"British Sea Captain's Report may Account for Long Missing Waratah
Manila - September 20, 1909"
"The British steamer Harlow, Capt Bruce, from Newport News June 14, for Port Natal and Manila, reports that on July 27, while 180 miles from Durban, passed a steamer afire."
"The vessel in question, whose name it was impossible to make out, was shortly afterwards destroyed by an explosion."
"It is supposed that this steamer was the missing British steamer Waratah, which with 300 persons on board, has not been heard from since July 26."
The New York Times
published: September 21, 1909
This newspaper cutting demonstrates how misleading some reports of the time were. It is a short report and even though it was published in the renowned New York Times, it has a number of factual errors. The first is the Harlow did not pass a steamer on fire. It would be an act of extreme cruelty and negligence for a Captain of a vessel to pass another vessel on fire without coming to that vessel's assistance. The true fact is Captain Bruce and his crew saw a large steamer coming up astern more than 10 miles distant, making a great deal of smoke, which suggested that the steamer might have been on fire.
The second error; the steamer in question was destroyed by an explosion. The true fact is the large steamer was observed gaining on the Harlow when two flashes of light were seen in the direction of the steamer (persisting as red glows in the sky, lasting for two minutes) followed by the disappearance of the steamer's running lights and all visible evidence of the steamer in question. No explosions were heard, which if there had been an explosion would not have been the case given the distance between the vessels by the last moments was less than 4 miles.
The third error; the number of people on board the Waratah was not 300. The true fact; there were 211 souls on board.
The fourth error; the Waratah was last seen on 26 July, 1909. The true fact; there was a documented and confirmed exchange between the Waratah and the Clan MacIntyre on 27 July (between 6 and 9:30 am).
It's no wonder that much of this misleading reporting remains fixed in the public mind.
|the Morro Castle on fire|