was westerly. At a spring named by the natives "Etenerra," we swung south. The valley Gill described on their journey west was the same valley Giles’ traversed heading east less than 50 years prior. Again, the map in Gill (1968) confirmed this route, please refer to Figure 12 above. At the end of the day Gill wrote : The place where we were was about twelve miles in the ranges, in a valley that was a park land of open timber and waving grass…Here and there the valley floor was broken by jagged outcrops of rock, or the dull rust-red of ant bed. When the wind dropped at sunset, the natives sent up a "smoke" from a fire they made in the bed of the creek. Gill recorded this location as Camp 13.

As Buck and Gill then went on to Lasseter’s grave the next day it is most probable that Camp 13 was along Irving Creek. To reach Camp 13, Gill recorded they travelled 15 miles for the day. Allowing for the 3.5 miles they first travelled to the east, to the end of the range, a further 9 miles to the west to reach Irving Creek or thereabouts before turning south and travelling the remaining 2.5 miles before camping, totals 15 miles. Also Camp 13 would have thus been 12.5 miles (15 miles minus the first 3.5 miles east to the end of the range) into the ranges which accords with Gill’s statement : the place where we were was about twelve miles in the ranges. From Camp 13, Buck and Gill travelled to Lasseter’s grave. No distance from the camp to the grave is quoted by Gill. Gill however did record that : our camels spilled out on some high ground overlooking the bed of a creek in a valley marked on the map, Winters Glen. And there, at a little distance from the far bank, was Lasseter's grave.

Albrecht’s statement above was that from Piltardi (Gill’s Piltati) the scene of Lasseter’s death was : not far away, just across the range, and then a little to the west…they didn't have to go far, only about 12 miles. Albrecht’s 1967 brief recount of the location thus seems to concur with the above in both distance and direction.

To integrate and analyse all this information, the former National Mapping’s, digital 1: 100,000 scale base mapping, was acquired. These topographic data are the most detailed and accurate available today.

Figure 20 : 1: 100,000 scale topographic base showing the result of combining all the positional and distance information with overview map inset.

 

On this topographic base the position of Winters Glen, as given by the Gazetteer and George’s 1907 position, as derived, were plotted. From the points Mount Phillips, Puta Puta and Lasseter’s cave, circles of radii 4 miles (pink colour), 18 miles (aqua colour), and 55 kilometres (brown colour) were respectively described. The result is at Figure 20 above. By combining all these data, it would appear that the location determined for Gill’s Piltati Rockhole meets all the positional information. With the later addition of the accurate position for Lasseter’s bush gravesite, from the information below, the relationships of the locations can be clearly seen. It is further evident that a single location for Winters Glen, as concluded above, remains elusive.

A section of an aerial photograph acquired in October 1984, from which the above topographic base was extracted, may be viewed via this link. Mount Phillips can be seen in the top right corner and Irving Creek to its west may be followed south.

 

Resolution

Two events then occurred. The first was being advised of a Les Hiddins, of Bush Tucker Man fame, episode on Lasseter. Called Gold Fever (circa 1996) it traced the Lasseter expedition finally ending up at a monument erected at the site where Lasseter had died in the bush. This was the only evidence found that the site of Lasseter’s death in 1931 had been found and marked in the modern era. Unfortunately, the documentary gave little geographic information as to the site’s position. The second event was that via John Deckert of Westprint, Lasseter’s son Robert (Bob) was able to be contacted along with Barry Allwright a former licensed surveyor in the Northern Territory and Queensland. Through Barry, Patrick Hookey, Aboriginal Tourism Development Officer for the Central Land Council provided photographs and advice.

In addition to Bob Lasseter’s personal account of events surrounding the finding and monumentation of Lasseter’s bush gravesite, photographs and GPS coordinates were generously supplied. Bob’s account, with photographs, is at Annexure B, Thus, it was revealed that since 1971 the location of Lasseter’s bush grave had been known, and in later years monumented by family and interested groups.

Figure 21 : Photograph of monument on the site of Lasseter’s 1931 bush grave erected on 18 August 1975, incorporating the original small headstone facing east (top insert), carved in 1957 by the truck driver for the Thomas Lowell documentary team; the brass plaque (bottom insert) was added in 2003

(original photograph courtesy Barry Allwright).

 

In the course of now communicating with people with some familiarity with the area the question of the location and correct name for the rockhole George (1907) recorded as Billadinya, Mackay and Basedow (1926) and Terry (1930) recorded as Piltadinnya, and Gill (1968) recorded as Piltati, was raised.

Patrick Hookey was kind enough to make contact and confirm that the location marked in Figure 21 above was indeed the rockhole that he had photographed in 1999. Furthermore, as can be seen in Figure 22 below, the photograph by Terry in 1930 of a rockhole he recorded as Piltadinnya, is the same place. Patrick also had photographs of the names inscribed on the nearby rock wall as described in Terry (1930). Please refer to Figure 23 below. All the inscriptions as recorded by Terry can be identified. What is surprising however, and not recorded in his book is that both Walter Gill and Bob Buck decided to leave their marks as well.

 

Figure 22 : Photographic comparison of 1999 Hookey photo of rockhole located in Figure 18 above with Terry 1930 photo of rockhole he recorded as Piltadinnya.

 

Figure 23 : 1999 photograph of the names inscribed on the nearby rock wall of the rockhole as described in Terry (1930); visible at 1: J Tregurtha 1896, 2:  N Davey and H Oliffe 1926, 3:  H Brown 1926 and just below that the initials WL 7.27; at 3 is also Walter Gill’s inscription and at 4 are Robert Henry Bob Buck’s initials

(original photographs courtesy Patrick Hookey).

 

The name of this rockhole was known to the traditional owners as Piltati. Further, the nnya or nya sound is not part of the name but rather part of the grammar and the T and D sounds are interchangeable. Thus, under these rules the name Piltadinnya as recorded by Mackay and Basedow (1926) and Terry (1930) should not have the grammatical nnya and the d can be replaced by a t, leaving Piltati as recorded by Gill (1968). George’s (1907) recording of the name Billadinya can undergo similar treatment leaving Billati, not far removed from Piltati.

As discussed in Annexure A there is a rockhole spelt as Piltardi or Piltarti. Piltardi is shown on the 1968 R502 1: 250,000 scale map sheet SG52-11 Mann. On the latest NTMS 1: 250,000 scale map sheet SG52-11 Mann however, the rockhole’s name is shown as Piltarti. Somehow in the mainly oral account of that time, Piltardi or Piltarti in the Mann Ranges of South Australia has become confused with a rockhole in the Petermann Ranges of the Northern Territory, referred to as Piltati. It is unfortunate that it appears that the National Library of Australia’s captions to Terry’s 1930 photographs at Figures 15 and 16 above, have also continued the confusion by stating that : a rock pool at Piltadinnya, also known as Piltardi (sic), Petermann Ranges.

It is explained above that in his 1972 book Doctor and the Aborigines, Dr Charles Duguid recounted his being asked by Albrecht to join an expedition in June 1939. Duguid recounted that this expedition travelled via Piltardi (sic) waterhole and then by camel to Lasseter’s bush gravesite. Furthermore, it is clear that Albrecht’s 1967 account is a recollection of part of what he saw on that 1939 expedition, including the misrepresentation of the rockhole’s name.

It is not hard to see that converting names pronounced in oral tribal dialect(s) into European written form has produced the variations in name over time. It is interesting to note that Gill in his searching for a forgotten tribe was possibly more attuned to what he was hearing and recording and got the spelling of Piltati right!

 

Place name summary

A summary of the various place names, discussed above or in the references, along with their source, geographical coordinates and any relevant notes is provided in Table 2 below. Additional, relevant place or feature names are discussed in Annexure A.

 

Place name

Source

Latitude/

Longitude

Notes

Lasseters Cave

 

Geoscience Australia (2012)

-25° 02’

129° 24’

Docker River Social Club sign of 1974 gives aboriginal name of Kulpi Tjuntinya

Lasseter Grave

 

Geoscience Australia (2012)

-25° 02’

129° 20’

Feature is a Cemetery and its location is revised as part of this investigation to : 25° 15.7’S, 129° 48.5’E

Puta Puta

Geoscience Australia (2012)

-25° 04’

129° 38’

Porter (2011) refers to Lasseter dying near here

Putta Putta

Geoscience Australia (2012)

-22° 03’

135° 56’

Incorrect spelling by Macaulay (1959) and Gill (1968) as this place is on the other side of the Northern Territory

Winters Glen

Giles (1874); Geoscience Australia (2012)

-25° 12’

129° 47’

Feature is a Valley and its location was unable to be revised although Google Earth shows the current location removed from any watercourse

Billadinya Rockhole

George (1907)

See Piltati

Below

Feature is a Rockhole as determined by George (1907) above; also shown above that George’s name was a likely misinterpretation of Piltati

Piltadinnya Rockhole

Mackay and Basedow (1926); Terry (1930)

See Piltati below

Feature is a Rockhole as determined by Mackay and Basedow (1926) and as Rockholes as recorded by Terry (1930) at : 25° 11’S, 129° 54’E, this rockhole is in the Petermann Ranges

Piltardi and Piltarti Rockhole

Geoscience Australia (2012)

-26° 08’

130° 17’

Same feature in the Mann Ranges, South Australia has two spellings; the name was incorrectly used by Albrecht in 1967 newspaper article; shown above he was referring to Piltati

Piltati Rockhole

Gill (1968)

 

Feature is a Rockhole as determined by Gill (1968) above; this is the correct name as confirmed with the traditional owners the other listed above are European misinterpretations

Table 2 :  A summary of the place names, discussed herein or in the references, along with their source, geographical coordinates and any notes.

 

Conclusion

The somewhat ambitious goal of this investigation was to identify the location of Lasseter’s death and his subsequent bush grave. The analysis of as much documentary evidence as could be conveniently gathered failed to elicit a result. In the end GPS coordinates of the site resolved the issue.

The precise GPS coordinates for a Gazetteer listing of Lasseter Grave are now :

GDA94 COORDINATES (degrees)

Lasseter Grave

(Access requires requisite authority)

Latitude

-25.2621

Longitude

129.8075

 

An attempt was made to more accurately determine the location of the valley called Winters Glen as described by Giles. While the existing Gazetteer listing appears incorrect there were too many other locations fitting Giles’ description to support the Gazetteer location being revised.

In the course of this investigation the location of Piltati Rockhole was determined. The investigation also revealed that this rockhole’s name was misinterpreted and incorrectly recorded by George (1907), Mackay (1926) and Terry (1930). The spelling by Gill (1968) was confirmed as being correct and acceptable to the traditional owners. Thus, given that the historical significance of Piltati Rockhole is at least equivalent to that of the other place names relating to Lasseter already gazetted, this name along with its variations should also be gazetted. Moreover, the location should appear on future State and Federal maps.

The location of Piltati has been confirmed by those knowledgeable of the area and is at :

GDA94 COORDINATES (degrees)

Piltati Rockhole

(Access requires requisite authority)

Latitude

-25.1877

Longitude

129.8927

 

 

 

Acknowledgement

It is acknowledged that Robert Ross owner of the LASSETERIA : The Lasseter Encyclopaedia website, John Deckert from Westprint, Harold’s son Robert Lasseter, and Barry Allwright a former licensed surveyor in the Northern Territory and Queensland, generously provided significant useful information for this investigation. Patrick Hookey, Aboriginal Tourism Development Officer for the Central Land Council is acknowledged for allowing the use of his photographs and local knowledge and insights, as is Laurie Mclean and David Hewitt for their comments on an early draft. Rod Menzies provided background as to some of the most useful reading. (Coincidently Rod had just completed a short paper Lewis "Harold Bell" Lasseter and his fabled Gold Reef for his U3A Australian History Class. Rod's paper may be viewed via this link.)

 

 

Compiled by Paul Wise, 2017-2020

 

 

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Allwright, Barry (2017), Personal communications.

Bailey, John (1947), The 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, accessed at : http://archival-classic.sl.nsw.gov.au/album/albumView.aspx?acmsID=457526&itemID=825626

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Jones, Philip (2002), Strehlow, Theodor George Henry (Ted) (1908–1978), Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, accessed at : http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/strehlow-theodor-george-henry-ted-11792

Lasseter, Robert (2017), Personal communications.

Layman, Lenore and Fitzgerald, Criena (2011), 110 degrees in the Waterbag : A History of Life, Work and Leisure in Leonora, Gwalia and the Northern Goldfields, Western Australian Museum.

Lundy, Darryl (2017), John Matthew Blakiston-Houston, The Peerage, accessed at : http://www.thepeerage.com/p16193.htm

McGowan, Barry (2006), Fool's Gold : Myths and Legends of Australian gold seeking, Lothian Books, Sydney.

McLean, Lawrence William (2018), Personal communications.

Macaulay, R (1959), Patrol Report, R Macaulay, December 1959, National Archives of Australia, Canberra Office, A6456, R136/007, accessed at : http://www.cifhs.com/ntrecords/ntpatrol/RMacaulay_00_12_1959.html

Menzies, Roderick William (2018-19), Personal communications.

Mackay, Donald and Basedow, Herbert (1926), The Mackay Exploring Expedition, Central Australia, 1926, The Geographical Journal, Vol.73, No.3. pp. 258-265.

National Archives of Australia (1998), LHB Lasseter Auriferous Areas Central Australia, NAA : A1,1930/512, folios 2 and 3.

Northern Territory Government (undated), Winters Glen, an entry in the Northern Territory Place Names Register; accessed at : http://www.ntlis.nt.gov.au/placenames/view.jsp?id=21136

Porter, Eunice Yunurupa (2011), Lasseter Story (a painting depicting), accessed at : http://images.outstation.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/History-Paintings-Catalogue-2011.pdf

Robinson, AC, Copley, PB, Baker, LM, and Nesbitt, BJ (2003), A Biological Survey of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands, South Australia 1991-2001, Biodiversity Survey and Monitoring Section, Science and Conservation Directorate, Department for Environment and Heritage, South Australia, Appendix I, European activity in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands since 1873, accessed at :  https://www.environment.sa.gov.au/files/sharedassets/public/science/anangu_pt3.pdf

 

Ross, Robert (2006), LASSETERIA : The Lasseter Encyclopaedia, accessed at : http://www.lasseteria.com/HOME.htm

Ross, Robert (2017), Personal communications and supply of maps and documentation.

State Library of New South Wales (2017), accessed at : http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/

Terry, Michael (1930), Endeavour Mining Company NL : Expedition to Petermann and Tomkinson Ranges 1930, Log of Michael Terry Leader, South Australian Museum Archives, AA 333/5/13, accessed at : http://archives.samuseum.sa.gov.au/aa333/AA%20333-05.htm

Walsh, GP (1983), Lasseter, Lewis Hubert (1880–1931), Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, accessed at : http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lasseter-lewis-hubert-7039

Warburton, Peter Egerton (1875), Journey Across the Western Interior of Australia; London : Sampson Low, Marston, Low & Searle : eBook accessed at : http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks12/1202821h.html

Westprint Heritage Maps (2012), Alice Springs to Uluru Digital Maphttp://westprint.com.au/

 

 

 

 

 

Annexure A

Maps and Mapping of the Lasseter Era

In the published material on Lasseter, maps are referred to on many occasions. The difficulty today is that no specifics are given regarding the origin of, or authority for, any one of these maps. This Annexure attempts to determine any relevant map information by analysing what mapping was available at that time, and its source. Further, it would appear that many of the place or feature names relevant to Lasseter, are spelt differently by different people and other place names are not depicted on modern maps or listed in gazetteers. Relevant place or feature names will thus be assessed against official information and map placement, if applicable, and their veracity determined.

Status of Australian Mapping circa 1930

At this time the Commonwealth Government was still in its infancy and many functions were still in transition from the States to the Commonwealth. Mapping, systematic or otherwise, was one such function. With the passing of the Commonwealth Lands Acquisition Act of 1906, a number of surveying and mapping functions were transferred from the States to the Commonwealth. This legislation allowed the Commonwealth’s small, civilian mapping requirement to be met by the staff of the relevant federal department.

The Commonwealth acquired its first land administration responsibilities on 1 January 1911 with the transfer of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory from the relevant states. The Lands and Survey Branch of the Department of Home Affairs was established in Canberra in 1910 with the position of Director of Lands and Surveys advertised that year. Charles Robert Scrivener (1855-1923) was appointed to the position of Director as of 1 January 1911.

In 1916 the Department of Home Affairs was abolished by Executive Council Minute No.8 that was promulgated in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No.30 of 22 February 1917. The Department’s functions, including lands and surveys, went to the newly created Department of Home and Territories. The Department of Home and Territories was later renamed the Department of Home Affairs as notified in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No.136 of 13 December 1928. The functions of the Department of Home and Territories were transferred to the Department of Home Affairs. Subsequently, the Department of Home Affairs was abolished by Executive Council Minute No.35 of 12 April 1932 that was promulgated in Commonwealth Gazette, No.33 of 14 April 1932. The amalgamated Departments of Home Affairs, together with that of Transport and Works and Railways then emerged as the Department of the Interior.

History recorded that at the outbreak of World War 2, less than 2 per cent of Australia had been systematically mapped. Despite calls from interested parties over many years, the Commonwealth Government continually gave little priority to the funding of any systematic, national mapping program. With the onset of war however, a program of emergency mapping was quickly implemented.

In the era of interest of this Annexure, then State mapping was primarily focussed on the release of land for settlement or farming, agriculture or grazing. Federal mapping was based on the various departments’ needs but the primary data was still sourced from the relevant States. In the Northern Territory, which had been the Northern Territory of South Australia, primary map data came from South Australia, under the authority of the Surveyor General of South Australia. In turn, the majority of their map data came from major explorers such as Ernest Giles (1835-1897), William Christie Gosse (1842-1881), William Harry Tietkens (1844-1933) and Peter Egerton Warburton (1813-1889). Others like Larry Wells in 1903, Frank R George in 1905, Donald Mackay and Herbert Basedow in 1926 and Michael Terry in 1930 also contributed to the knowledge of the region. This exploration data was usually processed by professional State employed cartographers who integrated the information into consistent formats. There were also the commercial atlas makers. Their maps could vary in quality depending on the sourcing of their data and publication schedules. Nevertheless, their depiction of the map information was at least as good as that of their source material.

In this same era there were private explorers, prospectors and other pioneers mapping their own journeys in case they found some value in the land they crossed. Being privately funded however, the majority of this information was also kept private. From time to time this privacy did lead to the multiple naming of features as one pioneer never knew if a particular feature had been previously named or not. Such an occurrence also occurred with mainstream explorers. For example, Tietkens, unsure if Giles had named a range of hills named them the Magarey Range. Later it was found that Giles had already given these same hills the name the Ehrenberg Range. There is no doubt that this private mapping could also be acquired. Blakeley in his 1972 book Dream Millions stated : I have seen three maps of this country and they all had a different name for these mountains.

What is documented about :

-      Lasseter’s maps

On 1 June 1930, Lasseter wrote to the Department of Home and Territories requesting an opinion on the reliability of a map of central Australia issued by, Lasseter stated, a Captain Kendrick. Lasseter’s concern was that Kendrick’s map and the official map were significantly different. Lasseter stated that the official map was issued to him last January by your [Home and Territories] department. A copy of Lasseter’s letter is at Attachment 1 (National Archives of Australia, 1998). Further, despite content differences between the Kendrick and Departmental maps, Lasseter appeared to be pushing for official endorsement to use Kendrick’s map. His coercive tactic was to state that there was the possibility that men might lose their lives if the departmental map containing its perceived incorrect information was used. A further part of this tactic was that Lasseter on 1 June 1930 stated : The Syndicate which is putting up the money asks me to use Captain Kendrick’s map for guidance. Bailey (1947) showed that the Syndicate was not formed until later in June 1930; certainly, some days after Lasseter had penned his subject letter.

Nevertheless, at face value Lasseter had at least two maps in his possession; one by Kendrick and the other by the Department of Home and Territories.

To date nothing reliable has been found on Lasseter’s Captain Kendrick. Various Kendrick(s) were trained and indeed served in World War 1. Without Kendrick’s initials, however, identifying any one of these men as the Captain Kendrick is impossible. Kendrick may also have served in another country’s armed forces, been a ship’s captain, or just adopted the title to give himself status. Irrespective as to how or where Kendrick gained his rank, it appears that Kendrick had no official mapping status. The main reason for this was that even back then official maps were issued by government agencies not by individuals.

In essence, this is precisely what the Department of Home Affairs stated in their reply to Lasseter. The Departmental file 30/512 (National Archives of Australia, 1998) showed Lasseter’s letter being received on 3 June 1930 and the Departmental reply dated 6 June 1930. (As indicated above the Department of Home and Territories had been replaced by the Department of Home Affairs in 1928). This prompt Departmental response, please refer to Attachment 2, was signed by Assistant Secretary FJ Quinlan. Quinlan unequivocally stated : I am directed to inform you that this Department [Home Affairs] has no offic­ial knowledge of the maps referred to by you, but I would point out that no person of the name mentioned has any official authority to issue maps of the whole or any portion of Central Australia.  This confirms the statement above that “official maps were issued by government agencies not by individuals”.

By 1930 when Lasseter received his map and later wrote his letter, the Department of Home Affairs was the responsible Department, not the Department of Home and Territories. Furthermore, the Minister for the Department of Home Affairs was none other than Arthur Blakeley, Australian Workers Union colleague of John Bailey and younger brother of Fred Blakeley, who was to become leader of the Central Australian Gold Exploration (CAGE) Expedition. In hindsight an interesting series of interlocked situations, but confined the production date for Lasseter’s map by Home and Territories to between 1916 and 1928.

The latest map produced by the then Department of Home and Territories found in the National Library of Australia was a 1922 General Map of the Northern Territory (nla.obj-232105262). The topographic detail depicted on this map is generally the same as on other maps produced between 1895 and 1920. For example, the Department of External Affairs 1915 map Pastoral Leases of the Northern Territory (nla.obj-233532456) has all the same basic topographic information. Given the lead time required for map production in the early 1900s it is highly likely that one of Lasseter’s maps was the 1922 Home and Territories version. Please refer to Figure A1 below.

Figure A1 : Legend panel from the then Department of Home and Territories 1922 General Map of the Northern Territory

(courtesy National Library of Australia - nla.obj-232105262).

 

Examining the map base of the 1922 General Map of the Northern Territory there is only a blank space west of the Ehrenberg Ranges to the border with Western Australia. Today this route west is via the Kintore Road and some 40 kilometres before reaching the border with Western Australia is the Kintore Range with its peak Mount Leisler. Tietkens had named Mount Leisler in May 1889, so why was this detail not on a topographic base some 20 to 30 years later? Essentially at that time, the Kintore Range was considered to be in Western Australia and thus not applicable to maps of the Northern Territory. This belief came about due to longitude being locally not nationally derived. It was not until the early 1900s that longitudes in Australia were nationally and globally related and even so correct longitude was not immediately reflected in maps of the day. Maps of Western Australia of the same era were viewed to confirm they show the Kintore Range with its peak Mount Leisler to be then shown in Western Australia.

 

-      Central Australian Gold Exploration Co. Ltd., under Frederick Blakeley, expedition maps

Blakeley recounts this expedition in his 1972 book Dream Millions. While the book was not published until 1972 the main manuscript was completed between 1940 and 1962.

Blakeley uses the word map over 20 times without ever indicating any origin or authority. Moreover, it is sometimes unclear if the map being examined belongs to Lasseter or was one acquired by the expedition. Whatever the map being used, it contained not only the basic topographic information of the day but also extended out to the west to depict the area traversed by Teitkens.

What clouds this matter somewhat is that while Blakeley and Lasseter are in the Kintore Range area, a Mount Marjorie is mentioned by Blakeley. Officially there never was a Mount Marjorie. Mount Leisler in the Kintore Range was named by Tietkens after Louis Leisler of Glasgow. A painting {https://antiqueprintmaproom.com/recent-exploration-in-central-australia} by artist Arthur James Vogan (1859-1948) dated circa 1890 includes a view of what is captioned : Mount Leisler (now Mount Marjorie, Kintore Range). Owing to the longitude difference explained above the official position and naming of Mount Leisler most likely went unrecorded allowing another name to be adopted temporarily. No official map of the Northern Territory or Western Australia has been found to date to contain a feature named Mount Marjorie in the region of the Kintore Range.

Later, Blakeley also refers to a Mount Flinders but this name was also likely to have only been temporary, given the name Flinders is more closely associated with coastal features. It is at this same time that Blakeley made the comment : I have seen three maps of this country and they all had a different name for these mountains.

If anyone on Blakeley’s party was qualified to comment on the expedition’s map(s) it was Captain John Matthew Blakiston-Houston (1898-1984). Although Blakiston-Houston was only with the Central Australian Gold Expedition for a couple of weeks whilst on leave, Blakeley (1972) wrote : I felt pleased that he [Blakiston-Houston] would be with us for the first two or three weeks. I soon recognised that this man was no stranger to roughing it as he had been in charge of a section of an expedition that attempted to conquer Mt Everest…I knew the job I was taking on, and knew it would be no use remembering something later on! It had all to be thought out first, and, because of this, I had Captain Houston double-check everything. Nothing was left to chance, for I knew the country we were bound for.

During 1929-1930, British Army Officer Captain Blakiston-Houston was aide-de-camp to then Australian Governor-General Lord Stonehaven (John Lawrence Baird, 1874–1941, First Viscount Stonehaven GCMG DSO PC JP DL). Keeping a fairly low profile due to this vice-regal connection, Blakiston-Houston was engaged on Blakeley’s expedition where his speciality was described as explorer. Blakiston-Houston had been educated at Eton College and at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He served in the First World War and gained the rank of Captain in the Tank Corps in 1924. His knowledge of mapping would thus have been substantially based on the maps of the UK Ordnance Survey.

Ordnance Survey has its origins post the Jacobite rebellion in 1745. The primary triangulation of the United Kingdom was completed by 1841 forming the basis for the publication of the One inch to One mile series for Great Britain which was completed in 1891. It was to be the mid 1960s before Australia had its first medium scale national topographic map coverage. While not all mapping used by Blakiston-Houston would have been printed in colour on standard sheet lines, it is probable that even reconnaissance type, sketch maps he would have seen, would have been produced by persons with mapping, reconnaissance or other recognised expertise.

In his memoirs, Blakiston-Houston (1947) stated that : None of them [Blakeley’s CAGE Expedition members] knew much about organising such an expedition. They had taken no steps to procure such maps as existed. Such an oversight would have been very obvious to a military man; their training almost dictates they never go into the unknown if possible. This is achieved, in the first instance, by obtaining all available mapping or map related information.

During the expedition Blakiston-Houston also noted : The next day we met more trouble and made slow progress through the heavy sand, but eventually reached Giles’ station that night. Giles was a halfcast. The inadequate sketch map we had showed dotted lines marked "Track of Giles, 1870". He [Ernest Giles] had apparently left a few children behind him. Later Blakiston-Houston also recorded : On our rough sketch map of the country two dotted lines crossed our track further west. They indicated creeks. The first was named the Derwent and the second the Dashwood.

These details by Blakiston-Houston about the expedition’s sketch map are troubling. While the major features are correct the detail is erroneous. Firstly, Ernest Giles did not venture into that part of Central Australia until 1872. Further, when Giles took his expedition into central Australia his route was to the south of the MacDonnell Ranges. It would seem that the name of the track on the sketch map and the surname of Giles, the occupier of the station, whether offspring of the explorer Giles or not, had become confused. (It is understood that the halfcast Giles (sic) was Archie Giles, the occupier of Redbank Station). Please refer to Figure A2 below which shows Ernest Giles’ 1872 route.

 

Figure A2 : Map indicating the routes taken by the explorers Giles, Gosse, Tietkens and Warburton through central Australia together with that of the first Central Australian Gold Exploration (CAGE) Expedition.

 

The track Blakiston-Houston referred to in that part of central Australia was more likely to be associated with the explorer Peter Egerton Warburton who travelled north of the MacDonnell Ranges in 1873. The probability of the track being that of Warburton is increased because it was he who named the two watercourses to which Blakiston-Houston referred. According to the Northern Territory Place Names Register The Dashwood and The Darwent were named after contractors on the northern section of the Overland Telegraph Line. Warburton named The Dashwood on 28 April 1873 without any reference as to the origin of the name. In his 1875 Journal, Warburton also recorded on 2-3 May, 1873 : struck a fine sandy creek but does not mention any name in his text. On the 1874 map (nla.obj-231433439) however, : shewing (sic) route of Exploring Party under command of Colonel PE Warburton, from the centre of continent to Roebourne, Western Australia, copied from Col Warburton's plan by Arthur G De La Poer Beresford in the Surveyor General's Office, Adelaide, the watercourse described by Warburton is clearly named The Darwent.

The watercourse names The Dashwood and The Darwent existed on official maps of the Northern Territory until circa 1936. A 1936 map has these two watercourses now named Dashwood River and Darwent Creek. A 1955 map then has the two names as Dashwood Creek and Derwent Creek. With the introduction of the national R502 1: 250,000 scale map series the SF53-13 Hermannsburg map sheet now has the recognised names for these two watercourses as Dashwood Creek and The Derwent. Sometime between 1915 and 1936 land was leased which appears to have been the genesis of today’s Derwent Station. For whatever reason, sometime in the 1950s the name of The Darwent became The Derwent. But in a mismatch between State and Commonwealth gazetteers, the Northern Territory lists both The Darwent and The Derwent but without stating the origin of the name Derwent. The Commonwealth via Geoscience Australia’s Gazetteer of Australia Place Name Search does not list The Derwent as a watercourse in the Northern Territory. A search for The Darwent however, also shows The Derwent and indicates that this is the official name. As the name The Derwent appears for a watercourse on all series of the Commonwealth’s paper maps and any derived raster datasets, it is confusing not to find The Derwent listed being an official name.

Nevertheless, when heading west the first of these watercourses is Dashwood Creek followed by historically, The Darwent. Not the reverse as recalled by Blakiston-Houston, above. Thus the expedition’s sketch map appears to have contained misleading information, however, the basics of a track crossing two creeks is correct. Note that as shown in Figure A2, while the start of Tietkens 1889 route was somewhat similar to that of Warburton’s earlier route, Tietkens turned south at Dashwood Creek and never crossed the then named watercourse The Darwent.

As will be read below, Michael Terry was expecting to bump into Blakeley at any time. Blakeley held a similar view regards Terry. Blakeley recorded : We got quite a shock on approaching Ilbilba (sic), for we could see a large mob of camels and what looked like dozens of people walking about. Our first thought was that it was Michael Terry's party but when we got closer we could see that the people were only Rip Van Winkle, his tribe and three other natives wearing clothes who were with the camels.

 

-      Robert Buck and Walter Gill’s 1931 maps

Gill in his 1968 book Petermann Journey, referred to his party having a map. On one occasion he stated I had taken the map. The map appears to be based on an 1874 map depicting Giles’ earlier explorations. This appearance is indicated by Gill referring to locations only marked thereon and not appearing on later maps. Unfortunately, Gill’s apparent inexperience with map reading and topographic interpretation, means that doubts arise periodically in the accuracy of his positional record. Further, Gill recorded place names that do not appear on any official or other currently available mapping. This situation again suggested that his party had access to other mapping information or that such information had been integrated into their map.

Part of the route taken by Buck and Gill had camps at waterholes previously used by Michael Terry only eight months previous. There is more information on Terry’s 1930 expedition below. Along with camels Terry also had a Morris Commercial truck. On more than one occasion Terry recorded that his 1930 party could see Mackay’s 1926 buggy tracks; such tracks still being visible after 4 years. At one particular creek crossing Terry noted that the tracks from Gosse’s expedition, some 60 years’ prior, were still visible. Despite almost following Terry’s route, however, it is curious that in over some 200 kilometres of travel Gill (1968) never mentioned seeing any sign of Terry’s vehicle tracks; not even close to watering points which both expeditions were known to have used. This omission is even more curious when in some locations there would have not only been Terry’s vehicle tracks but also those of Mackay’s buggy. Please refer to Figure A3 below showing the tracks left by the Terry 1930 Expedition vehicle.

Figure A3 : Terry 1930 Expedition member Billy Williams measuring the depth of tire (sic) tracks, Central Australia

(photograph and caption courtesy National Library of Australia - nla.obj-149247090).

 

-      The Mackay Exploring Expedition 1926, maps

In their jointly authored 1926 paper, The Mackay Exploring Expedition, Central Australia, in The Geographical Journal by Donald Mackay and Herbert Basedow, the purpose of their expedition was described. Their primary object was to fill in the blank region that remained in the south-western corner of the map of the Northern Territory; to visit and verify the positions of ranges and hills which early explorers had seen in the distance and placed by estimation on the map; and to examine this country and form an opinion of the possibilities, if any, which it possessed from a pastoralist's standpoint. They further recorded that : in 1874 the great explorer Ernest Giles hurriedly traversed the region lying south-west from Lake Amadeus, but his observations were so meagre that the South Australian Government advocated a thorough exploration of this region.

In view of these comments, it is likely that this expedition had, as a minimum, a copy of a map depicting Giles’ earlier explorations.

-      Endeavour Mining Company NL Expedition to Petermann and Tomkinson Ranges 1930-1931, under Michael Terry, expedition maps

This was one of a number of expeditions in Central Australia by Terry between 1930 and 1933 to identify possible mining sources of valuable minerals, including gold. Given Terry’s mention of Mackay he at least had a copy of Mackay’s 1926 expedition map and would have probably had a copy of a map depicting Giles’ earlier explorations plus, given the year, possibly an official 1920s State or Commonwealth map.

It is perhaps somewhat ironic that around the beginning of August 1930, Blakeley’s CAGE Expedition with Lasseter was at The Dashwood north-west of Alice Springs, heading west. At this same time, Michael Terry was at Ayers Rock, south-west of Alice Springs and also heading west. The CAGE Expedition, however, was stuck with a broken truck whereas Terry was progressing nicely and became the first person to get a vehicle to that location. On Saturday 9 August 1930, Terry’s party was about to enter the Petermann Ranges. Terry wrote : we are wondering when the Sydney prospecting crowd are going to line up [probably should be “turn up”] with their Thornycroft six wheeler and moth aeroplane with the G.G.’s aide as pilot. (Terry had this wrong, as Errol Hampton Coote was the pilot not the Governor General’s [G.G.] aide Blakiston-Houston.) It would thus appear that Terry had an expectation that Blakeley with Lasseter was heading in their direction and they could bump into one another at any time.

-      Second Central Australian Gold Exploration Co. Ltd., under Bob Buck, and Eclipse Gold Expedition

The second CAGE Expedition left Alice Springs in August 1931. Led by Bob Buck, the other nine members included among them, Frank Green, a mining prospector who later married Rene, Lasseter's widow; Henry Talbot, an assistant geologist and mining surveyor who had led the 1917 geological survey between Laverton and the South Australian border; Torrington Blatchford, a geologist; and Edwin Cooper, the Assistant Wireless Operator who carved the headboard for Lasseter’s bush grave. Within three months the expedition had been abandoned with grog (too much or not enough) apparently being the central issue. Nevertheless, on 7 October 1931, the expedition had been camped at Piltardie (sic) Rockhole (Ross, 2006).

Separately, and seemingly without the necessary permission, the Eclipse Gold Expedition, had set out from Oodnadatta. It included Walter Smith (mentioned in the main paper as reportedly having to rebury Lasseter), Frank Sprigg, Arthur Roach, Arthur Pearce and an Aboriginal man, Freddy Skin-Naked (McGowan, 2006). The party claimed it was not looking for Lasseter's Reef because they did not believe it existed. Travelling west however, through the Mann and other ranges south of the Petermann Ranges, eventually this group moved into the Petermanns. At Piltardi (sic) waterhole the two expeditions met! Subsequently, when both parties were back in Alice Springs, the Eclipse Expedition was reported to the Government Resident for trespassing. According to Walter Smith however, Buck smoothed things over by suggesting they tell the Resident that they had been lost.

The location known as Piltardi (sic), appears to be very central to many of the expeditions of the era because of its water supply. Given slightly different circumstances the first CAGE Expedition and the Terry led, Endeavour Mining Company NL Expedition mentioned above, could also have met at the same location. Despite the popularity of this location, it is hard to find any map accurately depicting the precise position of this rockhole.

 

-      Government Prospecting Expedition to the South-Western portions of the Northern Territory under Frank R George

In April 1903 a prospecting expedition was made to north­west South Australia and the Petermann Ranges in the Northern Territory. Led by Larry Wells it was known as the Government North-West Expedition. Frank R George, a geological surveyor, was second in command, and one of the party’s four prospectors was Herbert Basedow, mentioned above. Despite their prospecting efforts being unsuccessful, the Government Geologist reiterated his belief that gold and other minerals of value existed in the north-west ranges.

Frank R George then led a South Australian government funded prospecting expedition in September 1905. After prospecting in the Petermann Ranges, the expedition was to proceed via the Treuer Range to the Tanami. However, the expedition was tragically cut short and returned to Alice Springs where Frank George died on 4 April 1906, at age 32. As the aim of the expedition had not been fulfilled, WR Murray travelled from Adelaide to then lead the expedition into the Tanami. The final report George (1907), was written by Murray from : the particulars contained in the notebooks of the late Mr FR George…. Figure A4 below shows the route of the 1905-06 expedition led by Frank George. The final plan contained in the report George (1907) was compiled by Murray from data in Mr FR George’s notebooks. The report contains many references to George climbing various high points to take bearings to significant features, obtaining latitude and establishing the meridian ie direction of true north. The final plan therefore, can be considered very good for its time. Whether the later expeditions had a copy of this plan is not documented!

Figure A4 : Map showing the route of the 1905-06 expedition led by Frank George (after McGowan (2006); note George’s initials were FR not FA as indicated therein).

 

On 19 November 1905, George’s party camped on the west side of Mount Phillips. Here he wrote :  the Petermann Ranges are here hardly worth their designation, and are very disappointing, being low rounded hills and spurs, from 50ft. to 200ft. above plain level, with higher isolated hills - Mount McCulloch and Mount Phillips. The hills to westward appear higher, but no portion of them compare with the Musgrave, Mann, or Tomkinson Ranges. By 21 November 1905, George recorded that the party had : shifted to Winter's Glen. This is a fine watering place, easy of access, and there must be thousands of gallons conserved in the sand and rockholes. The main water is contained in the creek channel, with water showing here and there above the sand for a distance of 10 chains.

 

The following day, 22 November 1905, George recorded : the native[told the natives with us] about a party of white men who visited the locality a long time ago. They had camels, and went to a big rockhole here. They made marks on the stone, and then travelled south to near where we are camped, and at that spot shot several [natives]…. They lost four camels here by poison. They then travelled west, and were consumed by fire…. As this rockhole was close to us, decided to visit it, and went that way on journey to McNicholls' Range. In easterly gap of the two north of Mount Phillips there are rockholes. One at base of fall, which is about 50ft. high, and three others higher up. A stone here is marked "J. Tregurtha, 1896." The gaps are three and a half miles apart. The top rockhole is a very fine one, about 40ft. by 50ft. and 20ft. deep, judging by color of the water. From George’s description, the rockholes have to be those named as Billadinya on the plan at Figure A5 below. Because of the water at this location, even though it goes by different names and spellings, there is no doubt that this same rockhole is used by many of the expeditions who travelled through this region.

Figure A5 : Section of Geological Sketch Plan for Petermann and Bloods Ranges, compiled from data in Mr FR George’s notebooks by WR Murray 30 January 1907 (in George, 1907) showing location of Winters Glen and Billadinya Rockholes.

 

Assessment of maps or mapping from the documentation

From the above evaluation it seems that :

1

Lasseter, at face value, had at least two maps; one by Captain Kendrick that is currently untraceable and another issued by the Department of Home and Territories, likely the 1922 General Map of the Northern Territory. Depending on how Blakiston-Houston’s comment our inadequate and rough sketch map is interpreted this map either describes Kendrick’s map or a third map.

2

As data from the Tietkens’ expedition was not shown on the Department of Home and Territories map, if this information was not on Kendrick’s map then Lasseter had to have acquired information about the topography west of the Ehrenberg Ranges from an unofficial source. If information about the topography west of the Ehrenberg Ranges had come from Tietkens or an official source then Mount Leisler in the Kintore Range would have been correctly referenced.

3

Commercial and Government maps were being sold, for example :

 

1886-1888 Picturesque Atlas of Australasia (3 Volumes with multi parts), Picturesque Atlas Publishing Co Limited, Sydney and Melbourne; (nla.obj-148379306)

1908 Northern Territory, HEC Robinson, Sydney; (nla.obj-231122348)

1929 Australia, Department of Works, Canberra; (nla.obj-239881485)

4

Other maps or mapping, as discussed above, were available at the time, nevertheless, some of the place names from such maps are documented but have never gained official status and many are confused and misplaced. Ross (2006) stated that in the 1989 book, On Lasseter's Trail, Desmond R Clacherty suggested that Lasseter had used a map published in 1827 as his guide across Australia. Clacherty does not reference this map and heavily modifies the original from Thomas J. Maslen's 1827 book, The Friend of Australia. Maslen’s map may be viewed at this link : https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Inland_sea_(geology) .

Table A1: Assessment of Maps

 

Thus a range of official and exploration mapping existed at that time. However, the experienced map user Blakiston-Houston, described the map he saw as being a rough sketch map. It is this description that is the strongest indicator that the map being used by Lasseter was not drawn or printed by any official source. Furthermore, this sketch map, by accident or design, contained descriptive errors. Gross errors were unlikely to have occurred in any officially produced manuscript map.

Irrespective of whether this sketch map was by Kendrick, or a Lasseter fabrication or from elsewhere, Lasseter’s words in his letter to the Department of Home and Territories were highly prophetic. Unfortunately for Lasseter, and some may say fortunately for the other men with him, the life lost was his own!

 

Place or Feature Names

Even though the maps and mapping of this time has been broadly identified, it does not significantly help in the process of tracking Lasseter’s movements. Many of the place or feature names documented in the available literature do not appear on any of the identified maps, or the names have changed as already mentioned above, or their spelling is confused, being a European interpretation of an aboriginal dialect or dialects. 

It is important to understand that place or feature names on maps are ultimately determined by the individual States through their respective Nomenclature Committees or Boards. Anyone can ask for a name to be placed on a map but the relevant Nomenclature Committee is the final arbiter. Some States have their list of official place names on line; other States require one to ask about a particular place name. The Gazetteer of Australia Place Names (Geoscience Australia, 2012) contains more than 370,000 geographical names across Australia and its external Territories. This gazetteer is coordinated by the Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping and derived from State, Territory and Commonwealth Government agencies. If the name of a place or feature is not listed by the State or Commonwealth in their gazetteer, then it is not official and that name will not be found on any State or Commonwealth map. As will be seen further on, the spelling of a place or feature name is dictated by the gazetteer entry as are attributes such as whether a given watercourse is a creek or a river.

A summary of the place or feature names investigated for this paper is provided in Table A2 below. Each place or feature name has its official derivation if available, and any applicable notes as to its derivation and/or use.

 

Place / Feature Name

Official description or notes

Previously discussed Place or Feature Names :

Mount Leisler

Named by William Harry Tietkens on 27 May 1889, it is in the Kintore Range.

Mount Marjorie

A temporary and unofficial name for Mount Leisler.

Mount Flinders

Unofficial name for unknown mountain.

The Dashwood

A watercourse named by Peter Egerton Warburton after a contractor on the northern section of the Overland Telegraph Line. Warburton named The Dashwood on 28 April 1873 without any reference as to the origin of the name.

Derwent Creek

Originally named The Darwent by Peter Egerton Warburton after a contractor on the northern section of the Overland Telegraph Line. For whatever reason, sometime in the 1950s the name The Darwent became The Derwent.

Found in the course of investigating the above Place or Feature Names :

Mount Tietkens

A mountain in the Buck Hills of Western Australia, located and named by a then Bureau of Mineral Resources field party and named after explorer William Harry Tietkens.

Buck Hills

A number of small peaks and hills separated by sand, named by the Division of National Mapping after Robert Bob Buck (1881-1960) who guided several expeditions in search of Lasseter’s Reef.

Further Place or Feature Names :

Lasseters Cave

No official description given but a 1974 Docker River Social Club sign gives explanation and aboriginal name of Kulpi Tjuntinya

Lasseters Grave

Lasseter died around 30 January 1931 and was buried by friendly Aboriginals of the Petermann Ranges. (Arthur Groom, 1950, I saw a Strange Land). Lasseter’s remains were later reburied by Bob Buck.

Ilbpilla Soak

Ilbpilla is in the Ehrenberg Range some 400 kilometres west of Alice Springs and about 200 kilometres north of Mount Olga. It was first recorded by Donald Mackay in 1930 when he used it as a base for his Aerial Survey Expedition. Idriess (1931) recorded it as Ilbilba (sic) aerodrome; Blakeley (1972) as both Ebilba (sic) and Ilbilba (sic); Gill (1968) used Ilbilla, however, that name probably refers to Illbilla Creek.

Kaltukatjara

Formerly Docker River Settlement

Etenerra

Nothing official but Gill (1968) recorded this name for a Soak west of Mt Olga and a Spring near Mt Phillips.

Puta Puta

Porter (2011) refers to Lasseter dying near here.

Putta Putta

Incorrect spelling of Puta Puta by Macaulay (1959) and Gill (1968) as this place is on the other side of the Northern Territory.

Putardi Spring

A spring at the base of Mount Putardi located west of Haasts Bluff. Sometimes confused with Piltardi Rockhole.

Piltardi and Piltarti Rockhole

Rockhole in the Mann Ranges of South Australia has two spellings. Often confused with Piltati Rockhole.

Billadinya Rockhole

 

An unofficial name for a rockhole depicted on the final plan contained in George (1907) which was compiled by Murray from data in Mr FR George’s notebooks. From George’s description, Billadinya Rockhole is the same rockhole named as Piltati by Gill (1968) but named as Piltadinnya by both Mackay and Basedow (1926) and Terry (1930).

Piltati Rockhole

An unofficial name for a Rockhole as recorded by Gill (1968).

Piltadinnya Rockhole

Piltadinnya water was in a rockhole recorded by Mackay and Basedow (1926) and then recorded by Terry (1930), as Piltadinnya Rockhole in the Petermann Ranges; it would appear that the name Piltadinnya has become confused with Piltardi and Piltarti, Piltati and even Putardi. This confusion is not helped by the fact that Piltadinnya is in the Petermann Ranges and Piltardi or Piltarti is in the Mann Ranges just to the south. Piltadinnya Rockhole is described in George (1907) and depicted on the plan later derived from his data. The plan shows this rockhole named as Billadinya, seemingly just another European interpretation of Piltadinnya.

Winters Glen

Feature is a Valley named by Ernest Giles in 1874 after William Winter of Stanhope, Victoria, who subscribed to Giles’ exploration. Described by Giles as : where several creeks joined and ran down through a rocky defile, or glen, to the north…and the main creek of the three in which it lies, Irving Creek…The water gorge at Winter's Glen bears west from the highest point of Mount Phillips, and four miles away.

Hull River

Chirnside Creek

Shaw Creek

Irving Creek

Watercourses named by Ernest Giles in 1874 as The Hull, The Chirnside, The Shaw and Irving Creek.

Note : A Rockhole is a natural rock cavity which fills naturally with water whereas a Soak is a place where water can be found by carefully digging a hole into which water will seep.

Table A2: Summary of feature names.

 

 

Attachment 1

Copy of Lasseter’s letter of 1 June 1930 to the Department of Home and Territories (sic), NAA : A1,1930/512, folio 3.

Attachment 2

Copy of the Department of Home Affairs reply to Lasseter of 6 June 1930, NAA : A1,1930/512, folio 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annexure B

Personal Insights –

form Robert (Bob) Lasseter

(Extracted from Email of 20 September 2017 –

apart from some formatting the following is verbatim)

 

My father, at age 50, died on the Eastern bank of Irving Creek, or a tributary thereof, in 1931. Date estimated to be about the 28th of January 1931. When the CAGE Company, for whom he was employed to guide their expedition in 1930, felt they had lost contact with him, because too much time had elapsed without any contact, the company engaged well known Central Australian bushman, Bob Buck, to search for him.

 

Bob Buck, with the aid of Pitjantjatjara aborigines, found his body, in a shallow round hole, and covered with branches, in the aboriginal manner, in early May 1931. The aboriginal people, with whom he had been living, also knew that his name was Lewie Lasset (pronounced by them with difficulty).

 

Bob Buck brought back to the Police station at Alice Springs, a number of items to prove Lasseter’s identity, but was unable to sign a death certificate, as it had to be signed by some person who knew him in life and recognised him in death, and apparently Bob Buck had not met my father when he was alive.

 

Later that same month, Walter Gill persuaded Bob Buck to lead him to the grave, where the two men improved Lasseter’s burial; constructed a post and rail fence of bush timber around the grave and blazed a Gumtree (with Lasseter wrongly spelt Lassiter) about 5 meters away on the edge of the creek (Irving Creek).

 

In 1957, after 26 years of remoteness and several books plus a mixture of newspaper articles, highly renowned, American documentary film maker, Lowell Thomas, chartered Lee Robinson, another well known Australian film maker (following his Skippy series), and Lee’s assistant Alton Frazer, to find Lasseter’s long lost grave. Lee engaged three aboriginal men, Nosepeg, Jackaboy, and Snowy (or Mick).  Mick, I understand was present at the time my father died.

 

These three men led Lowell Thomas and his party of 9 or 10 men to the exact spot where examination of the skeletal remains that they unearthed, proved to be that of a white man. Photographic evidence of rocks in the background confirmed the location as that where Bob Buck had found and buried my father’s body. The Thomas party removed my father’s remains for re-burial in Alice Springs and marked the spot of the original grave with an engraved piece of rock like a small headstone.

 

In the winter of 1971, surveyor Bob Walker and I were guided to the grave site by an aboriginal elder, Captain Number One. The route taken was so rough that we had to leave the Landrover and walk the last 6 miles to where we saw the small headstone and confirmed the location by identifying 2 very significant rocks in the background, across on the western side of Irving creek, and the tree that had been very poorly marked by Bob Buck, by comparison with photographs.

 

In 1975, I decided to take a bag of cement and mark the spot more clearly with a rock cairn. So, in August that year, our party consisting of my daughter Wendy and her Husband David Hall, daughter Lucy (Lasseter), son Robert Neil (Lasseter), Cliff Spurges (white volunteer gardener from Docker River) and 2 aboriginal men, also from Docker River, (Joseph Donald and Leslie Mintuntji), navigated an easier route down the bed of Armstrong Creek and part of Casterton Creek, then westward to Irving Creek, where Leslie proudly ran ahead and found the small headstone.

 

We camped close by, and the two aboriginal men took great pride in helping to build the cairn, into which we incorporated the original small headstone, facing east. Please refer to the photographs below taken on 18 August 1975.

 

Australian Geographic, in May/June 2002, asked Elsie and myself to guide a convoy of 14 four wheel drive vehicles, on a Lasseter Country History Tour, which involved a visit to the grave. We held a little ceremony; one of my father’s grand-daughters, Vicky McClure, played her guitar and we all sang my father’s favourite hymn When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.

 

A group of the people on that trip decided that the cairn ought to have a brass plate attached and donated the cost and made arrangements for another trip out there when the cast brass plate was ready. This second trip, during 30 June to 15 July 2003, saw the brass plate installed on the northern face of the square shaped cairn. We held another little ceremony and had the cairn with the new brass plate was unveiled by two of my father’s great grandsons, Phillip and Steven Metcalfe, by removing the draped Australian flag.

 

 

Figure B1 : (L-R) Joseph Donald and Leslie Mintuntji in 1975, both now deceased

(courtesy Bob Lasseter)

                                                                     

Figure B2 : The finished Memorial Cairn in 1975 with the 1957 headstone incorporated

(courtesy Bob Lasseter)

 

Figure B3 : The construction team 1975 (L-R) daughter Wendy and her Husband David Hall, from Docker River Joseph Donald, Cliff Spurges and Leslie Mintuntji, daughter Lucy (Lasseter), son Robert Neil (Lasseter), Bob Lasseter

(courtesy Bob Lasseter)

 

Figure B4 : Harry Lasseter’s Bush Grave site in 1975, with two very identifiable rocks (pear shaped, one upright the other up-side-down) in the background, as well as the gum tree poorly blazed by Gill in 1931 in the near background, to the left of the cairn. The blazed tree has since been destroyed by flood and fire

(courtesy Bob Lasseter)