"Time and time again she drew the mats under the wheels".
COOTE 113 


The first expedition carried four 50 foot rolls, eighteen inches wide, of coconut fibre matting to assist the vehicles in negotiating soft sand and dunes, "All hands to the mats", became a monotonous cry from Blakeley as the men pushed west, the matting was laid in front of the vehicle and the leading edge carefully guided under the front wheels, it was a tricky job to keep the heavy Thornycroft on the narrow trackway with the chance of the driving wheels pulling the matting out of control and into a tangled heap, sometimes resulting in a worse bog and no progress made.

It was probably the most arduous job on the expedition and took at least four strong men to run an efficient relay of the heavy lose material ahead of the vehicles, occasional spurts of unassisted headway were a mixed blessing, the thorn ridden matting had to be carried that much further. Sutherland and Blakeley were impressed and amused that the Captain would suffer without complaint, the spear points of the porcupine spinifex, the sweat and the sand, "for experience", although the well organised Captain would have wondered at the lack of gloves for the mat men.

The reduced manpower on the expeditions journey to Lasseter's Lookout was keenly felt when it came to wrestling the now well worn coir strips into place, ( the Captain had returned to duty and Micky to his own country) "when it got down to George and me and with the hot weather on us, I can tell you we often got the trembles". The matting had limitations and could not be used in stony ground and very carefully at creek crossings, sharp stones and pebbles frayed the matting very quickly. Blakeley probably considered abandoning the heavy bulky equipment and wondered if this aid did not get the vehicles into more bogs than out of them.


R.Ross. 1999-2006

Blakeley Fred Dream Millions 14,19,28. Hard Liberty 159,160. Coote E.H. Hell's Airport 77. Idriess Ion Lasseter's Last Ride 20,21.