Thursday, 19 December 2013


29 March 1911

"A Sudden End"

"Judgement and Report"

"Court Outspoken"

"The Court of Inquiry found that the Waratah was lost near Durban, in the gale of July 28 1909, which was of exceptional violence for those waters, and was the first great storm she had encountered."  

"It was led to that conclusion (writes the Sydney 'Herald' correspondent) by the facts that she overhauled the Clan MacIntyre, which afterwards experienced the gale, and was last seen heading in a direction which would take her into a position where she would feel the full force of the storm, and was never after sighted by the Clan MacIntyre." 

"Had she only been disabled it is almost certain that she would have been so sighted, and if not, would have been picked up by one of the many ships subsequently on the lookout for her."  

"The court could not say what particular form was taken by the catastrophe, but the fact that no wreckage had been found, in spite of the most careful search, indicated that it must have been sudden." 

"On the whole the court inclined to the opinion that she capsized, but what particular chain of circumstances brought about this result must remain undetermined.  There was no reasonable doubt that, whatever the cause, all the passengers of the Waratah met their death at sea shortly after she left Durban"

The Court of Inquiry was left with no option but to make this declaration based on the evidence at hand. They ruled out a disabled liner which stood to reason considering the failed extensive searches. 
However, in my opinion, the Court of Inquiry failed to address certain aspects of logic. The Court stated that she must have foundered when she sailed into the gale and was not sighted AGAIN by the Clan MacIntyre. This is flawed based on the fact the Waratah was a faster vessel and seen to be pulling ahead of the Clan MacIntyre when last (officially) sighted. Therefore, the fact that the crew of the Clan MacIntyre did not sight the Waratah again cannot be drawn as a conclusion that she had foundered en route to Cape Town - unless the statement is based on the 'false' Guelph sighting.

The Court claimed that the Waratah foundered in the gale of 28 July, which is the day AFTER she departed from the Clan MacIntyre (09h30 on 27 July). The Court failed to address in its summations, the glaring absence of any other sightings of the Waratah by other vessels in the busy shipping lane in this period of time after she departed the Clan MacIntyre.

The Court disregarded the witness account of the crew of the Guelph and the incomplete communication exchange some 12 hours after departing the Clan MacIntyre. There must have been good reason for the Inquiry to believe that the account was flawed in either truth or accuracy.

The Court disregarded the sighting of the Waratah by the crew of the Harlow based on the same premise that the account was either false or inaccurate. It is astounding taking into consideration Captain Bruce's insistence in later months that the site of his coordinates be dragged - AND THIS WAS NOT DONE. If cost was not to be spared (ref. extensive sea searches) surely the Navy could have at least dragged the site and conclusively ruled out the witness account?????

The Court also incorrectly claimed that this was the first great storm that the Waratah encountered. This was not the case. But the Court was absolutely correct in the assumption that no one from the Waratah survived and her loss was catastrophic.

The Court of Inquiry was not in a position to apportion blame, based on the conflicting witness accounts and lack of concrete evidence. But the Blue Anchor Line's reputation was damaged, bookings dropped dramatically and Lund's dream was to fold within a year of the loss.

The Blue Anchor Line template for transporting emigrants to Australia via the Cape, returning with passengers and cargo, was highly successful and adopted by other shipping lines. The flagship steamer Waratah was doomed and not only took 211 souls into the watery depths, but also dragged the reputation of the instantly recognisable blue anchor down with her.


gale at sea - nasty

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