Friday, 15 November 2013


The Margarita was a cargo steamer built in 1901 by Barclay Curle and Co (the same builders, Waratah). She was powered by a single triple expansion engine, constructed of steel, weighed 4443 gross tonnes, 385 ft length. Initially registered to the Ellerman Lines Ltd of Liverpool, she was later sold on to Greek owners, Metaxas B. N.Cephalonia.

The Margarita sailed from East London 7 November 1925 destined for Dakar with a cargo of maize and hides. She went missing after a distress message was issued 8 November. As in the case of the Waratah she sailed into a significant storm between East London and Cape Town, foundered and was lost without a trace, including her crew of 34. There is very little more about this cargo steamer, 24 years in service without any noted problems before the 7 November 1925.

We have explored the spectrum of storms off the Cape coast including freak waves, which in some instances have been recorded as high as 30m. The Inquiry into the loss of the Waratah was ultimately forced to adopt the conclusion that the Waratah was lost in the severe storm of the 28 July 1909.
Given the similar circumstances one is inclined to agree that there is a storm pattern off the Cape coast capable of 'engulfing' large ocean going vessels such as the Margarita (385 ft long) and the Waratah (465 ft long).

I'm left with just one question:

Both vessels were built by Barclay Curle and Co. The Waratah was on her second to maiden voyage, and the Margarita had completed 24 years of ocean going service. Was there perhaps a common design flaw that only manifested in severe storm conditions at sea? It seems more likely that the Margarita in her 24 years of service would have encountered severe storm conditions off the Cape and other coasts before November 1925 and survived. Perhaps the common denominator is a chance encounter with a freak wave, in which case no factors could save 'any' vessel from a similar fate - lost without a trace.

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