Wednesday, 23 April 2014


In the summer of 1932 a Canadian seaman by the name of John Noble was admitted to the Oshawa County Hospital. He was in critical condition and summoned a nurse to witness a faded copy of Lloyd's list. He made the following statement:

". . . became a member of the crew of the steamship
Waratah" and that "shortly after leaving Durban the ship
developed a heavy list. Among my mates were some
ready to mutiny, but I refused to join them. Then, at
four o'clock on the morning of July 23, 1909, while I
was on watch, I discovered the ten-year-old daughter of
a well-known and wealthy English family; she was crying
in the shelter of a deck ventilator. Suddenly, as I approached
the child, the ship rolled heavily to starboard,
and we were both thrown into the sea. We managed to
struggle ashore and at last reached East London."

South African police records support the fact that a man and young girl were seen in East London during August of 1909. The strange pair disappeared before further inquiries into their identities could be established.

The statement is flawed in a number of respects:

- there was no John Noble listed on the crew manifest of the Waratah's final voyage.

- the Waratah disappeared 27 July, not 23 July.

- it's unlikely the Waratah developed a heavy list shortly after departing Durban. She was fully loaded with minimal leeway for unequal distribution of cargo or shift.

- the Waratah made good time until sighted by the crew of the Clan Macintyre (dispelling claims that she was listing heavily), and the signal exchange 6 am 27 July, between the two vessels, did not include any references to mutinous attempts aboard the Waratah.

- it seems unlikely given the circumstantial evidence that the Waratah foundered off East London.

- if the Waratah foundered close enough to shore for the pair to have safely reached shore, why were there no other survivors?

No, the account is deeply flawed and reminds us of the many false bottle messages referring to the Waratah.

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