Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Waratah - 'not the slightest doubt four human bodies seen'.

Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 - 1954)  Previous issue Sunday 15 August 1909


'A Depressing Report Officially Discounted
"No Bodies Seen"- A Captain's Mistake- Heavy Weather
Off the African Coast'

'MELBOURNE, Saturday.
It is safe to say that in no other
instance of ocean disaster has the
tension of anxious agony been greater
than in the case of the missing
steamer Waratah, now three weeks
overdue in 'the three days' run between
Durban and Cape Town.'

'Every day even in Perth, where
the associations with the vessel are
not intimate, the feeling has been in-
tense, and. it can easily be imagined
how the relatives of those on board
in different parts of the world 'have
awaited each day's cabled news
eagerly grasping at the least scrap
of hope.'

'On Tuesday, for instance, it was
wired that the Union Castle liner
Guelph, had sighted the Waratah
Eastward of East  London on the
night of the 27th, but two days
later it was announced that this report had no
foundation in fact.'

'Meanwhile, the White Star liner
Runic arrived at Cape Town from
Durban, and would probably approximate
to the course which would have
been taken by the missing steamer,
but she saw no sign of Waratah, of
any kind.'

'The British cruiser Pandora, which
with the cruiser Forte has been out
searching for the Waratah, returned
to Durban on Tuesday and reported
that she had found no trace of the
missing steamer.'

'The search carried out by the
cruiser Pandora covered 250 square
miles. The captain of the warship
believes that if the Waratah is still
afloat she will be picked up by the
cruiser Forte which had also been
sent out, but the Koree also returned to 
Simonstown after having covered 1320 miles 
in a fruitless search.'

'At the same time a wire was
received from East London stating
explicitly that a Blue Anchor liner 
had been sighted a considerable distance 
off shore making slowly for
Durban, and it was held that it
could be none other than the Waratah, 
but this statement was not confirmed.'

'On Friday the most disheartening
news of all was received, when it
was stated that the Hall-Russell
steamer Insizwa had reported having
sighted what appeared to be dead
bodies, of four human beings in the
vicinity of the Bashee River which
enters the Indian Ocean about 200
miles to the south of Durban and
about 75 miles to the north of East
London (700 miles from Capetown).'

'It was also reported that dead
bodies were being washed up at the
mouth of the Great Fish River,
which is about 65 miles to the north
of East London.'

The Insizwa's Captain, on being interviewed 
stated that be had not
the slightest doubt that he had
seen four human bodies near Bashee

'Two of them were dressed, in white
clothing, and two in dark.'

'There was no wreckage viable,
but he saw flocks of birds at the
furthest range of vision.'

'The Captain of the lnsizwa states
that he did not stop to investigate
the matter, owing to the big ocean
swell, and a heavy deck cargo rendering 
it dangerous to slow down
or alter his course.'

'A tugboat has been sent out from East London
to search for the supposed corpses on the Bashee River.'

'Police are patrolling the coast watching for wreckage or bodies.'

'The steamer Miltiades, of the Aberdeen White Starline, 
which is en route from Australia to London, and
which left Fremantle on July 28,
has arrived at South Africa, and
has now gone in the vicinity of the
Bashee River in search of the Waratah or any survivors from that

'In consequence of the report that
corpses had been seen, the reinsurance of the Waratah 
has jumped to 90 guineas per cent, which is the
highest rate ever paid on a vessel 
of that size.'

'The cruisers Forte and Hermes and 
the Blue Anchor steamer Geelong
are but searching for the missing

'The cruiser Pandora will leave Capetown 
on a similar mission on Monday.' 

'The Hermes will traverse the south-eastern area already 
covered by the Pandora.'

'The tug Durban or the steamer Miltiades should, 
within 24 hours, clear up the question of the bodies seen at
Bashee River.'

It does seem more and more clear from this and other newspaper reports that bodies were sighted along the Wild Coast after the Waratah was reported missing. No explanations are offered as to other potential sources for the bodies eg. vessels foundering during that time period.

The Wild Coast even in this modern era is an under developed part of South Africa, and the assumption that bodies and flotsam washing up on shore would have been discovered and reported, is false. Many of the rocky shores are inaccessible and the silt deposits from the various rivers are quick to cover and conceal their 'claims'. That which is not concealed by silt is claimed by nature and her myriad opportunistic creatures.

As remote (flight MN370) as the discovery of the Waratah adrift would have been, the same applies to the remnants of the great steamer seized by the sea and the Wild Coast.

SS Miltiades - note similarity to Waratah design

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