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20 Jul

McClellland et. al., “The Report of the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia”, ISBN 0 644 04434 9, Set of two volumes, Volume 1, 6.4, The Black Mist.
The following is a cut and paste from an image based pdf of the original document.  Image to text conversion errors will take a little time to correct.

6.4 The Black Mist
6.4.1 One of the most dramatic allegations regarding Aborigines and the nuclear tests is what has become known as IThe Black Mist Incident I. It became a matter of general pUblic notice after a story appeared about it in The Advertiser in Adelaide on J May 1980. ‘rhe story was told to a reporter by Mr Yami Lester who claimed that his blindness was a result of the incident. The Royal Commission heard evidence from Lester, from other Aboriginal people who were with him at the time of the alleged incident, and from other Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people who claim to have experienced the phenomenon in other locations.
6.4.2 Descriptions of the Black Mist are given in the detailed discussion of evidence which follows. In essence it is alleged that a black cloud or mist passed over, enveloped and deposited material on people following the Totem I explosion. Host of the people affected were at Wallatinna where it is further alleged that various symptoms of illness occurred. Vomiting, diarrhoea, skin disorders, blindness dnd deaths have been linked with the alleged phenomenon.
6.4.3 A number of interrelated questions have been addressed by the Royal Commission regarding these allegations:
(a) Did the physical phenomenon known as the Hlack Mist occur?
( b) Was it a result of Totem 1<
(c)
Did it cause illness and death?
(d)
Did it cause Yami Lester’s blindness?
The Physical Phenomenon
Eyewitness accounts
6.4.4 Yami Lester described his experience at Wallatinna. He heard la big bang, …a big noise, an explosion’ at the sound of which the other people present started talking, one of them referring to the army. Later, something in the air
I …was coming from the south, black-like smoke. I was thinking it might be a dust storm, but it was qUiet,

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Just moving, as it looks like, through the trees and
above that again, you know. It was just rOlling and
moving quietly.’ LTrans., p. 7117 J
6.4.5 The old people at Wallatinna were scared, fearing tnat the phenomenon was a maau or spirit. They tried to direct it away from their camp with woomeras. Later, said Lester, people were sick with sore eyes, watery eyes and diarrhoea. Some people developed skin rashes (Trans., p.71l9], and Yami himself had all of these symptoms, in addition to which he claims that he went temporarily blind in his left eye and permanently lost the sight in his right eye.
6.4 .. 6 At Wallatinna, the Royal Commission heard evidence in group from KanytJi and Pingkayi (Yami’s father and mother), Lily Kanginy, Eileen Brown, Jimmy, Myrtle, Norman and Harry Wallatinna, Andy Tjanyiri, KUnmanara Tjapilyi, Judy £1ayawara, Alec Haker and Whiskey Tjukanku. Kanytji, Pingkayi and others said that they heard the blast (Trans., pp.7180-l]. After the blast, Kanytji ‘thought the smoke was some cloud of some sort, or a mist’. It came from the south-west, • … it was wide, it was fairly low on the ground and it looked black and spreading out… it was coming slow with tne wind pushing it’ [Trans., pp.7l82-3J. Eileen Brown reported that ‘when the cloud came over the top of them it sort of turned white dnd made their personal shadows look queer’. All of the others present also reported that they saw the cloud, smoke or puyu [Trans., pp.7l84-6J.
6.4.7 Pingkayi said that the smoke ‘had a really strong smell and she got sick dnd vomiting’ [Trans., p.7l89J. Others too, according to PingKdyi, were coughing, varni t.ing and getting headachesj Jimmy Wallatinna agreed with this LTrans., p.7l9lj. Pingkayi gave evidence that she, Yami dnd Kelly got sore eyes LTrans., p.71YOJ; Kanytji and Pingkayi said that before the smoke Yami’s eyes were ;)l<ay LTrans., p.7l’:l2j. Angelina Ldmbina gave evidence at Wallatinna that she had been at Wintinna when the puyu passed over, ‘black’, and ‘fairly high’ LTrans., p.7205j.
6.4.H In the Wallatinna group evidence, it was reported that people had died LTrans., p.7l90j but because of the unique counting system of the Pitjantjatjara people (Trans., p.7l93J and the taboos which operate about mentioning death, the numbers alleged to have died could not be dscertained. Similarly, the numbers of people actually at Wallatinna when the puyu passed could not be obtained from the people who gave evidence, but Morrison’s and MacDougall’s reports (see para.6.].50 and 6.3.60) put the Aboriginal numbers between 30 and 40.
6.4.9 Mrs Lalli Lennon gave evidence of hearing ‘a big noise … ‘ [‘”frans., p.7148], ‘it rumbled, the ground shook, it was frightening’ LTrans., p.7147J. This was when she was south of Mintabie where, some time after the noise, a black smoke came over from the south. This formed a big cloud which went down to the ground and over the mulgas. After this, she said, she and
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her two children developed fevers, headaches, vomiting dnd diarrhoea. Her son developed a skin rash at the time, she and the son had sore eyes, and she developed sores on her skin about two weeks later.
6.4.10 Stan Lennon saw a smoke or cloud come over south of Mintabie, saying it was ‘sort of hazy, like a fog or something … ‘ [Trans., p.7168J, it was ‘bluish’ and ‘heading north’ [Trans., p.7169J. tie said he remembered the children vomiting and Jennifer ‘was choking and all sorts of things’ [Trans., p.7170]. Stan Lennon said he was not aware of Lalli Lennon’ 5 skin problems until the 1960s: he also developed skin problems in 1977.
6.4.11 The above witnesses who gave evidence about the Black Mist are all Aborigines. The Royal Commission also heard eye witness reports from non-Aboriginal people.
6.4.12 Mrs A Lander reported seeing a ‘strange cloud’ LTrans., p.7097J at about 10 a.m. coming from the south-west towards her at Never Never, about 12-15 miles from Welbourn Hill homestead. She described it in the following way;
‘Although it was the colour of a rain cloud, darkish, it did not have the compact, rolling look that a rain cloud would have. It was just a sort of a mass, and it had at the top of it, which was most unusual, like d banner … I LTrans., p.7098]
6.4.13 Mrs Lander said that the cloud could have been in the tops of the mulga trees as she observed it (Trans., p.7099j, that fine, sticky dust appeared to fall from it, and that it did not appear to be accompanied by any wind [Trans., p. 7102J. When asked I
So the cloud wh;ich you observed would be consistent with a cloud in fact passing through Vvallatinna before it got to Never Never?’
Mrs Lander replied tdefinitely’.
6.4.14 Mrs Lander later discussed the incident with Mrs Ellen Giles who also gave evidence to the Royal Commission. Because of her state of health, and her unwillingness to give evidence (in which she was encouraged by her daughter), Mrs Giles’ evidence is less than completely satisfactory. However, she did describe a morning dustfall at Welbourn Hill:
‘It was not a big storm. It was this mixie sort of thing, black outside, and it went and it even killed the fruit trees.’ LTrans., p.3176J
6.4.15 She said that the fallout was greasy and had to be washed from the house. Mrs Lander believed from her discussion
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with Mrs Giles that the fallout at Welbourn Hill was heavier than she experienced at Never Never.
6.4.16 Mr Ernest Giles tendered a statement to the Royal Commission lRC 679] in which he says that he heard an explosion at Emu and saw ‘a mountain of smoke in the distance’. He was at Ethels Well, about seven miles from Wintinna homestead. About three hours later a cloud passed over, ‘ …not like a dust storm. It was more like a cloud, except it was a different colour from a rain cloud’. Be went on to describe it as a ‘weird pinky-orange colour’ dnd said he could not see it dropping anything to the ground. This was on a fairly calm day and the cloud moved north-north-east.
Scientific and Other Evidence
6.4.17 v~hen it was reported in The Advertiser, Yami Lester’s story aroused considerable interest. Ti t terton was quick to respond, stating in the ABC’s ‘PM’ program (14 May 1980) that
‘No such thing can possibly occur, I don’t know of any black mists. No black mists have ever been reported until this scare campaign was started…The radioactive cloud is in fact at 30,OUO feet, not at ground level. And it’s not black …
‘ …Now I’m not sur~, if you investigate black mist, sure your going to get into an area where mystique is the central feature and you’ll never be able to establish or not.’ Ll{C ,,00, p.800120]
b.4.Hl Asked if he would support dn investigation into the sturies he answered:
‘No that would be a complete waste of money and time.’
Ll{C 800, p.800120J
6.4.19 A note prepared by the UK [>1inistry of Defence diso discussed the idea of a black mist:
‘The paper (302 of 9.5.80) suggests that a group of up
to 45 tribal aboriginals were enveloped in a “rolling
black mist” after the British detonated a powerful “A”
bomb in the South Australian desert in 1953. The 1953
shots were tower shots dnd there is no way that any
phenomenon corresponding to this description could have
been experienced at a distance of 170 km NE of Emu
Field (21.5.80).’ LRC 800, p.800156J
6.4.20 The assumption was that such a phenomenon could not have occurred. Nevertheless, in the face of continuing news media attentiO[l dnd questions in the Federal and South Australian
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Parliaments, the Federal Government decided to nave the matter investigated.
6.4.21 Un 18 September 1980, the Hon 0 S Tnomson, then Minister for Science and the Environment, sought the assistance of the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council (AlRAC) to determine whether the occurrence of ‘black mists I in Central Australia was due to the nuclear tests. AlRAe, in the Report AIRAC 9, agreed
‘ …to determine to the extent now possible the nature
and tne distribution of fallout from the nuclear tests,
identify the potential harmful effects of this fallout,
and express an opinion on the effectiveness of the
arrangements made to protect the health of the
Australian public during the nuclear tests. I LAlRAC
1983. p.3J
6.4.22 This term of reference, which subsumed the more specific Black Mist enquiry, was part of a broader investigation which resulted in the AlRAC 9. This investigation and the report are discussed in detail in Chapter 15.
6.4.23 With regard to AlRAC’s conclusions on the occurrence of the alleged physical phenomenon, AlRAC conceded that, at least, the cloud from an explosion could have been observed:
‘It is uncertain whether or not the detonation could have been heard at Wallatinna, but it is evident that the passage of the cloud over or near Wallatinna would have been visible for a considerable distance to either side of its path••• ‘ LAlRAC 1’i83. p.49J
and
‘It is possible that the physical accompaniments of the nuclear tests were observed by Aboriginals and misconstrued as harbingers of disaster.’ Lloc.cit.J
6.4.24 AIRAC also reached the conclusion that, given prevailing meteorological conditions, blast yields and distances from all the tests at Emu and r1aralinga, such an observed phenomenon at Wallatinna could have been related only to the Totem 1 test at Emu.
6.4.25 AIRAC also concluded that
‘The precautions taken to ensure that Aborlginals living in the area were not endangered by tIle nuclear tests were carefully planned and executE;!d, and AlRAC has found no evidence that any Aboriginals were inJured by the nuclear tests.’ [ibid., p. 2]
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0.4.26 AlRAC 9, though, was certainly not the last word on the sUbject. Allegations of the Black Nist and its consequent harmful effects were again raised in England in The Observer on J April 1983. On 6 April, Dr F [-1organ, Deputy Director, Materials and Explosives, Atomic weapons Research Establishment
(AWRE), wrote to the Director-General of the Meteorological Office drawing his attention to The Observer article and asking \\hether it was possible for the phenomenon to have occurred. Preliminary investigations by the Special Investigations and Boundary Layer Research Branches of the Meteorological Office suggested that possibilities could not be ruled out of
(a)
debris being carried so far over the ground by low level winds: or
(b)
debris at higher levels falling out at the locations reporting the Black Mist.
6.4.27 A meeting held at AWRE resulted in a decision to undertake detailed modelling of the dispersion of the Totem I cloud. Dr W T Roach, AssIstant Director of the UK Meteorological Office, was asked
, … to estimate possible levels of air concentration and deposition of test debris in the vicinity of the affected sites, while Mr D G Vallis of AWR~ was briefed to estimate the degree of radioactivity associated with my estimates.’ LRC 253, p.2J
This investigation was reported in AWRE Safety Division Technical Note No 8/84, August 1984, entitled ‘Transport of Debris From the British Nuclear Test in South Australia on 15 October 1953’ [RC 253].
6.4.2H The model which Roach and Vallis constructed has as its interrelated elements known facts, estimates and assumptions which form the basis for mathematical and statistical calculatIons. They take as known that
(a)
the rising convective boundary layer (CBL) can reach 1500 metres by mid-afternoon and entrain descending particles;
(b)
wind movements were generally south-west, light at the surface and increasing gradually with height:
(c)
there was little wind shear;
(d)
the cloud preserved itself as a visible entity for at least 24 hours.
6.4.29 The AWRE estimates of particle size distribution suggested that there was a generally log-normal distribution of mass about an aerodynamic diameter (ad) of 20 rnicrometres for the
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main cloud with a standard deviation (sd) of a factor of 3. For the stem, the equivalent estimates were 60 micrometres and 4 respectively. It was further estimated that nine minutes after burst (when the heat energy had largely dissipated and the debris became subject to the normal atmospheric processes of turbulent diffusion, deformation and gravitational settling), the cloud consisted of a stem of about 1 KID in diameter topped by a main cloud extending in length from 2.7 to 4.6 krn and 3.7 ~m in width.
6.4.30 Simplifying, and other, assumptions taken for the model were that
(a)
the main cloud was a sphere 2.6 km in diameter with its base at 2.2 km altitude:
(b)
eighty-five per cent of the total mass was in the main cloud, the rest being in the st~m; and
(c)
the wind speed at the top of the CBL where debris was being entrained was very little faster than the mean wind speed in the CBL below.
6.4.31 For mathematical purposes, the stem was divided into horizontal slices each with its load of debris with the particle size distribution based on the AWRE estimates. It was then further assumed that the slices as a unit followed the wind profile with the particles moving downward, sUbject to normal gravity and air resistance, from one slice to another, the diameter of the particle sizes determining tneir terminal velocity.
6.4.32 For some later calculations, to see the effect of different particle size distributions, it was assumed that the size distribution was uniform throughout the cloud and could be centred on an ad of 40, 60 or 90 micrometres with an sd of a factor of 4.
The model was divided into two phases:
(a)
a fallout/entrainment phase for which were calculated the time, location and rate at which each slice of debris was entrained by the CBL after falling from higher levels; and
(b)
a diffusion phase which evaluated the concentration of the entrained material within the CBL as a function of space and time.
Calculations were then carried out for the ‘stem only’ material and for the ‘whole cloud’ dispersion with varying particle sizes.
6.4.33 For the stem only I material, the model showed that
I
after five hours 10 per cent of the stern debris remained above the CBL wi th two thirds of it having been deposi ted on the
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ground. The remaining fraction of the stem debris in the CBL reached a maximum of about 20 per cent between GZA+4 hours (G~A is nine minutes after detonation) Lsee Appendix A] and GZA+5 hours and with the entrainment process taking place under differing wind conditions as the CBL rose, fallout material from the stem was drawn into a curtain roughly perpendicular to the direction of movement. Local concentration of entrainment ‘could have been seen feeding into the top of the CBL perhaps as a “billowing” or “rolling” cloud 1 [RC 253, SDTN B/84, pp. 6-7 J.
6.4.34 Roach and Vallis went on to say that
‘After entrainment, the model “immediately” reduces this concentration by two or more orders of magnitude. In practice, this process may be lumpy and uneven, while mesoscale fluctuations in the wind field which are always present (but cannot be modelled here) will also introduce unevenness. Therefore the presence of local pockets of concentration intermediate between the mean eBL value and that above it probably occurred. They would probably be limited in horizontal extents
(say 1-3 Km) but large enough to have been noticeable as local visibility reductions perhaps as the reported “black mist”.’ [RC 253. SDTN 8/84. p.7]
The model further suggested that the local concentrations of stem debris 1n the eBL would have reached Wallatinna at about G%A+3 hours and 45 minutes with a reduced rate of entrainment when it reached Welbourn Hill.
6.4.35
When variations in assumed particle sizes (para.6.6.30) were fed into the model, an even more dramatic conclusion
was reached:
‘The horizontal visibility within the boundary layer would not have been significantly affected in spite of the large mass concentration; visibility is roughly proportional to the ratio of particle size to mass concentration; the increase in mass concentration is more than offset by the increase in mean particle size. However, the cloud would have been seen settling on top of the boundary layerI and would have stretched from horizon to horizon near the centre of the cloud. It would have been strange and awesome sight to anyone beneath it. A fine ‘drizzle ‘ of black particles would also have been noticed.’ [RC 253. SDTN 8/84. p.8j
6.4.36 On the point of the observed physical phenomenon, Roach and Vallis concluded
I
The models constructed on the avai lable data on the meteorology and debris cloud show that the sites reporting the “black mist” received fallout from the British test on 15 October 1953 and that debris being
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entrained into the convective boundary layer could have been of sufficient mass concentration and of appropriate particle sizes to have been visible to observers on the ground in the area of Wallatinna or Welbourn Hill and indeed might have had an appearance similar to that described. I [RC 253, p.ll]
6.4.37 In a commentary on the Roach and Vallis paper (attached as part of RC 253, Commentary on AWRE Safety Division Technical Note: SDTN 8/84, 18 September 1984J, wN Saxby said
I (a) it is a possibility that there may have been a visible phenomenon in the Wallatinna and Welbourn Hill area on 15 October 1953 that might have had an appearance similar to that described by Aboriginals … ‘ [RC 253, p.l]
6.4.38 To accompany his evidence, and at the request of the Royal Commission, Roach tendered a second statement LRC 311J in which he took some consideration of local fluctuations in fallout, effects of local topography, the role of turbulence and the size distribution of particles. In evidence, this statement and the original Roach-Vallis paper were discussed at length with Dr Roach reiterating that the main elements of the model are
(a)
where the particle mass is most concentrated by reference to height above the ground;
(b)
the height of the cloud as a separate element to reflect that concentration: and
(c)
the rate at which the CBL develops during the course of the morning and in particular the rate at which it was developing as the cloud approached Wallatinna. [Trans., p.5640]
6.4.39 He explained that, after discussions with Vallis about fallout observations, it was decided that a Gaussian rather than a power law distribution of particle sizes was the more realistic. A further assumption was made that the Gaussian distribution for the stem material would have its maximum particle concentration at a diameter of 60 micrometres. In his statement he said that
‘The particular choice of 60 micrometres for the mean aerodynamic diameter of particles in the stem in SDTN 8/84 happens to be close to the optimum for producing maximum fallout near Wallatinna. I [Re 311, p.3J
6.4.40 Roach presented the results of nine variations of the model in his second statement (RC 311] and compared each with the original report, SDTN ~/84. Roach had, by this stage, reached the conclusion that the most likely ‘new’ conditions for a Black
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Mist could result from a local increase in the height of the CBL
and for 50 per cent of the debris being concentrated two-thirds
of the way up the stem.
6.4.41 He stated that the local increase in the growth of the CBL was not inconsistent with observations of the behaviour of the cloud elsewhere. With regard to the distribution of the debris, he did not feel competent to comment, preferring that this be left to Siddons and Vallis. He did, however, suggest
that
‘All I can say is that I have been able to fiddle the model to produce a black mist. If it is shown that the mass distribution in the cloud was fundamentally different from the uniform then I think it is quite likely, but one would have to be able to show that.’ [Trans., p.5658]
6.4.42 Siddons estimated the stem debris at about 50 per cent of the total mass but added that thlS could range from 30-70 per cent [Trans., p.5700J. Vallis held out for a much lower 15 per cent but admitted that this was quite speculative.
6.4.43 Saxby stated several times in his evidence LTrans., p.6102] that after reading the Roach-Vallis material he was converted to believing that the Black Mist story had credibility.
6.4.44 In Australia Dr G Watson presented statements LRC 561J and gave evidence concerning the Black Mist. Watson was mainly concerned with radiological aspects, but he did write
‘The main cloud positions are shown because there is no doubt that, whatever may have been the case for the entrainment “curtain”, the main cloud would have been a conspicuous object and visible for many miles.’ LRC 561, Annexure, p.9j
6.4.45 It should also be noted that Watson assumed a mean partlcle size of 20 micrometres and particle size is relevant to both the observed phenomenon and radiological actiVity.. Watson bas-ed this assumption on data provided from US tests up to 1962 .. However, as the paper by J D MacDougall LRC 661J shows, the Australian and US tests are not directly comparable. Comparing, for example, a model developed by A V Shelton for US atomic clouds with data from operation Buffalo, MacDougall writes LP.7J
‘Comparison of the Buffalo results wi th the tihelton model showed considerable discrepancies between the two. The lognormal distribution of contamination with particle size gave only a moderate fit with experiment, the measurements implying too many small particles. The distribution of activity with height showed a higher proportion of activity in the stem from Buffalo than from the Shelton model.’
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6.4.46 Watson also had the following question put to him by Mr Eames:
‘You referred in your paper to gaining information from
American tests, would you agree that one of the
problems about doing that is that no two tests are in
fact alike and that one has to be very careful in drawing assumptions from other tests of apparently approximate size and designation? I [Trans., p.9943J
Watson agreed -‘Yes, that is quite right’.
6.4.47 The document ‘The Estimation of Medium Range Fall-out from a Near Surface Nuclear Explosion, TPN 91/56 I prepared by
I
E P Hicks, adds a further element of complexity. Hicks states that particle size decreases with increasing height. He writes
‘The short range fall-out, corresponding to the larger particles, will mostly fall from the stem. Medium range contamination largely falls from the cloud and perhaps the top of the stem.’ (Re 66H, p.5J
Other Relevant ~vidence
6.4.48 Although not necessarily directly related to the Totem 1 test, the Royal Commission also received other evidence relevant to the Black Mist incident.
6.4.49 After hearing from Yami Lester his version of the Black Mist, Dr Trevor Cutter, of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, decided to make further investigations of the incident. He visited Ernabella where he heard discussions of measles epidemics and the Black Mist and concluded that ‘an oral history of “black mists” at Ernabella was evident’ LRC 819, p.2932J. At Wallatinna he heard that the Black Mist came from the south, it passed through the area, and that it made some people sick and resulted in some deaths. Although Cutter was confronted with confusion about the numbers and ages of people affected, and although he was not certain that the mists resulted from the atomic tests, Mr I Morison (Department of National Development and Energy) wrote after interviewing him:
, … there is no question that what. he gleaned from the Aboriginals was oral history and had not been generated by press stories and subsequent gossip. He is firmly of the view that an oral history of “blaCK mistsU existed before the press reports of 1980.’ [Re 819, p.2933]
6.4.50 In a statement prepdred for the Royal Commission [Re 586] and discussed in her evidence, Professor Annette Hamilton said that she had heard the Black Mist story at Mimili
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from Kanytji and other men while she was carrying out research for her doctorate in 1970-71. Her informants located the incident as having happened at Wallatinna and ‘they then proceeded to recount the occurrence of the “Black Mist” in terms very similar to those heard in evidence … ‘ [RC 586, para. 36j. Commenting further on this evidence, Professor Hamilton wrote:
‘It is also worth noting that all these people would have an intimate understanding of normal physical events in their environment, and all noted that the puyu was different to anything they had previously experienced. A dust-storm might be the most comparable phenomenon, but this is always accompanied by a strong wind, whereas all those witnesses who mentioned wind described it at the time as a “breeze”, Mists, which do occur rarely dur ing the cold seasons, might be similar in some respects but they do not usually move and are white in colour. Therefore the description of this as a unique phenomenon has considerable credibility.’ Libid., para.19j
6.4.51 It is perhaps also significant that in relation to the first of the later Buffalo Tests a black cloud was reported. A telegram of the time (2 October 1956) is quoted here verbatim:
‘To Director Maralinga Repeat Lawrence Maralinga Frm Rocran Jay MacDougall camped at Ingomar dog fence on Coober Pedy short road last night. He reports men employed at Ingomar who were camped 15 miles west of Mt Penrhyer [sic] bore on 27th September report that a very blcak [sicJ cloud detached itself from main cloud and travelled northwards and then rejoined main cloud. This occurred about 1300 hours. They thought that the area covered by the black cloud would be Robin Rise, Rankins Darn and area south of Lake Phillipson. At night when they were in bed particles of sandy dust were hitting their Cdnvas camp sheets very similar to raindrops message ends. 1100 schedule with MacDougall today was abortive due to interference.’ (RC 819, p.1038]
6.4.52 A possibly similar incident in the USA was reported by Pendleton et al. [1963j in the journal ‘Health Physics’. They wrote of such a cloud on the day after the Sedan explosion on 6 July 1962.
‘One of the authors had taken a group of students about 20 miles southeast of Salt Lake City to measure the background radiation near various rock formations. A dusty cloud was observed approaching and when the cloud arrived, radiation levels rose to 2 mr/hr, or about 100 times higher than the normal background for this area.’
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While the Sedan explosion, unlike Totem 1, was an underground explosion in which the surface was ruptured, it, like the phenomenon observed from Ingomar Dog Fence, suggests that the Black Mist at Wallatinna was not necessarily a unique occurrence.
6.4.53 Most of the eyewitness accounts of the Black Mist relate it to some form of explosion-like noise. Yami Lester has consistently reported hearing a noise like a shot-gun LAB II, p.S) and a Ibig bang, …a big noise, an explosion’ [Trans’ r p.7ll?]i Lalli Lennon said ‘it rumbled, the ground shook’
I
(Trans., p. 7147 J i Stan Lennon heard a big rumble I lTrans. ,
p. 7168j i and in the group evidence at Wallatinna there were repeated reports of ‘the blast·, and ‘two blasts I LTrans., p.71aO]. The eyewitness accounts are also consistent in reports of hearing the noise very early in the morning [Kanytji, for example, put it at just after sunrise, p.7180J and in the arrival of the cloud several hours later. Mrs Lander put the time of the cloud l s arrival at before lunch-time LTrans., p.7098j. yami Lester said [AB 11, p.5] that the cloud arrived in the morning, possibly the next day.
6.4.54 Mrs Lander thought that the time of the year was lin the latter part of 1953’ LAB 10. p. 5J. Lalli Lennon said her daughter, born in June 1953 was still a baby LAB 12, p.3J, very young [Trans .• p.7145J. st111 breast-feeding [Trans •• p.7146j.
6.4.55 Given that Wallatinna is 173 km from Emu and 323 km from Maralinga, given the various cloud movements, and eyewitness accounts of the time of year, it seems that only the Totem tests need to be considered in relation to the Black Mist. Of these, the minimal wind shear for Totem 1, and the remarkable coherence of the ‘rotern 1 cloud, plUS the fact that Totem I was fired at
6.57 a.m. indicate that if the Black Mist resulted from an atomic test, that test must have been Totem 1.
Contamination at Wallatinna
6.4.56 The gamma dose rate on the centre-line of the fallout plume from Totem 1 at a distance of 173 km from Ground Zero is
0.82 r/h (corrected to H+l) (see para.6.2.11). This is the distance from Ground Zero to Wallatinna. Although Wallatinna is probably not right on the centre-line, in estimating the maximum possible dose, it is necessary to make the conservative assumption that the fallout at Wallatinna could be as high as the fallout on the centre-line of the plume.
6.4.57 The relationship between the gamma dose rate measured three feet above the ground and the concentration of fission products has changed somewhat over the years. In 1153, when A32 (Re 247] was written it was assumed that 1 Ci/m of fission products would produce a dose rate of 8.7 r/h. The theoretical
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physics group at AWRE used a value ot 10 r/h tor the dose rate.
In 1956 at Buffalo, the Theoretical Predictions Group revised the value in the light of the newer data and arrived at a value of
5 r/h from 1 Cl/m2 LRC 299, T25/58J. Subsequently there have
been several calculations which have shown that for an infinite plane the ratio varies with the age of the fission products, and
varies from 17 at H+l, 12 at H+12 to 10 at H+24 and H+168. When a roughness factor of 0.7, which is commonly accepted, is applied the ratio at 11+12 hours becomes 8.0 and that at H+24 nours becomes 6.8. These values generally agree with the various reports which defined the ‘zero l and ‘slight risk’ levels for the tests in Australia, and are appropriate to surveys carried out 12 hours to a week after the explosion.
6.4.58 Assuming that 1 Ci/m2 would produce a dose rate at a height of three feet of 8 r /h, the co~tamination On the plume centre-line at 173 km would be 0.10 Ci/m with an upper limit due
to possible hot spots of about 0.16 Ci/m2 (all corrected to H+l).
This conta~lnation at 173 km exceeded both the ‘zero risk’21evel,
0.009 Ci/m, and the ‘slight risk’ level, 0.055 Ci/m, for exposure beginning 3.5 hours after the explosion as derived in A32. The derivation of these levels did not include the greater exposure likely to Aborigines living a nomadic lifestyle, that is largely unclothed and without shelter.
Effect of contamination of 0.1 Ci/m2
6.4.59 The fallout at Wallatinna would lead to exposure via several pathways. On the basis of the analyses presented in AWRE
Report 0-26/59 LRC 273J the doses from the v~rious pathways
resulting from a contamination level of 0.1 Ci/m (corrected to H+l), where exposure begins at H+6 hours, are
External gammas from ground 1.5 rem betas from ground 6.8 rem betas to feet and ankles 7.0 rem
(no shoes)
betas on skin 6.4 rem betas on skin 17.1 rem (no waShing or clothes)
Internal drinking water 0.5 rem
food 7.3 rem milk 41.0 rem inhalation 5.5 rem injection 0.3 rem
6.4.60 The external beta radiation is not very penetrating and only causes a dose to the skin. The total skin dose, for someone with no shoes and not washing, is very much less than the dose
required to give slight skin reddening (see 4.7.14).
187

6.4.61 The gamma dose from the ground irradiates the wholi body. The value of 1.5 rem for a contamination of 0.1 Ci/m
agrees reasonably well with the value of 11 mSv (1.1 rem) given in AlRAC 9 [AlRAC 1983, Table 14.1J for nomadic people. This
whole body dose is much too small to cause any non-stochastic
effect.
6.4.62 The internal dose is more difficult to estimate because it depends on knowledge of the food intake and lifestyle on the day of the Black Mist. The dose from drinking milk is almost entirely due to iodine-13l and results in exposure of the thyroid. The thyroid dose calculated assumes milk consumption at the same rate as in the UK. The thyroid is regarded as a
I
radioresistant organ I and the threshold organ dose for observable malfunction for non-stochastic effects is about 10 Gy
(1000 rem) [UNSCEAR 1982, p.6l2J.
Vomiting and dose to the gut
6.4.63 The dose to the gut from the results tabulated above is obtained by adding the dose from food, drink and external gammas, to give 9.3 rem. Irradiation of the gut can cause vomiting, and
this is probably the health effect with the lowest threshold.
Furthermore, several Aborigines who were at Wallatinna recollect that vomiting occurred after the Black Mist. Hence the question of vomiting and the gut dose for those at Wallatinna were closely examined in the proceedings of the Royal Commission.
6.4.64 Vomiting for about a day occurs in five to 10 per cent
of people exposed to a whole body dose of 80-120 r [Glasstone, 1957J. H Smith (RC 573J reported on the results from
103 seriously ill patients who were subject to whole body radiation spread over many days. Vomiting was not observed when
the daily dose was reduced to less than 0.2 Gy (20 rad):
·Vomiting after exposure to less than about 1 Gy [100 rJ which occurs within a few hours of exposure is probably psychogenic in origin. Above this dose, and after a delay of 1-3 hours, it is consistent with upper
gut irritation.’ LRC 573, p.2J
6.4.65 Smith [RC 573J also quoted another study WhlCh reported a threshold of 0.5 Gy (50 rad) for vomiting following a single
dose of whole body radiation. Vomiting occurred in about 10 per cent of persons exposed to a dose of 1 Gy (lOO rad). Pochin [Trans., pp.9478-80J agreed that on the data presented, vomiting after doses of 20 rads was possible though of low probability.
6.4.66 The dose to the upper large intestine from the fallout at Wallatinna has been calculated on the basis of current models by Dr E W Fuller, Mr 0 R Davy and Sir Edward Pochin. Fuller
[RC 872J took the dose rate value of 0.8 r/h (corrected to H+l)
and, assuming that the exposure started at 3.5 hours, derived the
188

dose to the gut from both ~xternal radiation and ingestion. He assumed d body shielding factor of O. 7 and calculated the dose rate to the gut of 5.6 mGy/h for external irradiation. The integrated dose to 70 years was 21.8 mGy of which 7 mGy (0.7 rad) was received In the first day and 1.9 mGy between one day and four days.
6.4.67 Fuller calculated the dose from internal irradiation by assuming that each, individual ingested the amount of fallout on an ared of 100 cm:l LRC 872j. Using the current ICRP gut model the internal dose to the upper large intestine was 30 mGy (3 rad) in the time between 3.5 and 24 hours and 27.3 mGy in the fallowing six days. Hence the total dose to the gut on the first day was :;”1 mGy (:;.7 rad).
b. 4.68 The area of 100 cm2 used by Fuller comes from the earlier analysis of Dale in Report 0-41/55, and is only the area of a single slicf; of bread. The Aborigines at Wallatinna would have been living largely in the open, cooking on open fires, with cooking utensils left near the fires. The amount of fallout ingested from food or water could easily be 10 times that calculated by Fuller. This would increase the total dose on the first day to :;07 mGy (:;0.7 radJ.
6.4.69 Mr 1) R Davy suggested that lt was possible the Aborigines CQuld ingest the radioactivity from an area of one square metre, i.e. 100 times the amount used by Fuller in his model. He df;rived this area from the area of leaves with a mass equal to the whole of the plant material component of the Aborigines daily diet. This is probably unrealistic because of what we know about the Aboriginal diet, but it does establlsh an upper limit.
6.4.70 The Totem tests produced a significant amount of neptunium-239 in the fallout. The ratio of the activlty of the neptunium to the activlty of the fission products peaked at H+90 hours, and for Totem 1 the ratio had a maximum value of 2.9 lRC 307, T6/54J. This means that 74 per cent of the activity on the ground ninety hours after Totem 1 was neptunium-239. The presence of thls large fraction of neptunium would modify the decay of the me~sured dose rate.
6.4.71 lJavy pointed out that the dose to the upper and lower intestine would be dominated by neptunium if the activity of the neptunium-2J9 was 36 times the activity of barium-140, as appears to be the case at Totem [Re 801j.
6.4.7~ Davy also calculated the dose to the gut, but used a deposition of 0.05 Ci/m2 and an area of 10 000 cm2 • Depending on the amount of neptunium present he obtained doses in the range 0.5-0.8 Bv (50-tiO rem) to the upper larg~ intestine, and 1.1-3. H bv {110-J80 rem} to the lower large intestine for the first day. (The lower valUes are for fallout with high levels of neptunium and would probably be applicable to the fallout from
189

Totem 1.) Using Davy’s input data, the model used by Fuller would give a dose to the upper large intestine of 1.5 Gy (150 rad) on the first day. Hence the gut models of Davy dnd Fuller are in general agreement, the main difference being the amount of radioactive material ingested.
6.4.73 Sir Edward Pochin disagreed with Davy’s calculation and said he had greatly overestimated the intake. He also said that Davy1s results should have been 40 per cent lower due to decay of activity.
6.4.. 74 It seems likely that the exposure of Aborigines at Wallatinna would be somewhere between the estimates of Fuller and Davy. It is suggested that a number of people could nave received gut doses of 30 rem, and it is possible, although unlikely, that someone could have received a gut dose above 100 rem.
6.4.75 This estimated dose to the gut is close to the threshold for vomiting.. There are many uncertainties in the dose estimates and much depends on the food eaten and activities soon after the fallout occurred. In order to cause vorni ting the radiation dose would need to be received in a short time, certainly in the first day, after the passage of the cloud and lt
2
would be necessary for the activity on more than 1000 cmto be ingested. Hence, it is possible that some individuals could have ingested enough fallout material soon after the passage of the cloud to produce vomiting.
Yami Lester’s Blindness
6.4.76 Yami Lester, who was at Wallatinna when the Black Mist incident occurred, and who was aged about 12 at the time, attributes his blindness to the incident. Describing the mist, and how it made people ill, he said
‘When people first got sicK my eyes got sore. I couldnI t open my eyes. I got diarrhoea and a rash on my skin. I remember when this happened my mother asked me to stay in the shade. Because I couldn’t see I was led around with a stick like a digging stick. You hold it at one end and the person walking ahead of you holds the other end and you follow along. I didn’t have the stick for long, I don’t reckon it was even a week. My left eye sort of came good again so I threw away the stick but my right eye was permanently blind after that. I could see with my left eye but it gave me a lot of trouble. I could not see 100% wi th my left eye.’ [AB 11, pp.6-7]
6.4.77 Lester went on to say that he lost the sight of his left eye in 1957 lAB 11, p.B].
190

6.4.78 Lester’s mother and father, Pingkayi and Kanytji, confirmed that he had good eye-sight before the Black Mist [Trans., p.7192].
6.4.79 Dr David Tonkin first saw Lester on 6 August 1965, [RC 552, p. 2J. In 1983, based on his own examinations of Lester, and other records which were available, Tonkin concluded that Lester had
11. a long history of red, sore eyes since childhood (there is evidence of trachoma scarring inside the lids)
‘2. blindness since the age of 14 years, following
ulcers dur ing a severe at tack of measles (presumably
when the sight in the right eye was lost)
‘3. loss of the left eye in 1957, the eye having been blind for nine years previously.
‘The findings in the right eye, both before and during surgery, indicate a long-standing history of infection (trachoma), with dense (total) corneal scarring, iris adhesions, and cataract changes following a severe corneal ulceration which had perforated.
‘AI though severe, such ocular mani festations are recognised complications of trachoma, and in this instance they were possibly accentuated by measles. I [Re 552, p.2]
6.4.80 Sir ~dward Pochin was questioned about the possible interacting effects of trachoma and measles with low-level doses of radiation.
With regard to trachoma he said
‘I cannot exclude the possibility that a presence of trachoma would produce these very considerable reductions still in the threshold compared with a normal eye.’ [Trans., p.9475]
6.4.HI The following questions of Pochin, and his responses, illustrate well the uncertainties surrounding the causes of
Lester’s blindness:
‘Q. So that in fact those dose levels may well be considerably reduced simply because what we are talking about here is not direct effect but cell damage, cell regeneration effects as a result of these two processes working together?
‘A. I hear your wording “may well be”. I accept under that wording.
191

‘Q. Yes, the reason why we cannot go further on that to say whether one can exclude SUCh an event, that is radiation at low dose levels producing this event if there was an existing trachoma, it 1S simply because there is insufficient data and knowledge to know what that relationship would be?
IA. I have already said that I know of no data on the interaction of trachoma with radiation.
‘Q. So the situation with Hr Lester is this, is it not, that you are unable to say to this Commission that if each of those events occurred, radiation at low dose, trachoma, measles or any two of the three of those events occurred, you are unable to say to this Commission that they can exclude radiation as being an accelerating or aggravating factor in his condition?
IA. That is correct.’ [Trans., pp.9475-7]
6.6.82 pochin also said:
I ••• it has emerged within the last year or two the ophthalmological observation that abnormalities apparently induced by radiation in the lens which do not interfere with vision may develop during subsequent years and wi thout further i rradiat ion to a size in which they do interfere with vision. That has involved a lowering of the assumed threshold for cataract.’ [Trans., p.9526]
Pochin is one of the world’s leading experts on the biological effects of radiation.
6.4.83 Tonkin suggested that Lester’s eye inJuries and ultimately blindness could not be related to radiation [Trans., p.8647J. Tonkin admitted that he had no expert Knowledge of radiation [Trans., p.8659]. Tonkin’s views on Lester’s blindness assumed a direct radiation inJury. He did not profess to have made a study of the potential interacting or synergistic factors to which Pochin later addressed himself.
6.4.84 In weighing up the evidence of witnesses such as Lester and his parents, and the medical and scientific experts, the Royal Commission has been aware of a number of factors which serve to increase the uncertainty in this area.
6.4.85 The lack of historical records on death and illness among Aboriginal people, and the problems in dating events, mean that relevant historical and contemporary medical evidence are unavailable.
192

6.4.86 To this must be added the limited empirical data relating to radiation and non-stochastic effects on the Aboriginal people at Wallatinna. There may be a probability, unknown and certainly unquantified, that the Aboriginal people were in an immuno-suppressed state due to the effects of poor nutrition and the after-effects of catastrophic epidemics of introduced diseases which raged in the area for years. There may be a probability, again unknown and unquantified, that at doses lower than otherwise recorded as producing non-stochastic injury, such injury could result from an additive or synergistic relationship between radiation exposure and other conditions such as measles or trachoma.
6.4.87 There is little information on the effects of low-level

Doses to a group of people such as the Aboriginal people at Wallatinna. If those people were in an immuno-suppressed state because of diet and diseases, the
dose required to produce inJuries could be substantially lower than that assumed from research based on other studies. This question remains unresolved.
6.4.88 Pochin, asked about the state of knowledge regarding the Wallatinna people, said
‘I would certainly say that the existing knowledge of the doses required to produce non-stochastic effects do not cover any studies on the doses required to produce non-stochastic effects in the populations to which you are referring.’ (Trans., pp.9447-8J
6.4.89 He was further asked
‘Is the state of knowledge such that you could say that an Aboriginal person would not have a significantlY greater sensitivity to the effects of radiation than a non-Aboriginal person?’
He replied
‘No, it is not, because I -unless studies have been made, and I think you were saying yesterday they have not then clearly it is not known.’ LTrans., pp.9453-4J
6.4.90 The leRP Publication No. 41, ‘Non-Stochastic Effects of Ionising Radiation’, states
‘Various intrinsic and extrinsic factors are known to modify the radiation response (although not necessarily the radiosensitivity) of normal cells and tissues. These include degree of differentiation, rate of cell proliferation, age at irradiation, oxygen tension, temperature, blood flow, genetic background, physiological condition, hormone balance, various
193

chemicals, stress, trauma and other forms of injury.’ [Re 573, Annexure 8:10]
6.4.91 These variables are not known for the Wallatinna people of 1953.
Conc1usions
6.4.92
(a)
The differences in the details of Aboriginal accounts of the Black Mist are to be expected after the passage of over thirty years. The accounts are suffic’iently consistent in general for them to have credibility.
(b)
An oral history of the Black Mist existed for many years before the incident became known to the general public.
(c)
Meteorological, mathematical and statistical modelling indicates that a black mist passing over Wallatinna and Welbourn Hi 11 could have happenec,o
(d)
There is no .’:”easan to disbelieve Aboriginal accounts that the Black Mist occurred and that it made some people sick. Both radiation exposure and fear can lead to vomiting. At Wallatinna, the vomiting by Aborigines may have resulted from radiation, 1t may have been a psychogenic reaction to a frightening experience, or it may have resulted from both of these.
(e)
The Royal Commission believes that Aboriginal people experienced radioactive fallout from Totem 1 in the form of a black mist or cloud at and near Wallatinna. This may have made some people temporarily ill. The Royal Commission does not have sufficient evidence to say whether or not it caused other illnesses or injuries.
(f)
Gi ven the histor ical uncertainties and the current state of scientific knowledge, the evidence presented does not enable the Royal Commission to decide one way or the other whether the Black Mist caused or contributed to the blindness of Yami Lester.
end quote. Although on the face of it the above rendering of the experiences of the Black Mist suffered by people in October 1953 seems sympathetic. However, it must be remembered that as witnesses gave evidence they often did so with some of their beta burn lesions to skin showing clearly to the assembled experts.  Time was used as an excuse. The fact is that those who suffered reported the events at the time, in 1953. Lallie Lennon spent 30 years seeking a diagnosis for her skin condition which causes so much suffering. By the time Adelaide doctors finally gave a diagnosis, they did so without considering radiation. In breach of IAEA guidelines relating to injuries sustained where radiation was present. The medical staff discounted Lallie’s explanation of bomb fallout engulfing her prior to her first skin eruption.
Time, distance and social exclusion have repeatedly been used to isolate and deny nuclear victims validation and justice.

There is something very self serving about the medico legal definition of “radiation sickness” as a syndrome. Acute Radiation Syndrome, as the US CDC names it,  is very precise.  And certain exposures preclude its diagnosis.  Such as internal exposure.

Even when individuals and groups suffer ARS, all nuclear authorities have to do is ignore the early reports.  This occurred in Australia. This is shown by the testimony of Lallie Lennon in the current example most clearly. The following pages contain testimony that diagnosis was denied for decades. Until such a period of time had passed that cause and effect could be safely, so the authorities though, I charge,  de-coupled.   In the early period, doctors flatly refused to disclose their diagnosis to Lallie.

I have reported elsewhere on the supposed loss of the Maralinga Hospital records.  The same is true at Port Augusta hospital.  I have spoken to a former nurse who worked in a remote area of South Australia at the time of the tests.
Her recounting the death of an Aboriginal boy from the effects of radiation was accompanied by severe threats of punishment at the time, threats made by Australian authorities on behalf of the British government.

I have no doubt in my mind that the same tactics have always been used against nuclear victims and witnesses to nuclear suffering.

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