Maps 1A and 1B. Sam Hazlett’s Road – Laverton to Elder Creek
This road’s twists and turns began to change immediately after Sam and Chub constructed it, so there is some guesswork in this attempt to map the original route. The native names of the rock holes and soaks were written down by early explorers just as they heard them pronounced by Aborigines. Later linguists tried to “correct” the spellings but often disagreed with one another. As a result the spellings of these names often vary considerably. For example, Beegull near Lake Throssell is sometimes spelled Piikarl, Eurothurra can be Yurratjarra or Kurratjarra, and so on. The Manning gnamma hole was also known by the name Durang. There may have been more water points on Sam’s road than shown, and some shown here may have been off his route. Certainty is now impossible. Frank Hann and others had travelled to the border ranges by a route passing south of Lake Yeo, but Sam chose his track to include more water sources.
Map 2. Lasseter Country
Lasseter’s search area was centred on a spot on the Western Australian border at 25.5⁰ south and 129⁰ east. The area encircled in red was deceptively claimed by Government Geologist Ellis as a “very great area of ‘Lasseter’s country.’” The blue arrows show the actual area travelled by Lasseter and Johns together in search of the reef, as described in Chapter 9. Really, then, the term “Lasseter Country” should be reserved for the border ranges, the region marked by the blue arrows on this map.
Map 3. Terry’s Lake Hazlett
Michael Terry provided this map to the Adelaide Chronicle of March 8, 1934, making public his discovery of two lakes between Lake White and Lake Mackay. He named them Lake Wills and Lake Hazlett and showed them as separate lakes. However in this country the salt lakes change shape and size over the years, and in later decades the two lakes were shown on maps as being practically one. The latest images on Google Earth, though, show them as slowly separating again. Note the inaccuracy of Terry’s positioning of the W.A. border, longitude measure being a common problem in the 1930s. The meandering dotted line is the route of Terry’s 1933 expedition.
Map 4. The Hazlett Party’s Great Trek of 1935
On this map straight lines link the places Sam said he visited on this journey, but it should be understood the men wandered far afield from the direct route while prospecting.
Maps 5A and 5B. Annotations of Sam Hazlett Jr on Exploration Cadastral Map XII/800
After the resuming of his grazing lease for a native reserve, Sam Sr never released any maps or information about his explorations. But after his father’s death, Sam Jr (Chub) provided some notes which were incorporated into an exploration map issued by the W.A. Lands Office. The original printed map had been issued in April 1942 and showed the routes of explorers Giles, Tietkens, Carnegie, Hann, and Terry in this part of Western Australia.
In the National Library of Australia, Canberra, is a microfilmed copy of a later issue of the map bearing added notations handwritten in red ink. Dated November 24, 1958, it bears this notice by a staff surveyor: “Notations in red have been made from information supplied by Mr S. Hazlett, who passed through this country in company with his father, during the thirties. The route taken approx followed the boundary and extended from the RAWLINSON RANGES to HALL’S CREEK, transport was by camel.” The microfilmed map does not show Sam’s route, just Chub’s notes on water discoveries and a couple of mineral possibilities. The imperfectly focussed filming which rendered the red ink notations black, the woeful handwriting, and the sheer size and detail of the map, combine to make it unsuitable for reproduction here. The map shown here omits the previous explorers’ tracks and covers just the border area. It shows in bold italic print all of Chub’s notes, as near as they can be deciphered. (It is believed these were not in Chub’s handwriting, but that of some surveyor or clerk in the Lands and Surveys Department Plan Room.)
Damage to the original map before it was microfilmed makes quite indecipherable the notes and bearings which refer to sand hills east of the Davenport Hills. Note that the state border in the southern half of the map is accurately positioned, but in the northern half the longitude of the Winnecke Hills, the Kintore Range, and other features places them much too far to the west and the wrong side of the border. This was the edge of unknown country. Chub’s only references to minerals show the suggestion of wolfram just near Gill Pinnacle and scheelite near the Pass of the Abencerrages in the Rawlinson Range. The note “No water” between the Wooroo Rock Hole and the Wongzi Rock Hole is so badly written that some think it is just a penman’s test scribble of the pen.
The microfilm can be seen in Canberra’s National Library of Australia catalogued as: 1971, Western Australian exploration plans (microform); card no. 165; date 1930s; Cadastral plan XII/800 (S. Hazlett’s camel trip Rawlinson Range to Halls Creek). The Library Australia ID number is 12523559.
Map 6. CAGE Co’s Map from Ion Idriess
Ion L. Idriess was a very popular 20th century author who wrote on Australiana, particularly bush life. Only a few months after Lasseter’s death he published Lasseter’s Last Ride, a book which made both himself and Lasseter famous. Part fact, part fiction, the book went through many editions, but in some later editions the rear end paper showed this map. Idriess obtained information for his book from CAGE directors, and this map came from them. It shows a circle of 100 miles (161 kilometres) radius centred on three hills which lay ten miles (sixteen kilometres) south-west of Lake Christopher. This circle represents an area requested at one time by CAGE as a prospecting reservation. The W.A. Mines Department would reserve such an area for a period of several months to give the exclusive right to an applicant to peg claims. We can assume that at some time CAGE believed these three hills might be Lasseter’s “Three Sisters.” They are easily found on Google Earth as explained in Chapter 25. The map can be seen in the 27th edition of Idriess’ book which came out in 1942, and other editions.
Map 7. Errol Coote’s Map
This map is drawn upon page 68 of Errol Coote’s personal copy of The Reader’s Digest Complete Atlas of Australia, an atlas whose first edition was dated 1968. Coote died in 1973, so this map represents the thinking of Errol Coote in the very last years of his life. Unlike Fred Blakeley, Coote in the end believed in Lasseter’s story. Although a reckless pilot, he was leader at one stage of the Lasseter expedition and in close personal contact with key figures in the search, Paul Johns and Lasseter himself. Coote spent years searching for and thinking about Lasseter’s reef, so his ideas late in life must be considered with attention and respect.
The map became public knowledge when it was shown to Luke Walker’s camera in an interview with Alison Coote, Errol’s widow, for the documentary film Lasseter’s Bones. Copyright issues preclude the reproduction of Coote’s actual atlas page, but the map shown here gives the essential information Coote’s map was designed to convey.
It seems that two distinctly different theories are represented in this map. It would appear that firstly he placed an X on the chart between Mount Buttfield and Schwerin Mural Crescent, in sand ridges just north of Sladen Water, at 24⁰52’ south, 128⁰18’ east. Then in the top margin of the page (but shown here in the map’s title panel) he printed: “X ESTIMATED POSITION OF LASSETER’S REEF.”
Then, apparently at a later time, with a pencil he crossed out this wording. In red ink he marked on the map three hills at 25⁰03’ south, 127⁰47’ east, and underlined in red three other features: Prostanthera Hill, Mount Muir, and an un-named salt lakelet situated at 25⁰26’39” south, 127⁰52’21” east. In red he labelled Mount Muir “Quaker Hat.” In pencil he drew a line from the three hills to Prostanthera Hill. It would seem that finally he considered Lasseter’s reef was roughly ten miles due east from the lakelet and near that pencil line.
All of these geographical features are easily found on Google Earth with the exception of his “three hills” which he probably saw when flying his aerial survey of this area in late 1932. The country at that spot is very uneven and the high points he called his three hills are not easily identified. As well, bear in mind that Coote’s 1968 atlas is not as accurate giving latitude and longitude as the modern satellite imagery employed in Google Earth.
The area around Mount Muir may have been a trackless desert once, but by zooming in, several roads can easily be seen. Some of these lead to a spot named Walu nearby, so the area is clearly accessible in our time.
Map 8. Latitude from the Stars
Lasseter and other prospectors mostly navigated by known landmarks, compass, and estimated camel speed. But there were some bush wanderers who sometimes used the stars to help navigate in unknown country, even if they carried no navigation or surveying instruments. Men like Sam Hazlett and his sons who spent years in the desert got to know the stars intimately, for the darkness of the clear desert skies shows forth the stars with a brightness and a glory unimaginable in a brightly lit city.
Today’s grey nomads know that when in northern parts of Australia they will see the Southern Cross arc through the night sky low to the south, but when they are in southern states the Cross is much higher in the sky. The principle behind this can be used to measure, roughly, the observer’s latitude. It is simply a matter of looking straight upwards and noting what stars (or areas between the stars) pass overhead at the exact zenith of the observer’s position. This point in the sky can be located by erecting a plumb line, a freely hanging weight on a cord, in such a way that the observer can sight along the cord itself to the zenith point in the sky. A flat weight is needed, and enough subdued light to see the cord but not enough to dim the starlight.
When Lasseter and Blakeley were at Mount Marjorie in the spring of 1930, if they had observed the sky in the hours before sunrise they would have seen that their zenith point slowly moved amongst the stars of the constellation Canis Major (the Big Dog) just north of the star Omicron Two. This line of travel marks what is known as declination 23⁰20’ south in the sky, and on earth as latitude 23⁰20’ south. Omicron Two itself is at 23⁰47’ south.
Once Lasseter and Johns had journeyed south to Stevenson Peak, an observation before dawn would have shown the zenith point travelling just north of the star Delta, and they would have known they were about 25⁰30’ south, give or take half a degree, for Delta’s declination is 26⁰21’ south. At other times of the night or other seasons of the year, other constellations can be employed. Lasseter and Johns in the spring season could have observed the stars of Sagittarius, Capricornus and Aquarius in the hours after sunset. This bushman’s method uses no instruments other than a weight on a cord, and no calculations are necessary, just a good star map or a list of stars and their declinations.
In 1930 Lasseter himself did not use such a method for he had obtained surveying qualifications in 1909. But in the 1890s, when he (or the person who provided him with the details of the reef’s location) first found the reef, some such rough latitude estimate may have been used, judging by the distance north and south of their target latitude Lasseter and Johns travelled in their search. The target was stated by Lasseter to be 150 miles (241 kilometres) south of Mount Marjorie, that is at latitude 25⁰30’ south.
Map 9A. Journey to Lasseter’s Lookout (Lasseter’s strip map)
This is Harry Lasseter’s own strip map, found in his Diary, of the CAGE Company expedition’s attempt to push southward from Ilbilba in the Thornycroft truck. Though only a rough sketch, it gives the bearings taken by Lasseter from “Lasseter’s Lookout,” the most southerly point the expedition succeeded in reaching.
Map 9B. Journey to Lasseter’s Lookout (view as on Google Earth)
By adding the Google Earth tool to Lasseter’s map and Blakeley’s account of the journey (in Fred Blakeley, Dream Millions,Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1972, pp. 129-144), we can learn much more. This is a good example of how to use Google Earth, and also a revealing example of the untrue and unfair commentary from Blakeley about Lasseter which followed the prospector’s cruel death.
Blakeley’s story was that they pushed southward until they were 150 miles south of Mount Marjorie. This was the place Lasseter wanted to go. But they were blocked from travelling farther by a “Great Breakaway,” a sort of crumbling cliff edge, which Blakeley claimed stretched eastward and westward for hundreds if not thousands of miles. At this point Blakeley accused Lasseter of being “bushed.” In telling his tale, Blakeley was very miserly with figures, saying they did not record mileage but rather the hours they travelled each day, and saying that they even lost count of the days. Yet he also insisted he was careful reckoning the distances they travelled, and that “Lasseter’s Last Lookout” (as he termed it) was 150 miles south of Mount Marjorie.
On the other hand, Lasseter recorded the three bearings shown on his strip map. Using Google Earth we can plot those bearings on the satellite view. Ilbilba, he said, was on a bearing of 54⁰ east of north. This bearing would be taken on the nearest peak in the Ehrenberg Range to the Ilbilba Soak, and is shown here in red. Mt Rennie, he said, was 70⁰ west of north, the bearing shown here in blue. The range of hills near Mount Rennie, which he appears to have called the Irene Range after his wife, he sketched as 10⁰ north of west. There is some doubt as to which peak in that range he used for the bearing, but I have chosen to use the nearer end of the range, which provides the green line on this map. See how the three coloured lines come together in a triangle on the map. Somewhere in or near that triangle, depending on the accuracy of his compass and of his sightings, must be the features known as Lasseter’s Lookout and the Breakaway or cliff edge. Using Google Earth, moving the cursor around on the screen and watching the changing elevations of the land, we can quickly find them. Blakeley described the lookout as “a little high knob of flint-stone, only a shallow bed of it lying in the sandstone.” You can see that dark flint-stone just to the south-east of our triangle. It is a little hill named on maps today as Johnstone Hill. The highest part of it, which you will find at latitude 23⁰38’15.98”S and longitude 130⁰01’28.51”E, is Lasseter’s Lookout. If you check with your cursor over a 3-mile (4.8 km) line running south-west from that lookout you will see that the country falls away to a valley about 200 feet (60 metres) below, just as Blakeley described. The dark dashes in curving lines running west from the lookout are the rocky outcrops or breakaways which blocked the expedition’s progress. There can be no doubt that we have located the true position of Lasseter’s Lookout.
However, when we come to measuring distances we find that it was Blakeley who was “bushed,” not Lasseter. Far from being 150 miles from Mount Marjorie and Ilbilba, the lookout is only 43 miles from Mount Marjorie and only 30 miles from Ilbilba. Blakeley said Lake Macdonald was 100 miles to the north-west, but that lake was almost directly west. Looking to the south they saw ranges of hills which they reckoned were 80 miles distant, and Blakeley said they were the Petermanns. This was really Bloods Range and the distance of 80 miles was quite accurate, though some more distant peaks visible may have been in the Petermanns. But the measure of how “bushed” Blakeley was is shown by the fact that if they were really 150 miles south of Mount Marjorie they would have been south of the Petermanns as explained at Maps 2 and 8.
Blakeley wrote that Lasseter said to him, “I don’t know what to think of your argument about the distance.” The upshot was that the completely lost Blakeley ended the expedition, but blamed Lasseter for its failure.
How could they have been so wrong in their measurements? The answer lies in the nature of the country and the route they were forced to take. They had wanted to travel south-west, following the route Lasseter and Hall had taken in the plane. However they were forced southward and even to the south-east by the rough country. They had to dodge obstacles and sometimes backtrack from dead-ends. The truck’s wheels often slipped and spun in sand, so the vehicle’s odometer gave completely false readings. Their measurements were wild estimations.
About four days out Blakeley estimated they had covered 60 or 70 miles, but after that his account describes coming upon “our chief landmark ̶ two razor-backed hills about four hundred feet high. We called them Sutherland Hills.” (George Sutherland was a prospector with the party.) Shown on this map, these hills are only fifteen miles from Ilbilba, and are surprisingly far to the east. You will find them on Google Earth at 23⁰30’46.37”S and 130⁰31’9.94”E (the highest peak). There are no other such hills anywhere in the region. Then the expedition travelled down the channels between the sand ridges, trying to head south-west but often forced to head almost west, and still having to backtrack often when channels closed up. This round-about route added greatly to Blakeley’s estimation errors, until he really was seriously “bushed.”
Copyright 2015 Jim McKeague
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