"On the resumption of the enquiry last
Monday reference was made to the finding
of bottles containing what purported to be
messages from the Waratah on the Australian coast."
"These messages, said Mr.Laing, K.C.,
for the Board of Trade, had
been fully investigated by the authorities
in Australia, who were convinced that
they were merely "lying concoctions of
It has become abundantly clear that conflicting witness accounts relating to the perceived safety of the Waratah were almost certainly influenced by hysteria surrounding her mysterious loss. But false reports of bottles with messages found on the shores of Australia take the attention-seeking behaviour to scandalous levels. We must never forget that anxious relatives and friends of those lost were holding onto hope no matter how unsubstantiated or remote.
Negative reports such as this and the false announcement that a steamer fitting the description of the Waratah was seen making her way slowly back the Port at Durban, only served one purpose: A moment of indescribable relief followed by an intense and destructive realisation that the Waratah was indeed lost without explanation.
"Then came more evidence from those who had sailed in
the ill-fated ship, and again there was an
amazing conflict of testimony."
"Alexander Reader, an able seaman on
the Waratah on her maiden voyage, said
he has had seventeen years' experience at
sea, and he made the round trip in the
"He found her a good boat, and
he was not alarmed by anything she did
in the way of rolling, pitching, or listing."
"So far as he was aware there was nothing
wrong with the boats, and he never
heard any complaints about them."
He did not mention the claims made by other seamen that the 'stiff' davits made mobilisation of the lifeboats difficult, requiring at least a dozen seamen for the job. Perhaps he did not believe this to be significant in the context of launching life boats at sea. In my opinion this would have been the weak link explaining why no lifeboats from the Waratah were ever discovered.
"William Henry Baker,who signed on
as able seaman in the Waratah for the
second outward voyage to Sydney, but
served in the stoke hold, stated that there
were plenty of, good boats on board,,
but not many men who could man them."
If this is indeed true and not further fear-mongering, this account contributes to the suggestion that there were difficulties associated with mobilising the life boats.
"The ship was not top heavy and the coal
was properly stowed. He neither heard
nor saw anything about the vessel being
This is a further confirmation that although the coal at Durban was loaded via the top deck it was destined for more secure bunkers below.
"She rolled heavily sometimes when
the wind blew strongly, and there was
a slight list at intervals throughout the
voyage, sometimes on one side and
sometimes on the other, but he did
not consider it a serious matter,
and he did not regard the
rolling as dangerous."
This class of statement reminds me and reinforces the fact that the listing and rolling characteristics of the Waratah were nothing out of the ordinary for steamships of the period.
"He had no misgivings
about the vessel, and he would not have
had any hesitation in continuing on her
for the round voyage."
We close this newspaper cutting on a positive note once again drawing attention to those who vouched for the safety of the Waratah.
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