The Black Mist Incident 1

The Black Mist and its Aftermath – Oral Histories by Lallie Lennon
A Submission to the Government of South Australia, the Commonwealth
Government of Australia and the International Atomic Energy Agency
Oral Historian Michele Madigan, 2006 and 2009
Transcription and Commentary by Paul Langley
Official: Contains copyright evidence. Not for release into the Public Domain.
Public: Copyright material referenced and described, but not included. Public version may be freely transmitted and copied
with acknowledgement.)
17 Feb 2010

Modified and Abridged for Blog April 2011

The Black Mist and its Aftermath – Oral Histories by Lallie Lennon
Lallie Lennon as interviewed in 1981 in the course of the film:
“Backs to the Blast, An Australian Nuclear Story”, produced by Harry Bardwell.
Lallie Lennon as interviewed by Michele Madigan, 2006 and 2009
Transcription and Commentary by Paul Langley. 4th revised draft. 16 Feb

The story of Lallie Lennon has been public since 1981, when Lallie spoke, on
film, of the ordeal she and her family had been through. The family was
engulfed by a portion of the fallout cloud created by the 1953 Totem 1 atomic
bomb, detonated about 180 kilometres south west of their location, Mintabie,
where they were looking for opals.

In the years since, she has continued to wonder how it was that the skin
eruptions she suffers, at first constantly, now more or less cyclically, were
caused. Her son Bruce has the same affliction. The two young daughters she
had at the time were sheltered under a canvas tent slung over a tree. Lallie
and Bruce were out in the open, engulfed by the fallout cloud which snaked
through the trees.

The suffering has been great. It felt like being “rolled in a fire” and first broke
out about two weeks after the Black Mist rolled through their camp.
Doctors looked at Lallies’ skin and attempted to treat her condition. When
asked, doctors could not or would not give Lallie a diagnosis. That changed in
the 1980s, when a doctor in Adelaide did give her his opinion of what Lallie
suffered from. This was more than 30 years after the event which Lallie
believes caused her suffering. She didn’t suffer the affliction prior to the 1953
event. It first erupted about two weeks after contact with the Black Mist.
Beta radiation burn is a common outcome of contact with nuclear fallout. It
has been reported since August 1945 in victims of nuclear weapons. From
Japan to the Pacific, including the USA, it is an outward affliction suffered by
many officially recognised victims from contact with Beta emitting particles.
Fission products in nuclear clouds are generally Beta emitting particles.

In Australia, it is a condition that has been ignored in regard to Australian

In this paper I focus on Beta Radiation Burn, Local Radiation Injury, caused
by contact with beta emitting fission products. It is a well known condition. A
wealth of information exists describing it detail. The signs of Beta Burn occur
about fortnight after exposure. It is a painful condition which may become
permanent and cyclic. It may affect skin pigment.
Lallie wishes that as many people as possible know her story. I have done my
best to take Lallie’s story and compare it with the civil and military records.
Records that describe nuclear fallout, what it is and what it does. How it
behaves and how it leaves its victims.
My training for doing this is basic. During my military service, undertaken in
the early 1970s, I was trained as a radiological safety corporal. In that military
workplace, which repaired and calibrated radiation detectors, my role was that
of a technical clerk. I was trained to monitor the workplace for alpha radiation,
caused by the decay of radium into radon and hence into other radioactive
decay products. I was trained to use a scintillator based detector for this. I
daily charged up and issued personal dosimeters and subsequently read the
recorded exposure readings. I received basic radiation safety training. It was
nothing exceptional, nothing that could not be taught in High School. My
workplace was safe. It was a properly managed facility where the radiation
readings I took inside the building were lower than the usual readings
obtained outside. Neither were cause of any concern at that time. I was
merely trained to consider radiation because radioisotopes, used to test
radiation detectors, were present at that now old and closed workplace.
Lallie and many other people exposed to the Black Mist were not as lucky as
I. At the time of their exposure they had no training in understanding ionising
radiation, no means known to them to measure it, no understanding that their
possessions and clothing would trap and contain the radioactive particles.
No-one met them and advised them after the incident. There was no official
effort to use the then known principles of Radiological Safety and Health
Physics to measure their exposure nor was there any effort to minimise the
impact of it after the event.
This paper will be submitted to the South Australian Government, the
Australian Government, the British Government, the European Parliament and
to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
believe Lallie deserves an urgent diagnosis of her long standing condition. A
diagnosis made within the context of and in compliance with IAEA guidelines
regarding the diagnosis and treatment of Local Radiation Injury – skin contact
with Beta emitting substances. Beta Burn to Skin. The diagnosis should be
made by suitable Health Physics professionals who are independent from
Government influence.
There are two editions of this paper. One for Governments and the IAEA. One
for general readership. This is because the Government/IAEA text contains
two photographs of ground level nuclear clouds: one photographed 100 miles
from its tower shot point at the Nevada Proving Grounds, Mercury Nevada.
The other was photographed at about 80 miles from that place. These
photographs are precious. Copyright permission was sought from a publisher.
However, individuals own the photographs. I have chosen thus to provide the
photographs only as evidence to Australian politicians and the IAEA. These
two photographs are deleted in the public edition of this paper. I urge the
general reader to consult the original books in which the photographs appear.
These American “Grey Mists” (Nevada Proving Ground soil is a much lighter
colour than the soil type found at Emu Field, the place where Totem 1 and 2
were detonated in 1953) represent to many Americans a similar profound
sorrow and mark the same process of official denial and battle by victims as
experienced in Australia. Both photographs were taken in 1953.
This paper is my best effort. I remain focussed on External Hazard due to skin
dose. This enables me to concentrate my report on one factor in as a precise
manner as possible. Lallie and her family, as well as many others, suffered
and described, as untrained people, the same signs and symptoms as those
which describe Acute Radiation Syndrome. Radiation Sickness. I make no
apologies for my focus. I leave it to others skilled in the understanding of the
culture, language and meanings of Australia’s First Nation to further examine
this paper. The information presented here must be explained in the light of a
full understanding of Aboriginal culture and with further descriptions of the full
range of symptoms and effects suffered by many Aboriginal Australians
impacted by the British Nuclear Tests in Australia. Beta Burn due to external
contact is but one of these. I am moving one step at a time, as carefully as a I
can, as I have done since I first heard and saw Lallie in film.
am grateful to Lallie for talking with me and for giving me permission to
continue to walk along the songline, a songline which is, as I attempt to show,
technically correct, in a most sophisticated manner, when compared with the
texts prepared for people who are trained to fight nuclear war. In October
1953 there was a “Friendly Fire” incident. I do not know how many others
there were. The impacts are officially denied still.
I thank Michele Madigan for her endless patience as she acted as the
interface between two worlds. My own and Lallie’s. I ask the reader, if my
world is too remote, too hard to understand, just read Lallie’s words. They are
sufficient and always have been. To those in power who hold the evidence,
they are a proof and an indictment.
Paul Langley
February 2010
Port Willunga
South Australia.

Part 1 Introduction
A Brief Account of Beta Radiation Burns to Skin – Castle Bravo

The 1 March 1954 US nuclear weapon test named “Castle Bravo” [1]
caused radioactive fallout to fall “like snow” upon the people of the Marshall
Islands. [2]
News of the disaster was broadcast around the world. On the 23rd of March
1954, the BBC screened film footage described as “local fishermen are being
treated for radiation burn.” [3] The footage appears to show the beta radiation
skin burns suffered by the crew of the Japanese fishing vessel “The Lucky
Dragon”, which was about 70 nautical miles from blast point. The Marshall
Islands were over 100 miles distant. [4] The Beta Radiation Burns suffered by
the people were photographed and widely reported. The condition was well
known and described in many books. I shall refer to some of these texts in a
later section.
The Castle Bravo H bomb was triggered, as are all such devices, by a fission
bomb in its core. The fission products in the Castle Bravo disaster caused the
effects suffered by the people of the Marshall Islands. [5] On May 14, 1954,
the New York Times reported that the leaders in the Marshall Islands sent an
urgent plea to the United Nations for the end of H bomb testing near their
islands. [6]
Castle-Bravo Officer E.P. Cronkite urgently dispatched human skins samples,
taken from the Marshal Islanders, to Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory for
study. His memo accompanying the samples states that, “Some of the lesions
that are developing are beginning to resemble the beta burns that occurred in
sheep and cattle…” Cronkite refers to an early report by “Pearson”, “available
through the AEC”. He cites this early report as a diagnostic aid. [7]
Cronkite’s reference to Pearson’s memo provides an important guide to
earlier events. Foreknowledge. These events occurred in areas adjacent to
the Nevada Test site in 1953. At that time Pearson authored a number of
reports recording harms, including beta radiation skin lesions suffered by
livestock in Nevada and Utah via contact with nuclear fallout clouds, including
those generated by tower shot fission bombs detonated in Nevada. Four of
Pearson’s reports of beta burns and losses to stock in Nevada and Utah are
referenced here. These reports were all created in 1953. These include:
1953. [9]
FALL-OUT MATERIAL ON LIVESTOCK.” (Beta Particles) Dec 1953 [10]
June 1953 [11]
Certainly the Pearson documents admit to the effects of beta emitting fission
products from bomb fallout on livestock in Nevada and Utah in 1953, and
Cronkite highlights the relevance of the resultant beta burns inflicted upon the
US livestock to the Beta Burn skin lesions suffered by the people of the
Marshall Islands in March 1954. The common feature is not the bomb type,
but the biological effect noted – Beta particles on skin and hide produce Beta
burns, whether from tower shot low yield fission bombs or high yield fission
fusion devices. The same effects were noted by Cronkite.
E.P. Cronkite went on to provide detailed testimony on the nature of beta
radiation burns in general and those suffered by the Marshall Islanders in
particular to a 1957 US Congressional Sub Committee Hearing. He stated
that “Evidence for the development of Skin lesions commenced approximately
2 weeks after exposure….. With deeper lesions the pain was more severe.
The deeper foot lesions were the most painful and caused some of the people
to walk on their heels for several days during the acute stages.
Some of the more severe lesions of the neck and axillae were painful…..
Later the skin began to shed from the inside of the pigmented plaques to the
outside, and in some cases resulted in the production of large depigmented
areas.” He refers the Hearing to Kodachrome photographs of the afflicted
people. In regard to internal contamination of the afflicted people he states:
“Rare and alkaline earths accounted for about 70 percent of the urine
radioactivity. Strontium 89 was about at the maximum permissible level……”
The March 1954 disaster and those harms which are visible to the naked eye
– Beta Radiation Burn to skin – have become widely known. The condition,
one of many health effects caused by the incident, was diagnosed by
American specialists such as Cronkite and has been officially acknowledged
by the United States Government since that time. Radiation skin burns from
contact with the radioactive Black Rain among Hiroshima victims is officially
recognized by the United States. [13]
With such a long and documented history, official Australian ignorance of Beta
Radiation Burn to skin as a consequence of contact with nuclear fallout has
no excuse. Certainly, the catalogue of official documents recognizing beta
radiation burn due to fission product contact with skin dates from 1945, linking
Hiroshima victims from an air burst fission weapon, livestock in Nevada and
Utah from tower shots in Nevada in 1953 and Marshall Island victims from the
fission-fusion device in the South Pacific in March 1954. All are considered
relevant in respect to Beta Burns by authorities appointed by the United
States of America. The knowledge regarding human Beta Radiation Burns
was released to the public in Chapter 12 the volume “The Effects of Nuclear
Weapons”, Compiled and Edited by Samuel Glasstone and Philip J. Dolan, in
1950. The Third Edition, prepared and published by the UNITED STATES
DEVELOPMENT ADMINISTRATION, was released in1977. [14]
The Australian Royal Commission into the British Nuclear Weapons Tests in
Australia was dealing with a global phenomenon in its local consideration of
the British nuclear weapons tests in Australia. It found however found that the
nuclear blasts conducted by the United States were not directly comparable to
those conducted by Britain in Australia. This questioning centred around
particle size. [15] Where the US saw a uniform basis for the risks and
outcomes from contact with ALL its many and varied nuclear tests, the Royal
Commission found that “….the Australian and US tests are not directly
comparable…” [16]
All nuclear weapons detonations have well documented and predictable
health consequences as described in “The Effects of Nuclear Weapons”.
Compiled and Edited by Samuel Glasstone and Philip J. Dolan. The Royal
Commission referenced this text in its description of the technical aspects of
nuclear detonations and the formation of fission products. [17] The British
bombs were late arrivals to the nuclear club and were not unique in principle.
They produced fission products as described by Glasstone et. al.
The complex techno-politico-medico setting of the Royal Commission
attempted to reconcile the eye witness accounts of victims with its own
amalgam of what occurred from a model based technical reconstruction. I
shall study this dichotomy in a later section.

The Australian Black Mist
The Black Mist ground level atomic bomb cloud incident of October 1953
affected many Australians. [18] It was generated by the bomb test named
Totem 1, exploded from a tower at Emu Field, South Australia, on 15 October
1953 (local time, British sources give the time and date as 14 October 1953
21:30 GMT – AWRE Reports T1/77 and T2/80) . [19]
Lallie Lennon and her family are primary witnesses to this Australian event. It
occurred in the isolation of the Australian bush a mere 5 months prior to the
Castle Bravo disaster. Unlike the later event, the Black Mist event was not
covered by the press at the time. That press coverage would not commence
until many years later. However, the witnesses continued to suffer, remember
and report their experiences. The Black Mist was a persistent individual and
cultural presence within sections of Australian society. For example see the
Adelaide Advertiser, front page, Monday, May 12, 1980, “A-Test ‘Mist’ May
have Killed 50”, by Robert Ball and Peter De Ionno.

In response to the persistent reports which related the horror of the Australian
Black Mist incident, in 1980 Professor Titterton, Chair of the Atomic Weapons
Test Safety Committee told national radio : “No such thing can possibly occur.
I don’t know of any black mists. No black mists have ever been reported until
the scare campaign was started. …If you investigate black mists sure you’re
going to get into an area where mystique is the central feature.” [20]
Despite such official denials the stories of the events of October 1953
continued. Witnesses such as Yami Lester continued to speak of what was
seen and suffered as a result of the Black Mist from an atomic bomb blast.
[21] The Black Mist rolled through places occupied mainly by Aboriginal
people. European Australians saw it also. For example, Mrs A. Lander, Mrs G.
Giles and Mr Ernest Giles testified to the existence of the cloud. [22]

Lallie Lennon
Lallie Lennon has spoken consistently for decades of how the Black Mist
engulfed her family and of the suffering experienced since.
I learned of Lallie and her experiences from watching the film “Backs to the
Blast, an Australian Nuclear Story”. The film had been produced and directed
by Harry Bardwell in 1981. [23] In this film Lallie describes the Black Mist she
saw. She shows the visible scarring on her skin which resulted from contact
with the nuclear fallout.

In December 2009 Lallie explained her role in the film. She told Michele
Madigan: “The people who made “Backs to the Blast” interviewed me in 29
Conroy St Port Augusta – taking photos of me and asking about when it (the
bomb) was and that. They got a tape recorder.” [24]
The testimony and visual record of Lallie Lennon as she appeared in the film
caused me great distress for I had seen similar skin damage and read similar
stories years before, but in relation to Castle Bravo. I have been convinced
ever since that Lallie’s experience is similar to that suffered by the people of
the Marshall Islands and for similar reasons.

I was staggered to hear Lallie report that she had not been able to find out the
cause of her skin lesions. Lallie has never received a diagnosis in context with
her contact with radioactive material. The diagnosis that she has received
came decades later and after a number of doctors over the period of years
could not or would not give Lallie a diagnosis. When a diagnosis was finally
given to her, it was a diagnosis isolated in time and distance from the event
which caused the condition. [25]

In a later section I compare photographs of Lallie Lennon’s skin condition
filmed in 1981 by Bardwell and photographed in 2006 by Madigan with
photographs taken in the 1950s of Marshall Islanders suffering officially
diagnosed Beta Radiation Burn due to skin dose from beta emitters in nuclear
fallout. This visible condition is indicative of the potential for other, unseen,
effects that also cause suffering and loss.
I will show in the following pages the failure of authorities to diagnose Lallie’s
suffering in the context of radiation exposure. I will show how this failure is in
breach of International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines for the diagnosis
and treatment of specific conditions such as Beta Radiation Burn.
The oral history given by Lallie to Michele Madigan in 2006 provides an
important review of events since Lallie’s 1981 appearance in film. It also
provides an opportunity to place Lallie’s statements and experiences in
context with another witness, the late Jessie Lennon. It will be shown that the
testimony and memories of Lallie and Jessie conform to technical military
documents describing nuclear weapons fallout and its effects. Michele and
Lallie met again in December 2009 to finalize and confirm the oral history
which follows this introduction. [26]

In the following transcripts, Lallie states she and her family were at Mintabie
when they were engulfed by the Black Mist. GeoScience Australia gives the
map coordinates for Mintabie as Lattitude: 27º 18′ S and Longitude: 133º 18′
E. The map coordinates given for Emu Field, the site of the Totem 1 nuclear
detonation are: Latitude: 28°41′54″S Longitude: 132°22′17″E [27]
Using these map coordinates, the distance between Emu Field and MIntabie
is shown to be 180.2 kms or 111.98 miles. [28] [Calculated using the online
calculator located at
This distance is visualized by the following Google map:
Map 1. Totem 1 to Mintabie. Made possible by the online services of Google.

The time frame, the distance, the weapon, the type of shot, and the witness
statements of Lallie Lennon all conform with events reported by eyewitnesses
to the effects of nuclear detonations in the United States. These aspects will
be examined.

The Need to Review History, Advise Government, Inform the Public and
Properly Diagnose Australians Suffering Beta Radiation Burns.

Professor Titterton’s official pronouncement that the Black Mist Incident “could
not possibly occur” is accepted by some sections of the Australian society still.
This denial impedes the consideration of radiation in the diagnosis of
conditions suffered by people who are victims of the Black Mist nuclear cloud.

In 2003 journalist Andrew Bolt wrote an article in the Herald Sun in which he
restated the Titterton line that the bomb tests were safe and that no harm
resulted to anyone. [29]

A technical rebuttal to the “Titterton Line” is very possible in regard to the
Black Mist. As an introduction, I submit two photographs:
The 1953 photograph of a Grey Mist type nuclear fallout cloud (colour type
due to Nevada Test Site soil type) traversing farm land in Twin Springs,
Nevada, USA by Joe Fallini Senior and supplied by Martha Bordoli Laird to
Carole Gallagher:
Photograph deleted from Public Version for
Copyright reasons. Please see referenced text for
Original photograph.

Photo 1 Source: Gallagher, Carole, “American ground zero : the secret
nuclear war”, ISBN: 0262071460 Publisher: [Cambridge, Mass. : MIT
Press],1993. Pp 116 -117. This photograph is deleted in the public edition of
this paper. The photograph is copyright and must not be reproduced from the
government and IAEA editions of this Paper. Twin Springs is about 80 miles
from the shot point of the tower detonated bomb in Nevada. [30]
A photograph of a Grey Mist type nuclear cloud (colour type due to Nevada
test site soil type), traversing ground at Warm Springs, 100 miles from the
Nevada shot point of the bomb detonation from a tower. The photograph was
taken by Joe Fallini Snr and supplied by Martha Bordoli Laird to Richard L.
Miller in rural Nevada. To obtain the photograph Mr Fallini placed his camera
in a lead lined camera box to shield the film.
Photograph deleted from Public Version for
Copyright reasons. Please see referenced text for
Original photograph.
Photo 2 Source: Miller, Richard L., “Under the Cloud: the Decades of
Nuclear Testing”, New York: Free Press, London: Collier Macmillan, 1986,
ISBN: 0029216206. PP: 315. See also pages 225, 257, 283 & 300 for
accounts of Fallini’s observations regarding the clouds he photographed. This
photograph is deleted in the public edition of this paper. The photograph is
copyright and must not be reproduced from the government and IAEA editions
of this Paper. [31]

Low Altitude Nuclear Fallout Clouds Occurred Repeatedly

Witnesses reports of the Black Mist ground level nuclear bomb at distance
from the site of the cloud’s point of origin in Australia in October 1953 are
therefore not unique. Lallie Lennon was about 180 kms or 112 miles from the
shot point of Totem 1. (See Map 1.) It was not the only similar cloud event to
occur in Australia. [32] As the Fallini photographs show, it was not the only
ground level nuclear bomb cloud in the world. Lallie’s observation of the Black
Mist occurred at a distance from the Totem 1 detonation point that is similar to
the distance of the Warm Springs “Grey Mist” from the shot point in Nevada.
This was photographed by Joe Fallini Snr in 1953 and published in Miller.
There are colour variations in the ground level and other nuclear clouds
around the world. In a later section I describe these differences in the light of
the descriptions and explanations provided by technical military documents
declassified in 1981. Briefly, they are due to soil type present at each tower

The McClelland Royal Commission Report describes what it calls a “possibly
similar incident in the USA”. However, the Royal Commission cites only the
1962 report of the low altitude cloud created by the US “Sedan” underground
nuclear detonation. [33]

The Royal Commission appears ignorant of the 1953 Nevada events recorded
photographically by Joe Fallini Senior as cited above. It appears ignorant of
the Cronkite and Pearson memos and reports of Beta lesions. Testimony of
Nevada witnesses to the 1953 and other events in the US was reported by the
American Press. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,24 April 1979, in an article
entitled “Nuclear Test Victim Testifies”, reported: “A woman (Martha B. Laird)
whose ranch was in the path of fallout from nuclear tests in the 1950s stood
before a Joint Congressional Committee yesterday and charged that she and
her family “were forgotten guinea pigs.” The paper continues: “A series of
Hearings, co-chaired by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. Bob
Eckhardt, D-Texas, is being conducted to determine if there is a link between
the atomic tests and an increase in cancer related deaths in southern Utah
and Nevada. The Committee met in Salt Lake City last week.” “Rep James
Santini, D-Nev, a member of the committee that called for the investigation
earlier this year, said 87 above ground blasts were exploded during the
1950s, possibly endangering 170,000 persons within a 300 mile radius.” “We
would see the big flash, get the concussion and a little while later the clouds
came over” she (Mrs Laird) said. “One time my sister got burns on her eyes.
During this time our cows got white spots on them and got cancer eyes. At
school children broke out with rashes from the radiation.”

I am not aware of any consideration by the Royal Commission of the
relatedness of this testimony at 80 miles from shot points, to the testimony of
Lallie Lennon at a distance of about 112 miles from shot point. On reading
Lallies’ oral histories, one is struck by the similarities. These similarities are
reinforced by the Pearson memos confirming widespread beta burns suffered
by mammals vulnerable to the open air.

The Royal Commission did find that: “There was a failure at the Totem trials to
consider adequately the distinctive lifestyle of Aborigines and, as a
consequence, their special vulnerability to radioactive fallout.” [34] However, it
did not define specific outcomes. As the information provided by Cronkite
(1954) and Pearson (AEC, 1953, repeatedly) shows, one outcome from
contact with fallout from nuclear clouds is beta radiation burn to skin. (See
Sources 7 -12). In the 1950s Pearson specifically addresses beta burn to
cattle from contact with nuclear fallout in the US in official memos. The cattle
skin turned white. The Royal Commission appears ignorant of the evidence.
The skin damage to livestock and the sore eyes the family suffered in Nevada
in 1953 conforms with the testimony of Lallie Lennon and others who suffered
the same effects in the Australian bush in October 1953. The Royal
Commission sought out US nuclear test information in relation to fallout cloud
contact . [35] Surely the Royal Commission was aware of the nature, causes
and factors of enhanced vulnerability pertaining to Beta Burn to skin.
n 1980 a US House of Representatives Subcommittee reported “The (US)
Government’s program for monitoring the health effects of the tests was
inadequate and, more disturbingly, all evidence suggesting that radiation was
having harmful effects, be it on the sheep or the people, was not only
disregarded but actually suppressed.” [36] Certainly in Australia the diagnosis
and monitoring of Lallie Lennon and her family and of all other such witnesses
since 1953 has been of a like standard.
The testimony of US and Australian witnesses are very similar. The US clouds
at or near ground level were uniquely photographed by Joe Fallini. Similar
clouds in Australia were not. The US photographic record, created by Joe
Fallini Senior in 1953, is of immense importance in the Australian context.
The skin conditions suffered by Marshall Islanders and livestock in the US has
been diagnosed with due to consideration to radioactive fallout clouds. The
diagnosis is “Beta Radiation Burn”. In Australia, victims such as Lallie Lennon
waited decades for any diagnosis at all. When diagnosis was given about 30
years after the event, radiation appears not to have been considered in the
diagnosis. [37]
The Royal Commission concluded that it “believes 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.” [38]
Had the Royal Commission applied available US evidence to the Australian
experience, a sensitivity to and awareness of the probability of beta burn to
the skin of vulnerable people would have been recognized.
Had the Royal Commission investigated the unused photographic film Lallie
Lennon had with her when she was engulfed by the Black Mist, the means to
determine external dose would have been present.
Had Lallie Lennon’s skin condition been diagnosed within the context of
Health Physics principles developed over decades, the Royal Commission
would have had a means by which to determine dose received.
Had the Royal Commission examined any clothing, tent material, food
containers, vehicles, engine air cleaners and other objects including plant
material subject to exposure during the Black Mist event, and soil from the
affected area, even if collected in the 1980s, the Commission would have held
evidence upon which to base conclusions from a basis of knowledge rather
than belief. The type, shape and size of particles to be looked for are
discussed, after all, by the Royal Commission and its witnesses. [39]
The Commission’s statement of belief stems from ignorance due to omitted
evidence. One outcome of this chain of events has been the failure to
diagnose Lallie Lennon’s skin condition in accordance with Health Physics
principals established by the IAEA. Australia is a signatory to IAEA directives,
guidelines and procedures. [40]
Conclusion to Part 1
Many Aboriginal people stood before the McClelland Commission and its
assembly of Health Physics and nuclear weapons experts from England and
Australia. These experts were uniformly mute on the matter of Beta Radiation
Burns. This silence has been maintained by authorities to the present day.
One wonders why, for we shall see, the US government technical publication
by Glasstone et al, “The Effects of Nuclear Weapons”, provides relevant
photographs and descriptions of the condition in its Chapter 12. [41] However,
the Royal Commission cites Glasstone et al in regard to technical aspects of
fission bomb detonations. The publication is used as a source that provides a
description the processes of nuclear detonation.
One of the people who appeared before the esteemed and qualified experts in
1985 was Lallie Lennon. This was 32 years after the events described and 4
years after her appearance in film.
Lallie’s oral histories follow. I will compare Lallie’s statements with military
documents dating from 1948 up until the declassification date of 1981. I will
also compare Lallie’s description of her injuries with current civilian Beta Burn
medical information as provided by the US Centres for Disease Control and
the International Atomic Energy Agency. Some of the information contained
within Glasstone et al, 1977, as possessed, [42] but apparently not
referenced in this regard, by the Royal Commission. It is time for an open
review of Australian victims of the Black Mist in the light of modern
Although what the experts say has become more sophisticated over time, the
testimony given by the Australian Aboriginal witnesses has never changed.
The skin condition suffered by people from the Black Mist event conform
generally to the older descriptions of the condition, and more closely to
modern descriptions of it. This external sign is a marker of the potential for
other harms due to the entry into the body of the radioactive particles. [43]
Cloud chase planes failed to locate portions of the Totem 1 nuclear clouds.
Those portions of the clouds that were located were so radioactive that US
B29 aircrews, who chased the Australian Totem 1 cloud, were “aghast”.
These US crews were veterans of many blasts. They stated that the Totem 1
The use to which authorities put Lallie’s reports and what was done with her
knowledge is of great importance. Lallie saw a secret thing. [45] The
protection of the secret was given great care. Lallie has asked doctors for a
diagnosis for her condition since the 1950s. Not until the 1980s was one
given. That diagnosis was apparently made without reference to the cause of
the condition. [46] Where radiation may be present, radiation must be
considered in the diagnosis – IAEA.
The harsh and arid Australian bush offers little hope of decontamination. In a
statement to Congress in 1957, Dr. Eugene P. Cronkite reported the following
in relation to the beta burns experienced in the Marshall Islands:
were learned from the Marshallese experience. Burns were caused by direct
contact of the radioactive material with the skin. The perspiration as common
in the tropics, the delay in decontamination and the difficulties in
decontamination certainly favored the development of the skin burns. Those
individuals who remained indoors or under trees during the fallout developed
less severe skin burns. The children who went wading in the ocean developed
fewer lesions of the feet and most of the Americans who were more aware of
the dangers of the fallout, took shelter in aluminum buildings and bathed and
changed clothes. Consequently they developed only very mild beta burns.
Lastly, a single layer of cotton material offered almost complete protection, as
was demonstrated by the fact that skin burn developed almost entirely on the
exposed parts of the body.” [47]
n fact military documents reveal that the modes of protection from and
decontamination of Beta emitting particles were well known in 1948. [48]
The following transcripts of Lallie Lennon’s words show that no warnings or
protective advise were given. They reveal the time span from exposure to
anything approaching “decontamination” – removal of the radioactive particles
from the body, particularly the hair, finger nails, and other parts liable to
collect and retain it. Protective measures were known by authorities.
This lifestyle, this way of thriving in an arid place where others have perished
for lack of similar skills, has enabled the Australian Aboriginal Peoples to
thrive for thousands of years. Existing in intimate contact with the land, skills
and ways that had been successful became special vulnerabilities in the face
of the detonation of nuclear weapons on their land and the deposition of
nuclear fallout across it. The Black Mist was a concentrated event that
assailed ways of life, resources and individuals. This forms part of the “special
vulnerability” suffered by Aboriginal Peoples during the British Nuclear
Weapons Tests in Australia as acknowledged by Royal Commissioner
McClelland. [49]

One Response to “The Black Mist Incident 1”

  1. Evidentiary Sources which demonstrate the suppression of medical records by nuclear authorities from the dawn of the nuclear age until the current era. « Paul Langley's Nuclear History Blog Says:

    […] With the permission of Lallie Lennon and with the assistance of Michele Madigan, I submitted a report to the South Australian and Australian governments in the matter of the official denials still maintained by nuclear authorities in the matter of Lallie’s radiation injuries. The submission is reproduced in an earlier post here: […]

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