Monday, 19 May 2014

Waratah - storm, 28 July, 1909.

The Sydney Morning Herald - Thursday 9 December, 1909
'It was on the following day- July 28- thatthe great cyclonic tempest which will probablybe known in history as "the Waratah storm,"swept the coast of South Africa.' 
'During the whole day the wind blew from WSW to W, with squalls of hurricane force.' 
'A tremendous sea was running, rising in a wall-like formation, owing to the current being against the wind.'  
'Mariners who experienced the storm unite indescribing it as one of exceptional violence.'
'It was not perhaps spoken of as the most severe on record but it was regarded as themost violent tempest for some years.'
'The hurricane raged with unabated furyfor about 15 hours, and right along the coastof South Africa the conditions were dangerous.' 
'Of course the wind was behind the Waratah, but nonetheless she must have had a  very rough time.' 
'The gale moderated on thefollowing day, and was succeeded by a freshsouth-westerly gale, with a high cross sea.'
'The Illovo, a vessel of 1930 tons, left Natal6O hours before the Waratah, and experienceda very rough passage down to Agulhas.' 
'There was a continuous gale with terrible seas.' 
'When off Danger 'Point the ship was struck by amountainous sea and 30 tons of coal had tobe jettisoned.' 
'After that the weather became  worse, and the vessel took 32 hours to makethe passage from Agulhas to Capetown whichis usually done in 11 hours.' 
'So tempestuous was it that the captain tried to put into Struys Bay, but on account of the thickness of the weather, could not get in.' 
'The gale was  evidently of a cyclonic character.'
The Inquiry into the loss of the Waratah came to the conclusion the Waratah succumbed to this 'violent gale'.
I am of the firm belief the Waratah foundered off Port St Johns 27 July.
If the Waratah had still been on course and confronted such a storm there is a possibility that she was swamped and foundered.
The route to Cape Town was a relatively busy shipping lane and a number of humble vessels negotiated the storm without mishap.
Finally, the large steamer gaining on the Harlow over a period of two hours must have had an identity. There were no other steamers fitting this description at that time and place.

                                                               Princess Sophia

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