Saturday, 7 September 2013

Anecdote Saturday - William McFee's experience.

A possible theory explaining the loss of the Waratah could have been that she turned turtle and sunk without a trace. The seas off the Wild Coast (as we will explore in coming posts) can deliver forces capable of challenging the sturdiest of vessels. William McFee, noted sea writer, had the following to say, making a very convincing case for a ship to be destroyed by the elements:

"In 1906 one of those terrible winds caught my ship at anchor in an open roadstead and we were nearly blown on the reef before we could get steam enough to head into the gale. That ship was an humble tramp, very low in the water and loaded with nearly 6,000 tons of copper in her lower holds. She offered small resistance to the wind, yet her boats were lost or smashed, her deck steam pipes torn up, and her forecastle almost stove in."

"If the Waratah, with her boats 50 feet above the sea and a huge broadside area to the hurricane had been in that storm, all the naval architects in the world could not convince me that she would have survived. She was safe in all weathers except the type that comes once in 20 years or so off those coasts. She probably turned turtle and took everybody to the bottom."

There were other vessels in the shipping lane between the 26 July and 28 July, 1909; why was the Waratah the only vessel to be lost to the storm 'of exceptional violence'?

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