115. HAASTS BLUFF.
"a peculiar mountain that seemed to stand on it's own".
Blakeley, F. Dream Millions. 36. 

 

Ernest Giles named this spectacular rock formation in 1872 after the distinguished New Zealand geologist, J. F. J. von Haast. The Aranda people know the locality as Anjili and it is a site of considerable significance in Aboriginal lore. The first C.A.G.E. Expedition arrived at the, "towering sentinel of the MacDonnells west of the Derwent Creek", late in the afternoon on 30/7/30. The awe inspiring sight of the setting sun on the Bluff caused Coote and Taylor to forget the troubles of getting the vehicles across the creek and, "bolt for our cameras to capture the beauty of that scene". The men made a pleasant camp about a mile from the base of the bluff, while Blakeley and Colson searched up and down the creek for water, but without success.

The men were busy that evening repairing the numerous punctures from the days run and according to Blakeley bemoaning the long hard working days and the lack of water and his unpopular decision not to deviate from the route or spend time looking for water. Blakeley emphasised that time was pressing and getting to the reef before the onset of hot weather was the objective. It was Sutherland, probably with the backing of Coote and Taylor who pointed out to the Leader that the arduous days work, "would crack up the team". Blakeley agreed to camp a little earlier each day.

Haasts Bluff was a place of considerable significance to Coote also and he made much of the indecision that occurred next morning as the Expedition continued to the west. Apparently Lasseter recalled travelling to the south of the bluff in his 1897 trip, but as far as Blakeley was concerned there was no choice to be made and insisted on the route north of the range as originally agreed in Sydney. Coote as well as many other commentators infer that Haasts Bluff is the point where things began to go wrong for the Expedition and Blakeley's decision was the ultimate cause for the failure to find the reef.

This is Coote at his disingenuous best, while it is possible to travel to Illbilla via a southern route, he ignores the fact that sooner or later the Expedition and the Thornycroft would have to face the impossible task of crossing Lake Amadeus in order to reach Lasseter's Reef, located somewhere in the Petermann or Rawlinson Ranges. later in September, Coote adds hypocrisy to blithe ignorance by acknowledging that Ayers Rock, "was on the borders of Lasseter Country", and "I intended going in from Charlotte Waters as that is practically on a direct line with Ayers Rock". Coote added that it was a better watered base than Illbilla from which to mount the search for the missing prospector. Of course by that time Coote had secret knowledge of Lasseter's intentions.

Even with hindsight Coote fails to ask the obvious question, if Lasseter's Reef was somewhere in the Rawlinson or Petermann Ranges why start the search by travelling north out of Alice Springs then travelling south at Haasts Bluff??. If Blakeley had known of Lasseter's true destination at the outset he would certainly have started the Expedition from a rail siding south of Alice Springs, possibly Rumbalara, to take advantage of the track west that Michael Terry and his mates had blazed just a few weeks earlier. Perhaps Lasseter was trying to avoid Terry.

Whatever the long term consequences of the choice of direction at Haasts Bluff, the Expedition got off to a keystone cops start next morning. Blakeley was left stranded without transport until rescued by Coote and the Captain. The exuberant Taylor, alone in the speeding Thornycroft motored many miles more or less in the right direction, Blakeley with dignity bruised was determined to chastise Taylor and a chase ensured. This is one of the few occasions in their narratives where Coote and Blakeley agree in writing about the timing and place of an incident.

Blakeley was profoundly affected by the singular beauty of the Bluff and left special instructions with Phillip Taylor regarding disposal of his ashes on his death. Taylor wrote to Pastor A. Scherer at Hermannsberg in September 1962 requesting the Pastor scatter Blakeley's ashes at the foot of Haast's Bluff. After some delay Pastor Scherer was able to commit Blakeley's remains on 17/2/63 and had a stone memorial and sign, erected nearby; and contrary to yet another recent myth, Blakeley's ashes were not flown by helicopter to the top of the Bluff and scattered from there.

LASSETERIA

R.Ross. 1999-2006

Blakeley, F. Dream Millions. 38,39. Clacherty, Desmond. R.  On Lasseter's Trail. 23.  Coote, E. H.  Hell's Airport. 83-89. Idriess, Ion. L.  Lasseter's Last Ride. 27,147. Lutheran Archives. Marshall-Stoneking.  Lasseter, the Making of a Legend. 37,39.