Tuesday, 22 April 2014


1954, a man by the name of Frank Price came forward with an extraordinary witness account of the Waratah foundering. He related the story of a 'boer' by the name of Jan Pretorius who was illegally prospecting for diamonds along the banks of the Bashee River during the last week of July, 1909.
Pretorius witnessed a large steamer rolling heavily close to shore in stormy conditions. Being so close to shore he believed the steamer ran onto rocks or a shoal and sank. Pretorius withheld this information because he did not want to be arrested for diamond prospecting in that location. He confided what he had seen to his friend Frank Price, whom he swore to secrecy until after his death.

The site off the Bashee River has been extensively explored and investigated without success by teams looking for the wreck of the Waratah. However, if Frank Price mistook the name of the river for the Umzimvubu, or St Johns River as it was known then, perhaps there could be an element of truth to the account. Perhaps Jan Pretorius was a further eye witness, and if so, he was lucky not to have been nabbed by the other eye witness, a policeman onshore.

diamond prospecting 1909

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