Narional Archives of Australia
Patrol - 25th April to 8th May, 1963
Patrol Report I S Johnston April 1963
Investigation Patrol for Natives Missing in Central Reserve
I S Johnston, Welfare Inspector, Laverton
in company with Constable Hopkins, Laverton
Period and Length of Tour
From 25th April to 8th May 1963, covering a total
mileage of 1985 miles.
Instructions were received from the District Welfare
Officer - Eastern District on April 24th to commence this patrol
next day to investigate the following report:
A woman named Yipati with two children, and also a
man named Willie, were missing in the Central Reserve area,
having left some two months previously from the vicinity of
Mt Davies. Because several natives had been reported as dying
of thirst in this area during February and March, it was
considered necessary that a patrol of investigation be carried
Further information indicated that Yipati Mitchell
and her two children, Owen (12) and Kaye (6), left with Yampuluru
Mitchell and her two children, from the Mt Davies area, en route
to Warburton approximately eight weeks earlier. Along the track
the two women split up and took different routes.
Mr De Graffe, Headteacher Warburton School, when en
route to Ernabella Mission at Easter time, found Yampuluru's two
children near Karnga water hole, fifty miles east of Warburton,
both in poor condition without food or water. It was ascertained
by him that the mother had died near Blackstone Camp. People
related to Willie at Warburton, were concerned for his welfare, as
he also was reported to have left Mt Davies at the same time, but
had not shown up.
On Thursday, 25th April 1963, Constable Hopkins and
myself departed from Laverton for Warburton at 11.30am, covering
203 miles the first day.
Friday 26th April
Arrived Warburton 2.15pm, and immediately instituted
enquiries into reports received. Information collated here did not
bring to light any new facts, so we departed for Mt Davies at 5.15pm,
making our camp five miles east of the Mission. 171 miles covered.
Saturday 27th April
Contacted RFDS Kalgoolie to advise position, and also
RFDS Alice Springs with memo for Mr Vickery of Musgrave Park.
Broke camp 8.30am, and headed toward Blackstone Camp.
Water holes were inspected along the track but all were found dry.
Arrived Blackstone 6.15pm and made camp. 130 miles covered for day.
Sunday 28th April
Mr De Graffe arrived at camp 8.15am on return journey to
Warburton. Discussed with Mr De Graffe the burial of native woman
Yampuluru, at Blackstone, also the finding of her two children near
Karnga WH. 9.00am contact with RFDS Kalgoolie advising that
8 WGZ transceiver was now in our custody. 10.15am headed north of
Blackstone to inspect the grave of Yampuluru Mitchell which is located
3 miles north-east of Blackstone. Mr De Graffe had done an
excellent job in locating the body and interring it. Returned to
camp 12.30pm. Some water found in 44 gallon drum but was foul
smelling. Departed Blackstone 2.15pm and arrived at Mt Davies
4.15pm after travelling via Wingelina. 75 miles covered for day.
Monday 29th April
Contact made with RFDS Kalgoolie at 8.30am advising
position and arranged to call again 3.45pm when Mr Harman would
be at base. Visited the native camp and enquired for information
as to dates Yipati and Willie departed from the area and also
possible routes taken by them. Facts given revealed that Yipati
left from Chunginya WH about 10 miles further east. A visit was
made to this water but no evidence could be found of route taken.
No water here at time of visit. Particulars regarding Willie were
not clearly defined. Mr Vickery arrived Mt Davies 1.15pm.
Discussion with Mr Vickery regarding people purported missing and
several points cleared up. 3.45pm Mr Harman given progress report
and proposed plans. 40 miles covered for day.
Tuesday 30th April
Vehicle topped up with 20 gallons of petrol from Mr Vickery.
Native camp visited and further enquiries made re missing people.
It was considered more important to locate the missing woman and her
two children, so two trackers who knew the waters across to Warburton
were located and at 9.10am we departed for Giles road in search of
tracks. Approximately 13 miles north of the Blackstone turn-off,
tracks were seen to cross the road and the trackers indicated these
were made by Yampurulu and her children. Tracks were again sighted
one mile further north and trackers claimed these were made by
Yipati and children - these were followed across sand and spinifex
for a short distance where it was apparent that Yipati was heading
for Pulpal WH. It was not accessible from this point by vehicle.
By returning to Blackstone camp we were able to follow a track for
some distance north and then making our own track arrived at a point
within half an hours walking distance of Pulpal WH. Pulpal is a
limestone cavity approximately 40 foot long in sand and spinifex country.
No water found here but Yipati's tracks were seen to be heading west.
Contact made RFDS Kalgoolie 4.15pm. Camp made here.
101 miles covered for day.
Wednesday 1st May
Broke camp 7.50am and travelled around sandhills to pick
up tracks and then headed for Oontjiri WH in the Murray Ranges.
Arrived at waterhole at 10.25am and found no water. Tracks were
located and found to head into sandhill country not easily traversible
by vehicle so returned to Blackstone - Warburton road and headed west.
Nine miles west of Lightning Rocks we cut north to Tjullulyi WH
which is about 4 miles off the track. No water or tracks found here.
Contact made with RFDS and Mr Harman given progress report.
Continued in a northerly direction headed for Weergooral WH in the
Jamieson Range by following an old vehicle track. Made camp 5.15pm.
110 miles for day.
Thursday 2nd May
Broke camp 7.30am and travelled 11 mile to Weergooral WH
which was dry. No evidence of tracks found so headed for Moorungul
WH where the same conditions were found. From here we headed for
Ungul WH but at 10.00am tracks were sighted and followed through
a mulga thicket. Signs indicated thirst for in several places Yipati
had dug deep for tree roots. It also appeared that a kangaroo had
been obtained for food - believe Yipati had happened along as dingo was
killing 'roo. Three miles further east we arrived at Ungul WH
where signs indicated Yipati and children had camped a few days. No
water found. Tracks headed north-west into sandhill country towards
Kuntjil WH but could not gain access by vehicle from this point.
By backtracking to the Jamieson Range we then headed north-east to
Leelyuri WH in limestone country. No water here or signs of tracks.
Journeyed on towards Kuntjil WH. Made camp 5pm.
71 miles for day.
Friday 3rd May
Broke camp 6.25am and travelled approximately 7 miles to
Kuntjil WH arriving there 7.00am. No signs of water. Yipati and
childrens tracks found headed for Nartjun WH. Although Nartjun WH
is in sandhill and spinifex country we were able to drive reasonably
close to it from this point. Some water found here - about enough to
fill a cup. Yipati and children were headed for Buntjarpila WH
which was not accessible from here. At 9.15am we departed for the
Warburton - Blackstone track arriving at Winburn Rocks just in time to
meet Mr MacDougall, Commonwealth Patrol Officer, who had carried
petrol and water to this point for our use. 30 gallons petrol added
and water tank filled. Left Winburn Rocks 2.00pm headed west and 7
miles along the track, made track in north-west direction behind the
Barrow Range and after travelling a further 23 miles arrived at Palkutja
WH. This is in calcrete limestone and the hole drops 6 feet then a
cavity protrudes west for 30 feet. Water was found here and also Yipati's
camp. Yipati and children were out hunting but returned at 4.5pm.
Yipati and children were out hunting but returned at 4.5pm. Yipati had
dug a rabbit burrow out to produce a large rabbit. Both she and the
children appeared dehydrated. Each were given a dring of Viterra by
Constable Hopkins. Camp made here. 81 miles for day.
Saturday 4th May
Broke camp 6.55am taking Yipati and children in Landrover.
After travelling 16 miles across sand and spinifex country we met the
Warburton - Blackstone track. 9.00am contact through RFDS Kalgoolie to
Mr Harman advising of success and future plans. Yipati was travel sick
at this point. Arrived at Warburton 11.15am taking Yipati and children
to hospital for observation. Departed Warburton 2.30pm for Mt Davies
to return tracker and make further enquiries about Willie. Camp made
5pm about 49 miles east of Warburton. 124 miles for day.
Sunday 5th May
Broke camp 7.00am and headed for Mt Davies. At Blackstone
we headed south around the Bell Rock Range and Skirmish Hills in an
endeavour to locate Willie's tracks. The Warburton people claimed he
headed on this southern route but Mt Davies people were definite that
he headed north to the Rawlinsons, his home country. Arrived at
Mt Davies 3.45pm and proceeded to native camp where Larry McLean our
tracker unloaded. Further enquiries made on Willie did not reveal
anything concrete. People denied that Willie had been in trouble at
the camp. No one could be located who knew the waters to the Rawlinsons.
People advised not to travel this country west till after big rain in
area as all waterholes are dry. Night camp made Mt Davies.
170 miles for day.
Monday 6th May
Broke camp 7.20am and left after visiting the native camp
for Giles. The only waterhole known to us was inspected and found dry.
It is called Warabara WH, 34 miles south of Giles in sandhill and
spinifex country. Looking from here to Mt Davies all that could be seen
for miles, was sandhills and spinifex. Arrived Giles in afternoon. Only
one native camped in immediate vicinity who could understand little English.
When shown a picture of Willie, recognition was given but had not seen
recently. 121 miles for day.
Tuesday 7th May
Broke camp 6.55am and headed for Warburton arriving there
3.15pm. Final business over death of Yampuluru arranged. Check on
condition of Yipati and children made and found to be very satisfactory.
Native camp visited to advise them not to travel east until big rain in
area, also various other matters. Departed Warburton 5.15pm making night
camp Hunt Oil at Gunba WH. 278 miles for day.
Wednesday 8th May
Broke camp 7.00am and travelled to Laverton arriving 4.30pm.
310 miles for day.
Tyre trouble was experienced on this trip with 6 punctures,
three of which were blowouts caused by stakes. On the route to Warburton
a trailer hitch bolt sheared, thus we had to rearrange the load and leave
the trailer. We were able to repair the hitch at Warburton. Eight miles
this Laverton side of Cosmo Newbury Mission on our return the trailer
axle broke inside the right hand wheel.
Although no signs of Willie were found it is considered the
Patrol was successful. Information on Willie was disjointed from both
the group at Warburton and Mt Davies, thus detailed investigation was
I herewith submit this report for your consideration.
I S Johnston
Welfare Inspector Laverton