|"Just then the camera fiend produced and leveled a camera"|
The Sydney Mirror reported on 29/04/31, that amongst other items, Bob Buck had found a broken camera beside Lasseter's body. Which makes this is a convoluted and difficult entry. But it may have some merit, for cameras are not the innocuous device they first appear to be. Both Idriess and Buck risk some exposure on the subject. Blakeley, Taylor, the Captain and naturally Coote carried cameras on the first C.A.G.E. expedition, and all of them left some record of the journey. But none mentions Lasseter having a camera. Blakeley did not find one when he raided Lasseter's tin trunk, and if he did have a camera he apparently did not take any photographs of his companions, or of the expedition from Alice Springs to the time he departed Illbilla with Paul Johns, this is most unlikely .if he had a camera !!
But first lets dispense with the mundane; the Captain took an excellent group photograph of the men at Pantas Well and it is this photo that appears in Hells Airport. Coote records that during the scramble to board the vehicles the Captain left his camera behind, and it was later found and returned by a carrier named McFarlane. In his memoirs Blakiston-Houston does not mention misplacing the camera or his good fortune in recovering it. Taylor was an enthusiastic photographer and several of his shots appear in Lasseter's Last Ride, although many more were lost in the fire at Ayers Rock. Coote liberally illustrates his book with his own photos but Blakeley's photos were accidentally burnt and this may explain the unillustrated format of Dream Millions.
On the day the C.A.G.E. expedition was preparing to leave Ai Ai Creek for Illbilla, Michael Terry and his mates were searching McKay's landing strip a few miles north west of Ayers Rock for the camera belonging to Morrison, the press photographer with McKay's Expedition. Morrison had lost his camera out the door of the aircraft as it was taking off, Terry met the McKay expedition on its return to Adelaide and Morrison perhaps in jest and probably with faint hope asked Terry to have a look for it. To everyone's surprise Ted Colson, (Freddy's brother) found the undamaged camera in a clump of spinifex and was photographed on the last unexposed film. Morrison's camera was eventually returned intact.
Now lets examine Lasseter and his camera very closely, for Sullivan believes the man never took a photograph in his life much less own a camera. Lasseter was prolific with his pen on a wide range of subjects and his written record is readily available, but none of his letters are accompanied by photos in order to illustrate the subject. In short there is not one photo extent anywhere taken by Lasseter's hand, and for a widely travelled fellow with an interest in many things the lack of photos is more than passing strange.
And for a man who took every opportunity to write to his family, (and we have to take Idriess's word for that) it would be reasonable to expect the letters to be accompanied by photos elaborating points of interest along the journey from Alice Springs. Especially of his companions, the spectacular scenery and the Aboriginals at Illbilla. And if Lasseter did have a camera he would have had ample opportunity to return the exposed film to Alice Springs or Sydney with Coote or Colson as Taylor apparently managed to do, and for a few pounds more Idriess would have snapped up those photos along with the diary and letters from Lasseter's impoverished widow. It is difficult to believe that Lasseter saved his entire stock of film for that ficticious reef somewhere in the Petermannns.
Lasseter apparently carried a goodly supply of film, various reports have him burying three rolls in a sand dune near where the camels bolted, a couple more in the cave by the Hull River, the roll that was prised from the camera by the Aboriginals and another three rolls were found by Neville Harding in 1950, buried in a tin under a camp fire opposite the cave. These films were probably planted by Cutlack in 1948 as part of his Lasseter fraud, but Harding and Cutlack are dealt with elsewhere. It stretches the imagination to think that the thin metal of the film reels would survive 24 years of rust, besides why would Lasseter in his straightened circumstances be carrying a now useless camera as he struggled his way to the Olgas. In all, it seems that Lasseter had at least a dozen rolls of film and naturally not one photo exists of his Petermann journey or any other part of the expedition.
© R.Ross. 1999-2006
Gill Walter. Petermann Journey 5. Idriess Ion L. Lasseter's Last Ride 86.