Sunday, 3 November 2013

Waratah - search for the wreck.

In 1987 a joint venture was set up between Clive Cussler (the Author) and Emlyn Brown, a South African who had spent the previous 10 years investigating the loss of the Waratah. The aim: to find the location of the sunken Waratah.

Mr Cussler funded the operation through NUMA (South Africa National and Underwater Marine Agency) and Emlyn Brown, research director, provided the background data relating to the most likely site of the Waratah wreck. The partnership hired a marine survey firm, Sistema Ltd, to locate the wreck. Sonar outline of a wreck was discovered in the believed location but Gary Kozak of Klein & Associates studied the sonar images and reported that they were too vague to be confirmed as those of the Waratah.

The location for the search was based on two pieces of alleged eye witness accounts: Joe Conquer who alleged that he saw the Waratah founder off the Bashee Mouth at midday on 27 July, 1909. D.J. Roos, an airmail pilot who claimed to have identified the wreck of the Waratah as he flew over the location identified by Joe Conquer.

According to the research there were no other iron steamships on the seabed at that location, and those within 60 miles were accounted for. Due to the ambiguity of the sonar interpretations it was decided that the only way to comprehensively identify the Waratah was to send an ROV down to the seabed at that location.

January 17, 2001, the ROV identified a wreck and Emlyn Brown commented:

“…Although the submarine dive to the wreck was flawless, the wreck we thought was the Waratah, is in fact not, repeat not the Waratah,”

“It is a cargo ship carrying military hardware, tanks, tires, trucks, etc. that we now know was sunk by a U-boat in 1942. I, and all involved are stunned beyond belief, and almost speechless at what was finally seen on the ocean floor.”

This final search for the Waratah represented the ninth attempt to locate the Waratah since 1983. There have been no further attempts.


Graham Clayton said...

Why was Brown speechless - was it that he couldn't accept that his belief where the wreck of the Waratah was located was totally disproved by the search results?

It reminds me of the search for the Cessna aircraft that disappeared in the Barrington Tops region of NSW in 1981. A TV show followed a searcher who was 100% certain that he had found the wreckage of the plane. I can still see the look on his face when his whole theory was disproved - you could tell that he was having great difficulty accepting the truth of the physical evidence.

andrew van rensburg said...

Emlyn Brown committed himself passionately to finding Waratah during the course of many years. He pursued the Conquer account in great deal and mounted an expensive search off the Xora. I can feel for the man not finding Waratah's final resting place. I am committed to the Harlow account and will be speechless if it is disproved :) Such searches become all-consuming.