"why do I cling to life when a shot would end my torment".
|Lasseter's Diary, 18.|
Much of the Lasseter saga is based on the consequences of an accident, namely Lasseter's camels bolting somewhere within walking distance of the cave on the Hull River where he holed up for several weeks, and wrote his so called diary. But, what would be the course of history if the camels didn't bolt? And it is reasonable to presume that Lasseter did not intend his camels getting away and leaving him stranded in an unfriendly land.
On Boxing Day 1930, Lasseter was returning east from Lake Christopher, having failed to rendezvous with Johanson. He would surely be contemplating his limited options, he cannot return to Alice Springs without the precise location and some hard evidence of a gold reef. If he were to do so he would probably be arrested for fraud and have to face the muscular wrath of the formidable John Bailey and the ridicule of the rest of Australia, not a pleasant option.
Or he can live off the generous supplies cached at Illbilla, and continue searching for a gold reef, hoping that sooner or later he may stumble across one, and, ipso facto, it becomes Lasseter's Reef. Or he can disappear, and hope that the authorities and shareholders of C.A.G.E. will assume that he has perished somewhere in the vast deserts of central Australia, as happened to Ernest Giles companion, Gibson, never to be found again. Lasseter has very few options and none of them favourable, and after trekking around mountain and desert for several weeks even his deluded mind would have to accept the fact that there is no gold in Lasseter country.
No doubt Lasseter was heading back to Illbilla to replenish supplies when his camels bolted, now leaving him with just two options, and quietly disappearing is no longer one of them, his only means of transport last seen rapidly heading east over the sandhills. He could wait at Lasseter's Cave hoping to be rescued or he could increase his chances of survival by making his way to the Olgas or better still, Ayers Rock, obvious landmarks where water and bush tucker are relatively plentiful. But being rescued has it drawbacks, he would still have to give an account to the shareholders and the Baileys. Living with the Aboriginals is nigh impossible, he has already alienated them to the point of outright hostility, and they have a difficult enough time surviving even with their considerable bush skills, Lasseter would be nothing more or less than a drag on their mobility and he would not be able to fend for himself.
So Lasseter can't disappear, having lost his camels, nor can he return to civilisation to face court and public ridicule. Leaving him just two choices, subsist with the Aboriginals if they accept him, yet he is on less than friendly terms with them and sooner or later he would be found anyway, or the ultimate choice, "yet the agony of starvation may drive me to shoot myself", and it may not be starvation alone that would cause him to consider that final shot, the realisation that his life has been a complete and utter failure could hasten his decision.
But if Lasseter decides to end it all with a shot, and he makes three references to that possibility in his diary, it would be an ignominious end to an unedifying life, and he will only be remembered as a failure and a fraud. He can however resurrect something of his reputation by leaving a diary of his last days for posterity, and write it in a suitably vague manner that will cause controversy and searches for years to come and bring considerable fame to the name Lasseter. I suppose irony is an appropriate word, but Idriess would not have had a bestseller unless Lasseter came to a tragic end.
© R.Ross. 1999-2006