Tuesday, 18 March 2014


The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954) Previous issue Tuesday 2 November 1909


London, November 1.

'The "Times" states that Lloyd's at
first determined, owing to lack of substantiation,
not to publish the fuller report from Captain Bruce,
of the s.s. Harlow, regarding the supposed explosion of a steamer
(afterwards alleged to be the Blue Anchor liner Waratah) off
Cape Hermes, on the South African coast, on July 27.'

'Private perusals of the report, however, aroused conjectures
which were regarded as justifying the
publication of the document.'

"A critical examination of the facts", remarks the 'Times', "will show that if
all were well with the Waratah that vessel
would be 190 miles from Cape Hermes
when Captain Bruce saw the two explosions,
the first of which threw a flash
300ft. high, while the second threw a
flash 1,000ft. into the air".

'But if an outbreak of fire had occurred on
the Waratah during the day the
captain would undoubtedly have
retraced his course, hugging the
coast in order to beach the steamer
and land the passengers.'

'The latter theory would explain the reports from
Captain Weir, of the s.s. Clan Macintyre,
and Captain Bruce, of the Harlow, but
not the report from the master of the
s.s. Guelph.'

How convenient the Guelph's ambiguous report turned out to be...

'Those who dispel the Harlow's narrative argue that if the
Waratah were on fire and retraced her course
to Durban she should have been sighted
earlier by the Clan Macintyre.'

Not necessarily. When the Waratah departed the Clan MacIntyre, 09.30 am 27 July, she pulled ahead crossing from the starboard side of the Clan MacIntyre to the port side, and disappearing from sight after which time the Waratah headed out into a lane further south than the course of the Clan MacIntyre. When the Waratah came about for Durban she would have done so in an arc further out to sea not visible to the crew of the Clan MacIntyre.

'In connection with Messrs. Lund and Co.'s suggestion
that the captain of the Harlow saw bush
fires, this very explanation occurred to
the Harlow's chief officer, and owing to
this difference of opinion between himself,
the captain, and the first engineer
and the investigations at Durban
failing to show that any ship was overdue
the captain of the Harlow did not
report the occurrence until he heard of
the Waratah's loss."

I view this passage as pivotal in understanding the mystery surrounding the loss of the Waratah.

The owners of the Waratah were the first party to suggest Captain Bruce mistook bushfires onshore for a large / fast steamer coming up astern.

And it was this 'very explanation' that was relayed subsequently by the Harlow's chief officer and first engineer. This is an outrage! If this report is accurate, the owners of the Waratah planted the seed of doubt in the minds of the chief officer and first engineer of the Harlow. It suggests the owners of the Waratah had instigated the confusion and contradictions emerging from Captain Bruce's and the chief officer's statements at the Inquiry. Captain Bruce WAS convinced a steamer had been approaching astern, otherwise he would NOT have made inquiries at Durban as to whether a vessel was overdue. I suspect the owners of the Waratah were behind the misinformation and confusion.

After all, there was a lot at stake for both the Blue Anchor Line and the crew of the Harlow.



to be continued....

steamer astern

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