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John Amos - A Tragic End

Death in the Desert

James Essex

Jim Essex 1939 IN November 1962 John Amos was living in Perth, Western Australia, and was given the job of making some investigations into iron ore mining facilities in a remote part of the outback in the north-west, to the east of Port Hedland. Specifically he was to report on the state of disused mines at Nimingarra.

John Amos 1939He set out on the 13th November 1962 in the midsummer heat in a hired car to visit the mines and report back to his employers. Whether or not he had undertaken such a task before is not known but it would seem that he did not plan his mission very well. His car was not suitable and he was not properly equipped for such a journey in such rough tough extreme conditions. He was not carrying adequate supplies of water nor had he left any information about his intended route and timetable. When he reached the cattle station at Nimingarra he found it abandoned. He decided to return but may have taken a wrong track. His car got stuck in soft sand in a dried up creek and he was unable to free it. He looked around for water but found none and soon realized that he was facing death. He had his tape recorder with him and he left a full statement about his journey and his predicament before he died of heat exhaustion.

He should have rested in the shade until nightfall when temperatures plummet and the sand becomes firmer. He might then have succeeded in digging his way out without risk of heat exhaustion. Even if this had failed he still had his car radiator water to sustain him for a few days during which time he might have spotted a water windpump from the top of the banks of the creek. This pump was about a quarter of a mile away where there was a dam full of water.

Another factor in his favour, had he but known, was that the night of November 13th was only two days after the full moon. The Sun set at 6.16pm and the Moon rose at 7.47pm. Sunrise was at 5.12 am and the Moon set at 6.18 am the next day. With a cloudless sky, near freezing temperatures, a full moon and stars to keep him on a straight course he might, just might, have succeeded in walking the eight miles to the Muccan Station along the road he had come earlier that day. Perhaps he had expired from his efforts to free the car before nightfall. His body was found by a local farmer about ten days later in the car.

Report of the Inquest in 'The West Australian' - March 1969

PORT HEDLAND, Wednesday . - A coroner's court today heard a transcript of a tape recording left by a man who died in his car which was bogged in a creek bed east of Port Hedland last November. All but the last paragraph of the transcript was read at the inquest of John Anthony Colin Wilson Amos.

Amos (41), administrative officer, of Wandarrie Avenue, Mt. Yokine, disappeared from Port Hedland on November 13th. He was reported missing ten days later. A wide aerial search failed to find him or the hired car he was driving. His body was found two weeks later about 120 miles east of Port Hedland on the road between Nimingarra and the Muccan station homestead. His car had become bogged down in the soft sandy bed of Egg Creek about eight miles from Muccan. Coroner R Harlock adjourned the inquest till next Tuesday in Perth.

Area Map

In one part of the tape Amos had said that he left his Port Hedland motel for Nimingarra. He had travelled 13 miles before turning off towards Marble Bar. Seventy-six miles further on he turned off the main road and headed for the Muccan station. He then took one of three tracks which he understood led to the station. The transcript said:"Crossed a riverbed. Very bad patch, very soft and with rocks. Just crossed the De Grey River, pretty nearly didn't get across. Wouldn't recommend it for anything short of a four-wheel-drive vehicle, certainly not for lorries or private cars."

Detail Map

Later, "Well, this is Nimingarra station, speedo reading 23929. Can't see any sign of activity round here or of the Sentinel Mining operation. No sign, nothing at all. See the station buildings. However, they seem to be deserted too. There is nothing here. It is dead flat. Oh, I think it just goes on. I think I will just go back through Muccan station now and get out of this."

Aerial Photo

"There is a bore-hole with a wind-pump on it. I think I'll go over and see if there is any water coming out of it. There is no water in the well or the bore- hole. The tank is dry. Well, it looks like this time I've done it at last"

Constable M Forsyth told the court that the manager of the Muccan station reported to the Marble Bar police on November 27th that he had found a body in a car bogged in a creek. Tracks indicated that Amos had rested in the shade of some trees, possibly after having tried to move the vehicle. It appeared he had tried to free the car by putting sticks under the wheels. There were the remains of some sandwiches in the car, an apple core, orange peel and about half a cup of water. The car radiator was full of water and about a quarter of a mile downstream there was a windmill and a dam full of water. The top of the windmill could be seen from the creek bank.

A Perth doctor who performed the autopsy had said that Amos had died of heat exhaustion. The maximum shade temperatures in the fortnight Amos was missing ranged between 110 and 117 degrees F.

Ian Bruce Barber, building supervisor of Bayswater, Victoria, said that Amos had told him on Novenber 11th that he was on a research and development mission. Muccan station manager Terence Frederick Hall said that he found the body while doing a windmill run. He thought that anyone without water would have died in half a day.

When the inquest resumed, the forensic pathologist who carried out an autopsy on Amos said he found no evidence of disease or injury. The condition of the bdy was consistent with death having occured about November 13th. At the end the coroner's verdict was "death by misadventure".

Did John Amos Have Proper Maps?

O L Webmaster

I have been looking into this strange affair in more detail and consulting maps of the area and records of old mine concessions. On the basis of this and the scanty information available in the newspaper cuttings quoted above it seems very likely that John Amos went to the wrong place in his fruitless search for the Sentinel mine "at Nimingarra".

Nimingarra Mines

In much earlier times cattle had been raised here over about 100 square miles of scrubland on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert. The Nimingarra cattle station was located as shown on the maps above. However it had been abandoned many years earlier due to drought. The Nimingarra Mines were located about ten miles to the north-east of the cattle station where an outcrop of economically viable ores existed. In such a vast and desolate place as this, the name "Nimingarra Mines" means nothing more than the Nimingarra cattle station being the nearest habitation at the time the ore deposits were originally found.

John said, on his tape recorder, that when he arrived "at Nimingarra" all he could see was the abandoned cattle station - he could see no signs of mining operations. This was hardly surprising as they were about ten miles further into the desert. This suggests to me that he did not have proper maps of the area and may well have undertaken the journey not realising the need for such information. Here was a man completely out of his depth in this enviroment - ill-informed, ill-prepared and with no fall-back strategy. A perfect recipe for disaster.

Egg Creek

A Recent Visit

In the course of our investigation of this tragic affair we have made the acquaintance of Neill Warner who is a local policeman whose area includes the old Nimingara cattle station. In the course of his duties familiarising himself with this part of his patch he recently made a trip to this abandoned and remote territory to examine the state of the roads and tracks. On a recent trip he took a photo of Egg Creek in the area where John Amos came to grief. He has sent the photo to us so that we can appreciate the situation John Amos was in. This is the scene today.

Egg Creek

What you see is deep sand in the dried up river bed surrounded by gum trees. The tracks that led to the Nimingarra station have disappeared in many places due to lack of use and the effects of recent heavy rains so the precise position of the former crossing of the river bed is uncertain. To appreciate the situation John Amos was in you have to imagine your vehicle being stuck in this sand up to the axles, an air temperature of almost 50 deg C, very little shade, no water, no communications and no hope of rescue.