27. BIG PUSH the.
"It was at Ilbilba that we made our plans for the 'Big Push' "


Planning for the 'Big Push', the final stage to the reef, began immediately the expedition arrived at Illbilla. Blakeley was anxious to keep moving, concerned at the onset of hot weather and the possibility of Michael Terry, or the Western Australian party (probably the Quest Expedition under Larry Wells) finding the reef before C.A.G.E. Coote and Colson returned to Ai Ai Creek that afternoon, Colson would continue on to Alice Springs and return to Illbilla and perhaps beyond with further supplies, while Coote would return within three days, flying the Golden Quest. Meanwhile Taylor started overhauling the Thornycroft, while water was collected and supplies repacked. The preparations continued without Blakeley being any the wiser as to the direction in which the 'Big Push' was to proceed, "So far Harry had not complied with his contract to divulge this information to me". Perhaps Lasseter was withholding this imaginary information until Coote returned with the plane.

It is possible that Mount Marjorie was not Lasseter's original destination as Blakeley infers, Lasseter always intended to travel to a point south west of Illbilla, whether that journey start from Illbilla or Haast Bluff is another matter. And if there's any truth in Idriess, then Sutherlands remark at Mount Marjorie could be close to it, "return to Illbilla and set out from there as originally intended". Those original intentions were thwarted by the crash of the Golden Quest, and new plans had to be made, at least to occupy the men until Coote and Hall return with the replacement plane. The opportunity may as well be taken to explore to the west of Illbilla where there was a known landmark, Mount Marjorie.

Blakeley forced the issue about ten days later, thoroughly aggravated at the delay caused by the plane crash and increasingly anxious at the advance of summer. He confronted Lasseter and demanded the vital information or return to Alice Springs, "All I managed to get out of him was on the day we left Illbilla ~ Keep, first of all, a point or two north of west, showing me the position on the map of Lake Macdonald about 130 miles west of us". Relieved to have an objective at last, Blakeley got the 'Big Push' underway early in the afternoon of 18/8/30. The journey ended a week later with Lasseter's startling revelation on the top of Mount Marjorie, the 'Big Push' was 150 miles too far north.

There is no indication in Blakeley's narrative that he was overly concerned at the distance or direction of the 'Big Push', perhaps he was treating this sojourn to the west as a 'trip of opportunity' pending the arrival of a plane. He had expected to travel some further distance from Illbilla probably closer to the Western Australia border, as Lasseter had vaguely indicated back in Sydney. Apart from some repairable damage to the vehicle and the usual slog over sandhills, the outward journey was uneventful if not occasionally pleasant, Lasseter restored some of his standing by correctly predicting a belt of mineralised country and reassuring Blakeley that he was confident he would pick up his bearings from Mount Marjorie, in fact Lasseter's liver seems to have been quiescent for the duration, he and Blakeley were on reasonably good terms for the week; the daily log of the Big Push from 18/8/30 to 27/8/30 is set out in Sullivan's Diary.

R.Ross. 1999-2006

Blakeley Fred Dream Millions 61,61,77-104. Coote E. H. Hell's Airport 174. Idriess Ion L. Lasseter's Last Ride 51-58.