Tuesday, 22 April 2014


The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929)  Wednesday 12 October 1921




'The question, what became of the Waratah
has never been satisfactorily Settled.'

'The Waratah was a passenger steamer.
She was lost with all hands off the coast
of South Africa some years ago, while on
a voyage from Australia to England.'

'The mysterious disappearance of the vessel
caused much sensation at the time, and although
a very thorough search was made
for her, no tidings of any character could
be gleaned.'

'It was generally thought that
she had 'turned turtle' during a storm,
but this explanation was pure conjecture,
and her loss has ever since remained a

'Memories of the disaster have
been revived,' says "The Harbinger of
Light", Melbourne, 'by the receipt by us
of the details of a sitting with a Sydney
medium by a very old subscriber, who says,

'I have had over 40 years' experience of
spirit return in different parts of the world,
and my father and mother were among the
first Spiritualists in Sydney.'

'The record he supplies is as follows:

'An old friend having recommended a medium to me, with
whom he had had a satisfactory sitting, I
presented myself for an interview.'

'We sat opposite to each other, with a small pine
table between us. She took both my hands
and said: —

'I believe we are going to have a
very satisfactory sitting.' She then closed
her eyes and at once gave me the names of
a large number of my relations and friends
who had passed over.'

'In some cases there were three generations
of relations present.  She then said—

'They have all gone and the room is empty.
You are now surrounded by the sea.
There is a storm raging and a large steamboat is in distress.
It is the Waratah.'

— Capt. Josiah Ilbery. —

'The medium then went into what appeared to
be a deep trance, and in a man a deep voice said:

'I am Capt. Josiah Ilbery
of the Waratah. The Waratah did not
turn turtle. I have waited for years for an
opportunity to tell you this, and I am very
glad to be able to communicate with you.'

'I said:—

'But if you are Capt. Ilbery, you
know the general impression was that the
Waratah capsized, or turned turtle, as it
is called.'

'But answer was: —

'My boy, they are all wrong, and to show you that I am
the person I purport to be, I will bring
to your mind a conversation I had with
you in my cabin on board the Waratah the
visit to Sydney two trips before she was

'He then detailed a private conversation that we had,
which I' had forgotten until he called it to mind.
I then said: —

'What became of the Waratah?'

'The answer was:

'During a heavy storm the
stern on the vessel struck some wreckage,
the rudder and both propellors were
damaged and the aft compartment stove
in by what appeared to be an explosion.'

'We lay in the trough of the sea, and many
were washed overboard.'

'We then drifted south-east by east for about 30 days, and
at last struck on an uncharted island of
rocks and ice about midway between the
Crozets and the wall of antarctic ice.'

'All hands were washed overboard, and the last
I knew was when the seas swept me off
the bridge and I woke up in the other life.'

'I have twice visited the scene of the wreck,
but the dreadful time brought so vividly
back to me that I will not go again.'

'We then talked on nautical and other matters
for about one, hour. All the time the voice
was the deep, calm tone of Capt. Ilbery,
whom I had known from my childhood, and
I do not think the medium or any other
woman could have discussed the old sailing
ships and given opinions on the present
day warships and submarines, as he did.'

'When the medium came out of trance she
was surprised at the time that she had
been under control, as her usual seance was
from a quarter to half an hour.'

This report makes the assumption the 'spirit world' related valid information via recognized mediums.
Personally, I do not believe the 'spirit world' relates such detailed accounts of events past. But for argument's sake let's assume Captain Ilbery's account from the 'other side' is to be believed.

It is conceivable the Waratah sustained damage to rudder and both screws after striking wreckage. An explosion in the 'aft compartment' causing it to stove in would surely have compromised the Waratah's ability to stay afloat. Further to this, if the Waratah had drifted for a month,  Captain Ilbery would almost certainly have established the cause of the 'explosion'.

The medium claimed that the Waratah drifted as far as the Crozet Islands in 30 days. If we study the case of the SS Waikato, adrift from a position further south west, 180 miles south of Cape Agulhas, following a trajectory along the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, the following is gleaned:

The Waikato drifted for 4 months, starting 4 June, 1899. By 18 September, three and a half months later, the Waikato reached the Amsterdam Islands. The medium claimed the Waratah reached a position south of the Crozets in one month. This seems unlikely if one examines the map attached, bearing in mind the Waratah first had to drift south west with the Agulhas Current before retroflecting off the Agulhas Bank (Cape Agulhas) in what is known as the Agulhas Return Current, which eventually merges with the Indian Ocean Gyre and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current flowing east. The Waikato was sighted and assisted by no less than six vessels during her drift - Takora; Albuy; Banca; Alice; Asloun; and Penguin.

No, I don't think Captain Ilbery spoke through the medium from the 'other side'.

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