Having said this there are schools of thought who believe some paranormal occurrences are yet to be 'discovered' in scientific terms, and as such cannot by definition be described or disproved by current scientific methodology.
Despite scepticism, studies on the paranormal are periodically conducted by researchers from various disciplines. Some say that by employing Occam's razor, the simplest solution is usually the correct one, which perhaps relegates paranormal phenomena to the bottom of the list? Or does it?
The Waratah was a 500 ft steamship which in effect disappeared without a trace (if one is to exclude the deck chair found on the shores of Coffee Bay). We have looked into various possibilities for such a disappearance, but let's face it, a paranormal intervention if true could cater for a comprehensive disappearance 'without a trace'.
The name Waratah, after that of the native New South Wales flower, brought calamity to vessels before the SS Waratah of 1908. In 1848, a sailing ship called Waratah sank off Ushant. In 1887, two ships by the name of Waratah sank off Sydney. In 1889, yet another Waratah sank off Cape Preston in the Pilbara. Clearly those with a superstitious inclination should have got the message and avoided another Waratah, by 1909.
When one thinks of the Waratah and the paranormal, Claude Sawyer springs again to mind. He experienced dreams predicting the demise of the Waratah, which he translated into the reality of day and shared with all who would listen. He saw an apparition in his dreams, a knight rising from the waves, armed with bloody sword and sheet, shouting 'Waratah! Waratah!'. No one to my knowledge disembarked at Durban based on Mr Sawyer's warnings, suggesting that this form of prediction did not hold much sway in 1909.
Sherlock Holmes books are much loved and the author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, held a seance to discover how the Waratah was lost. As fastidious as Holmes may have been with regard to concrete evidence, no matter how small or insignificant, his creator thought nothing of resorting to this 'short cut'. Unfortunately it yielded nothing.
Legends of the paranormal would be incomplete without some reference to the 'Flying Dutchman', which some aboard the Clan Macintyre claimed escorted the Waratah into the mists. This ghostly ship was condemned to sail the oceans for all eternity, never to make port and never know peace. Sighting the Flying Dutchman was a presage of doom, and many a story did the rounds of ships and crew after sighting the spectral ship suffering disaster great and small.
Experiments were conducted around the mid 20th century with magnetic fields and such powers capable of displacing large objects such as submarines. Again, no such magnetic fields nor displaced ocean going vessels have been reported off the South African coast.
If we are to get into the swing of this and put on our paranormal outfits (including T-shirts), perhaps we should entertain the notion of the Waratah slipping out of the then current (1909) dimension through a portal (I suppose this would be like a big 'toll gate' in the sea) into another dimension? One can only hope she received a warm welcome in the 'new world'.
One captain, after perhaps a few glasses of his best rum, claimed that he saw a ball of fire falling into the sea and directly after this his compass failed to 'work'. In fairness a meteorite may have been the ball of fire and momentarily disturbed the magnetic field?
One cannot mention the paranormal without drawing attention to UFO's (that none of us have ever seen) hovering over the Waratah and in the interests of inter planetary 'kidnapping' and espionage, whisking the entire ship away for further investigation on a planet in a galaxy light years away from us. If they could please return her now.
I have also seen mention of a temporal hole swallowing away large objects at sea. In medicine the closest I can get to this are temporal lobe hallucinations.
One avid paranormal observer claimed to see a ship float back to shore with nothing aboard except a parrot - which although fluent, refused to say what had befallen the crew.
My favourite however, is the paranormal theory that deep in the oceans, and moving about from ocean to ocean, are caverns, which harbour missing vessels, sucked down by those whirly funnelly things I mentioned in the previous post.
Scepticism abounds and skips lightly over a sober subject of loss and bereavement. There might be those who derive comfort steadfast in the belief that the crew and passengers of the Waratah were 'spared' in an alternate dimension. If indeed some benevolent paranormal force was responsible for the disappearance, and the passengers and crew did not suffer, who are we to be sceptical? Parting thought, however:
"Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us."
My book 'Waratah Revisited' will be available by 12 December, via Amazon. I explore the human aspect of the tragedy and take a closer look at the Inquiry into the loss of the Waratah. Revelations abound. Don't miss it!