The underwriters suggested that she may have broken a propeller or rudder. This scenario was compared with the SS Waikato, which was 42 days overdue from Vancouver to Auckland, and eventually discovered off Monte Video with a broken shaft.
Many thought the Waratah succumbed to the exceptional storm of 28 July and an example of the conditions at sea was given. The Tyser Line steamer Marere, six and a half thousand tons, rounded the Cape of Good Hope July 22, 1909. The first leg of the voyage was uneventful, but from the Cape onwards she was battered by rough and heavy seas. 24 July, the South Westerly winds were gale force, whipping up hail squalls and high waves. By 28 July, the seas as mountainous, flooding the Marere's deck and washing away boats and damaging deck fittings. The severity of the storm forced the Marere to run with her bow to sea for 12 hours. By 31 July the storm had eased somewhat but flared up again by 2 August. It continued as such virtually all the way to the Australian coast, the Marere arriving two days late in Melbourne. Captain Firth of the Marere also commented on the fate of the Waratah stating:
"It could not have sucked her down,"
"She is too big, too strong,
too well found, and too well manned for
"My firm belief is that the storm
chipped off one of her propellers, like an
apple from a tree, and Captain Ilbery has
had to try to make headway with the other."
"The result has been that that has been
overstrained and gone, too. The disabled
Waratah has been drifting, and I am sure
is still drifting slowly, very slowly, for at
this time of the year the Agulhas current
is at its weakest, and she might not be
carried along at as much as ten miles a day."
"She will be found to the south-west under
those conditions, for at that rate of drift it
would take her days and days to reach the
eastern trend of the current."
"Sooner or later the Waratah is sure to be found"
Captain F. Chrimes master of the Blue Anchor Line steamer Polyphemus, commented that he was convinced that the Waratah was not lost and was quoted:
"I think I can gauge what has happened to the Waratah."
"Probably a big sea damaged the ship's rudder, which, as
it was torn away, broke one of her twin
screws, leaving the vessel helpless."
He was queried about the fact that Waratah had two screws (propellers) and went on to say:
"Without a rudder the other screw would
not help the ship,"
"It is a question of mechanics. The remaining
screw would form what is known as a
'couple'-that is to say, an equal and opposite
parallel force, whose resultant would
tend to drive the ship in a circle, until
a jury-rudder was rigged up the screw
would be useless."
"A complete illustration of what I mean will be conveyed by the
idea of somebody trying to propel a rowing boat with one oar.
The fact of the matter is that the disablement of one screw
plus the loss of the rudder really renders
the undamaged screw useless until a
balancing force on the other side is rigged
"I will not believe for a moment that
the Waratah is lost,''
"I am as positive as I am that my own ship is safely
berthed that she is afloat."
"If her boilers had burst, thousands of tons of wreckage
would be floating about, and to imagine
she has been swamped is quite ludicrous
to my mind. She is somewhere between 25
and 35 degrees east longitude and 38 to 42
degrees south latitude."
"The area of her probable position may be roughly
estimated as about the area of Tasmania,
that is, 7.500 square miles."
"If the captain of the Geelong means to find her,
he must proceed 300 miles due south from
Cape Town, and then zig-zag due east
50-mile beats. He will then, in my opinion,
happen upon her, and good luck to him. I
wish I had the contract."
Another Captain, Lumsden, master of the Glendevon,
believed the Waratah would be discovered within two months.
It is very clear from these comments, mostly experienced captains, that the Waratah was believed to be a sturdy vessel, safe and stable in stormy seas. None of the comments focused on the allegations that Waratah was top heavy and looking for a storm to turn turtle.