Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Waratah - Govett; Henderson; Hunter; Harvey; Miller; Cumming; Bowden; Schauman; Wilson.

The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954)  Thursday 9 December 1909


'Mrs. Govett, who was a resident of the
western district, Victoria, and for some time  
before sailing had been residing with Mrs. Orr
at Macleay Street Potts Point was bound for

Mrs Lydia Laura (Lily) Govett born 1865,  a resident of Geelong, Victoria, was 44 years of age when she lost her life.

'Miss Henderson a maid in the service of
Mrs Smart of the Hotel Australia booked
to London.'

'Mr J M S Hunter of Glasgow was returning
to London from a visit to his son and
interested in pastoral pursuits in this State.'

'Mrs Harvey, Master Harvey and Silas Miller  
belonged to Gisborne New Zealand and
joined the Waratah at Sydney for Cape Town.'

'Mr William Cumming bound for London
booked through Cooks at Sydney.'

'Mr and Mrs Bowden and Mrs and the
Misses Bowden and Miss L D Schauman all
members of the same party boarded the vessel
at Sydney at the last moment they had been
engaged in Sydney in the hotel business.'

'Mrs and Miss Wilson saloon passengers
from Melbourne are the wife and daughter of
the manager of the Royal Bank Victoria.'

'Mr J T Wilson and Miss Wilson who also
joined at Melbourne resided at Malvern road

 'An old lady on board Mrs. Wilson (above) , who has been
fifteen voyages with Captain Ilbery,
of the Waratah . The captain called
her his 'right hand' in rough weather
because of the help she gave when the
passengers were invalided by continuous seasickness .'

to be continued....

Monday, 28 April 2014

Waratah - Colonel Percival John Browne; Miss Gracia Katharine Hope Lees

Colonel Percival John Browne, 49, was a passenger on the Waratah's last voyage. He held the rank of Colonel in the service of the 7th Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry as well as Companion, Order of the Bath (CB). The third son of William James Browne of Buckland Filleigh Esq. Colonel Browne married Bernarda Gracia Lees, 26 April, 1892, daughter of Thomas Evans Lees and Bernada Maria Elisa Turnbull.

Bernada Gracia Browne (nee Lees) had a brother Sir Elliot Lees, born 23 October, 1860, who married Florence Keith, 26 July 1882. Sir Elliot Lees was educated at Eton College, Berkshire, England and held an MP position (Oldham) in the Conservative Government, between 1886 and 1892. He gained the rank of Major and Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel in the Dorset (QO) Yeomanry. A graduate of Christ Church, Oxford University, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, 1889, with a Master of Arts (MA), Sir Elliot Lees held the office of Conservative MP for Birkenhead, 1894 to 1906. He was created 1st Baronet Lees, of South Lytchett House, Lytchett Minster, Dorset on 13 February 1897, and gained the rank of Major in the service of the Imperial Yeomanry and was decorated with the award of the Companion, Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) and the award of the Territorial Decoration (T.D.).
Sir Elliot Lees fought in the Boer War 1900, where he was mentioned in despatches twice. He also held the office of Justice of the Peace (J.P.).

Sir Elliot's daughter, Gracia Katharine Hope Lees was born 10 Jan 1890. It was agreed that Colonel Percival John Browne would take his niece, Gracia Katharine (hence initial K) Hope Lees, on a 'round the world' trip to help her cope with the loss of her father Sir Elliot Lees. Sir Elliot died 16 October, 1908.

The family tragedy that was to follow does not bear thinking. Katherine was just 19 years of age.
Colonel Browne, 49, must have experienced exquisite anguish confronting his own mortality and that of his young charge and a failed responsibility. Both perished with the loss of the Waratah. Katherine's lady's maid, Miss L Cooke perished as well. Colonel Browne's widow Bernada Gracia Browne (nee Lees) died in 1948.

Sunday, 27 April 2014


Dr Patrick John 'Jack' Carrick was born in 1885, to Herbert Bernard and Grace Carrick, Victoria, Australia. He was a passenger on the Waratah when she disappeared. Dr Carrick, a geologist, was intimately involved with the expansion of gold diggings into the Free State, South Africa.

Gold mining started in earnest in the district west of Vredefort, close to the Vaal River (Schoeman's Drift) during the 1880's. Rich gold bearing banket reefs were discovered running through three farms, the most notable being Lindesquefontein farm. This attracted the attention of what became known as the Philippolis Lindequesfontein Gold Company, the Philippolis Gold Mining Company and a further syndicate from Kroonstad (1886). The Free State Government proclaimed the Lindequesfontein farm a public digging, 1887, which then became known as the Lindequesfontein Gold Fields.

The gold mining slump of the 1890's affected these gold fields as it did the Transvaal, and claims were abandoned, the Lindequesfontein farm de-proclaimed. In december of 1904 the farm was once again proclaimed, swept along by the tide of renewed prospecting operations in the Vredefort district.
New gold mining concerns emerged from the post Boer War aftermath; Orangia Main Reef Limited, Vaal Rand Mines, New Discovery and New Rand Limited.

In this age of 'gold fever', Dr Carrick became involved with A.R. Sawyer  discovering payable gold on the re-proclaimed Lindequesfontein farm. Jack Carrick perished on the Waratah, just 24 years old, in the bloom of his career and riding the wave of exciting new gold discoveries in the Free State.

gold diggings

Friday, 25 April 2014

Anecdote Saturday - SS Waikato 'impossible to reach land'.

Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 - 1918)   Friday 13 August 1909


'Mr. J . A. P. Turnbull, who was second
officer on the s.s. Waikato when she was
adrift for 103 days in the same sea as the
Waratah is supposed to be, and is now a
resident of Glenorchy, supplies the following'

"The Waikato was a steamer of about
5000 tons, bound from London to Wellington,
New Zealand. On the night of 5th June, 1899,
we were suddenly aroused by
a terrific noise in the engine-room, the engines
running away with a loud buzzing
noise, and the ship vibrating horribly."

"When at last she was shut off and all examination made,
it was found that the tail-shaft
had snapped in the stern-tube, in a place
impossible to repair at sea without cutting
the stern-tube and tipping the ship, an experiment
our engineers would not risk in stuck in a rough and unsettled part of the

"The Waikato carried a fair amount of
square sail on her foremast, and we were
able to rig a small jury-mast as a main
mast, but they might just as well have
been set on the flagstaff, as they were continually
blowing away without giving the
ship steerage-way: and, though several sea
anchors were tried, none of them were successful
in keeping the ship's head to sea,
and she drifted broadside to the seas, rolling continually."

"Luckily for us, she made such a broad, smooth wake
going sideways, that some of the force of the seas
was reduced before reaching us. But it
was anything but pleasant to have big Cape
rollers tumbling down on us, looking as if
they must roll right over us. However,
no serious damage was done."

"At the time of our breakdown we were
120 miles from Cape Agulhas, and suggestions
were made that a boat should be sent
to try and make the coast, but the
captain and officers thought that it would
be almost impossible to reach land again,
the strong Agulhas current that runs down
the South African coast past Port Natal
East London, and Algoa Bay, so there was
nothing for it but to wait in hope of being picked up."

"At night we had a huge flare-up, consisting of
a large iron drum on the upper deck, with a coal fire in it.
On this, at short intervals, oil was thrown,
which blazed up, lighting up the sky for
miles around."

"The current took us at first in a westerly direction,
and then shot us all down south to latitude 40deg.,
the ship drifting as much as 60, 80, or 100 miles a day.
Some days when we expected to be driven north by
the gales we would find instead that we
were miles south of the previous day's position."

"We were, adrift for 52 days without
sighting a sail, rolling and wallowing all
the while between latitudes 36deg. and 46
deg. south, gradually working east."

"On the 103rd day the tramp steamer
Asloun hove in sight, and at last our long
wait was to be ended in long. 60deg. east,
lat. 41 deg. south."

"After drifting about 2500 miles, and 1800 miles
in an easterly direction, going round in squares, circles,
and triangles, and crossing our own track
seven times, we were really in tow at last,
heading for Fremantle."

'The Waikato's hull was undamaged, with the exception of
the loss of a good many of our deck fittings.
Oil was used with very good effect
when the seas were extra high."

''From our experience I should think
that it would be almost impossible for a
well-founded ship like the Waratah to go
down, as our packet was only a cargo boat,
and she withstood over three months' buffeting
from some of the heaviest seas found
in any part of the world."

"It is not improbable that  the Waratah has met
with a singular mishap."

"I think we spoke six sailing ships during our drift, all having been
attracted by our flare-up."

"Judging from our experience I feel confident that the
Waratah would not drift to the north, but
in a south-easterly direction, immediately behind
the track of steamers and sailing-ships
bound for Australia, and in that case there
is every probability that she may be heard
of before many weeks have passed."

One of the theories explaining the disappearance of the Waratah relates to this experience of the Waikato. It is conceivable the Waratah sustained mechanical problems of such a nature that she drifted at the mercy of the Agulhas Current and then retroflected south in an arc, finally catching the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) flowing eastwards.

There is argument that the ACC flows further south during the winter months, compared with that experienced by the Waikato, and the vessels sent out in search of the Waratah followed the Waikato's coordinates and not the current. The Waikato was sighted by no less than six vessels during her drift.
Vessels, circa 1909, sailing from the Cape to the Antipodes made use of the ACC, thus 'creating' the seasonally shifting shipping lane. I doubt very much whether the Waratah could have escaped detection by other vessels between Cape Hermes and Cape Aghulhas, and thereafter along the favourable track of the ACC to the Antipodes.

SS Waikato

My book 'Waratah Revisited' will be available by 12 December, via Amazon. I explore the human aspect of the tragedy and take a closer look at the Inquiry into the loss of the Waratah. Revelations abound. Don't miss it!

Waratah - Father El-Fadle.

In 1905 Father Emmanuel El-Fadle was sent to South Africa from Kfarhata-Elzawye, North Lebanon by Patriarch Elias El-Houayek of the Maronite Catholic Mission. He was the first Maronite priest to set foot in South Africa. Father El-Fadle arrived in Johannesburg at Christmas and immediately rented a double story building, setting up a Church downstairs and living upstairs. This established the Maronite Church in South Africa  - 48 Blougom Crescent, Liefde-en-Vrede, Mulbarton, Johannesburg.

Father El-Fadle fluent in Arabic, French, Italian and Latin studied in Rome and Paris. He served the Johannesburg community on both spiritual and social levels. The Lebanese peoples of South Africa at this time were classified as 'non-white'. Father El-Fadle petitioned the Transvaal Government to reclassify Lebanese people as 'white', presenting a lengthy argument in French explaining the role played by the Phoenicians in the development of Western civilization. It fell on 'deaf ears' or perhaps his choice of language medium failed to impress. After 4 years' service in South Africa, the disillusioned Maronite priest decided to return to Lebanon via London, on the ill-fated Waratah. Father El-Fadle perished along with 210 other souls 27 July, 1909.

The Maronites are an ethnoreligious group in the Levant.  The name is derived from the Syriac saint Maron, whose followers moved to Mount Lebanon from northern Syria.

Father El-Fadle

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Waratah - Niel Walter Black.

Niel Walter Black was a passenger on the Waratah July, 1909. He was born in 1864, the son of a well known Scottish-born Victorian pastoralist and politician, Niel Black. Black was educated at Geelong Grammar School, Victoria, Australia, which overlooks Corio and Limeburners bays. He went on to study at Cambridge (Emmanuel College) where he developed an interest in organs. Hill & Son of Cambridge were renowned for the building of organs and their exquisite attention to detail impressed the young Niel Black. He ordered an organ for his mansion, 'Dalvui', Noorat, Victoria.

The organ was installed at 'Dalvui' in April and May, 1909, positioned in an alcove to the one side of the baronial dining room, which extended two floors. The organ cost a total of two thousand pounds and occupied a space of 18 ft wide, 9 ft deep, 19 ft high. Shortly after completion of the organ at 'Dalvui', Black boarded the Waratah bound for England. The unmarried Niel Black's life was cut short when the Waratah went missing off the Wild Coast. He was 45 years old.

Black had commissioned the building and installation of an organ at All Saint's Chapel, Geelong Grammar School. His brother's presented the organ to the school in his memory:

“Messrs. S.G. and A.J. Black, of Noorat, have, it is announced, presented to the Council of the School a fine organ, valued at £1400, to be erected in the chapel of the new school, in memory of their brother, the late N.W. Black.”

the organ at All Saint's Chapel, Geelong Grammar School

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.

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


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'.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Waratah - 'dealing with shipping casualties on the coast'.

Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954) Saturday 21 August 1909


LONDON, August 14

'The owners of the Lund liner Waratah
are quite sanguine since the denial of the
reports concerning the washing ashore of
human bodies on the African coast as to
the safety of the steamer, emphasizing the
fact that other vessels upwards of a fortnight
overdue due to some mishap have
nevertheless reached ' their' destinations.'

'They consider that the Waratah is drifting
on the ocean, probably towards Australia.'

'The Cape Government are appointing a
Commission to inquire as to what arrangements
should be made for dealing with
shipping casualties on the coast, with a
view to providing reasonable facilities, for
saving life and property.'

'The Admiralty have been approached with
a view to securing the services of an experienced naval
officer to assist the Commissioners.'

'The 'Times,' in the marine insurance
market, states that 93 guineas was
paid on Saturday for the reinsurance of
the Waratah.'

'The deal was really a covering operation,
and the fact that any rate was quoted at all is
due to the possibility that what the captain of the
Insizwa believes he saw near the mouth of the
Bashee River is explainable by the wreck
of a small craft.'

'It is probably as well to state, adds the
'Times,' that experienced underwriters ,
best qualified to express an opinion have become
thoroughly pessimistic regarding the Waratah.'

The discovery of bodies off the Wild Coast caused confusion and distress. To my knowledge, nothing appeared in the press nor at the Inquiry regarding details of other vessel/s (light or other) foundering during the same time period the Waratah went missing.

The issue of reinsurance hinged on the fact that the Waratah was believed to be adrift.

In the case of both the Harlow and Insizwa, crews had failed to act, thus creating confusion and doubt. But the seeds of 'possibility' had been planted. The captain of the Insizwa blamed poor weather as his primary reason for not attempting to retrieve the bodies afloat.

Captain Bruce of the Harlow had failed to go to the aid of the Waratah after two distinct distress flares had been observed, followed by the disappearance of the steamer's lights. Significant delays hampered search and recovery operations after the Waratah was reported overdue, further laying foundations for the maritime mystery that was to come.



Friday, 18 April 2014

Anecdote Saturday - SS Meliskerk (e)

The Meliskerk, a steel hull cargo vessel, was built in Hamburg, 1919. She was almost the length of the Waratah, 450 ft, with gross tonnage 5919, and powered by a quadruple expansion steam engine, making 12.5 knots. The Meliskerk was initially known as the DADG76, and later the Cesario. In 1921 she was bought by the United Stoomvaartmaatschappij, Dutch Africa Line, and renamed SS Meliskerke.

January 1943, under the command of Captain Brouwer, and loaded with 11 000 tons of ammunition, tanks and three aircraft, steamed along the Wild Coast, South Africa. In an attempt to avoid enemy submarines, the Meliskerk hugged the coast. Northeast of Port St Johns, between the mouths of the Umzimvubu and Mzintlava Rivers, she struck a reef and foundered rapidly in 15 m of water.

Salvage attempts recovered 500 tons of cargo but rough seas caused ammunition to explode, disrupting further efforts. The wreck of the Meliskerk is a popular diving site and home to a unique array of marine life. The reefs close to shore northeast of Cape Hermes and Port St Johns have snatched a number of vessels including the Grosvenor and Waratah. Google earth clearly demonstrates these reefs with gulleys slicing into the submarine rocky outcrops. It's time to renew efforts to find the Waratah.

SS Meliskerk in Cape Town harbour

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Waratah - more on Mrs Agnes Grant Hay (aka Mrs Alexander Hay)

In 1911 a brass lectern was donated donated to the local church, Victor Harbour, South Australia, by Mrs Agnes Gosse and family in memory of Mrs Agnes Grant Hay and her daughter Miss Helen (Dolly) Gosse Hay who were both lost with the Waratah. Ironically Mrs Hay had offered the lectern to the Church prior to her death and the gesture had been rejected due to the amount of polishing the brass would require.

Mrs Agnes Hay was born to Dr William Gosse and Agnes (nee Grant), the eldest of seven children.
Her education included Rawdon House School, Hoddesdon, England, where she was influenced by a tutor Mrs Sarah Ellis. Mrs Ellis was an 'anti-feminist' and the author of 'Women of England'.

1850, the Hay family emigrated to Adelaide aboard the 'Elizabeth' and took up residence in a house on the North Terrace. Mrs Hay was privately tutored by Rev. James McGowan. She traveled frequently between Australia and England.

1867, she met Alexander Hay, Philanthropist and politician, who was to become her husband 1872.
Mr Hay had been married to Agnes (nee Kelly of missionary stock), who died from Bright's Disease (acute kidney infection) 1870. The Hays were wealthy and influential. They owned two properties, 'Linden' at Burnside and 'Mount Bracken' at Victor Harbour. Generous entertainers, Mrs Hay was also a prominent public figure, officiating at openings of buildings. Mrs Hay adopted her tutor Mrs Ellis' anti feminism stance and advocated against women's rights. Rev. McGowan must also have been influential as she promoted Bible Readings in State schools.
Alexander Hay died 1898.

A widow now, Mrs Hay continued to travel frequently with her two daughters between Australia and England, France, and Germany. Mrs Hay favoured the Blue Anchor Line, and in particular the luxurious Geelong. Later she opted for the new flagship, Waratah, which was captained by J.E. Ilbery, previously master of the Geelong.

Mrs Hay wrote several travel articles for the Advertiser, Chronicle, and various English newspapers.
She also published a biography of her late husband, entitled 'Footprints'. 1901, Mrs Hay's eldest son succumbed to the same affliction, Bright's Disease, which had taken Mr Hay's first wife. 1902, Mrs Hay published Ober-Ammergau: and its Great Passion Drama of 1900. Her memoirs, 'After Glow Memories', published 1905, incorporated fictional elements.

Mrs Hay's impressions of the Waratah were captured in letters she wrote, and extensively quoted.
She thought the Waratah a very comfortable steamer (no references to stability issues) and Captain Ilbery and crew, the very essence of capable and courteous seamen. Mrs Hay and her youngest daughter Dolly were lost with the Waratah. She had just completed a manuscript of a novel set in South Africa, which she was taking to publishers in London. Lives and a stillborn novel were prematurely claimed by the Wild Coast.

Courtesy, Anthony Laube's book, A Lady at Sea: the adventures of Agnes Grant Hay (2001).

Wednesday, 16 April 2014


Waratah Mansion in Chislehurst was built in 1893 and owned by Wilhelm Lund of the Blue Anchor Line. The 1901 census reveals an Alice, aged 48, born in New South Wales, living at Waratah Mansion. Her surname is not given. Could it have been Lund? Wilhelm Lund had connections with New South Wales.

At the time of the loss of the Waratah the residents of Waratah Mansion were people by the name of Hall. 
They vacated the house shortly thereafter, suggesting that they had a connection with the Lunds.
The house remained unoccupied until 1922, when Newton Dunn became resident. It was renamed Walden Mansion. In 1929 Newton Dunn was superseded by Miss Bertha Dunn. In 1940 the mansion was converted into a furniture repository for Harrison Gibson's of Bromley. 4 February, 1944, the house was destroyed by an incendiary bomb. The house remained burnt out until it was demolished in the early 1960's.

Waratah Mansion

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Waratah - 'telepathic communications' - ship not wrecked.

'The Waratah - prayers for her safe keeping, at Temperence Hall, city, Sunday, 7 pm.  Christians invited.  Friends of those on board attend, to enable Mrs Murray to get telepathic communications.  Two communications had already.  Boat not wrecked, method used is similar to wireless telegraphy.  Admission, 6d'

This is an example of adverts appearing in newspapers after the disappearance of the Waratah. It is a paradoxical combination of references to Christianity, prayers and sobriety (a Victorian virtue) linked with Mrs Murray's claimed supernatural abilities to communicate with those on the Waratah - for a fee of course. The advert also claimed prior success with such communications. One could view this as a money-making venture, taking advantage of distressed family and friends.

The alleged alliance of these supernatural communications with wireless telegraphy could be viewed as an attempt to distance the 'communications' from the occult, which would sacrifice the credibility of Christian prayers 'for her safe keeping'. At the time wireless telegraphy was a leap of faith. Very few people understood the science of such 'invisible' communications. With limited insight into this new technology it is no surprise that acceptance translated into gullibility, an expanded realm fueling unrealistic expectations.

Mrs Murray may have intended to use her 'gift' for beneficence. But to the casual observer, it suggests opportunism and exploitation. The mainstream Christian world hesitantly accepted such communications with the spirit (or living on a vessel adrift) world with cautionary advice:

'The spiritual world is inhabited by legions of lying spirits whose chief occupation and delight it is to deceive humanity.'

'Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world' 1 John 4:1

'In every time of crisis false prophets are ready to take advantage of the circumstances, and the evil spirits that are lying in wait to deceive humanity find no difficulty in securing many human channels through which they can exercise their nefarious arts.'

The Devil in 'his' many forms takes advantage of the weak and vulnerable.

The message is clear:

Be cautious in communications with the spirit world and don't necessarily believe all that is communicated.

Charlatans using this medium for monetary gain, could default back to the defence that false and misleading messages were the work of nefarious spirits - agents of Lucifer. How cruel to give people false messages from loved ones in the 'afterlife'. Perhaps even worse was to suggest that the people on the Waratah were still alive.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Waratah - engines 'shook' in rough seas.

The Times, 14 May 1910,


'He gave similar evidence to the other witness about the boat rolling in the Bay of Biscay.  The Waratah could not ride heavy seas, and the engines shook the vessel so much that the gear of the aftermast became loosened.'

If this is to be believed there might be a further force exerted on the Waratah's hull in rough seas. Perhaps compromised rivets snapped due to the shaking described, adding a further weak link in the chain of circumstances leading to the catastrophe.

heavy cross sea

Sunday, 13 April 2014


["Wireless and the Waratah", The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 10 August 1909, page 6]


'But the main thing at the present moment which is stirring the public mind is the value of wireless telegraphy.'

'We have word of the Powerful at a distance of 450 miles; and it is easy to imagine the Waratah sending news of herself to either Durban or Capetown right up to the minute of disaster, and after, so that help could have been at once forthcoming, if she had been so equipped.'

'The lesson of the Republic, the White Star liner of 15,000 tons, with nearly 800 people on board, which was rammed by the Florida, is fresh in mind. After the collision, and in response to ethergrams, many other liners steamed to the scene, and rendered assistance.'

'It may be remembered especially that the White Star steamer Baltic, of 23,870 tons, hurried forward, and Mr. Tattersall, her Marconi operator, stuck to his post for more than two days sending cheering messages to the sinking ship, and communicating with the shore.'

'So impressed were the public that a bill was introduced into the United States Congress with the object of making compulsory the installation of ethergraphs on all ocean-going vessels.'

'Almost immediately it was announced that the French Minister of Commerce and Industry was about to introduce a bill into the Chamber of Deputies to force all mail steamers of a certain tonnage to be equipped, and now the feeling will be general that something of the sort should be insisted upon with British vessels.'

'It may appear unfair to the various companies to propose to add to their expenses in this way. There seems to be no end to the demands which are made upon them nowadays, and there must be a point beyond which the levy must not pass.'

'But one can see how much may depend upon wireless telegraphy in a case like that of the Waratah. It might easily happen that enough money could be saved, by timely knowledge of a steamer's mishap, to equip a whole fleet with the necessary apparatus, and the relief to thousands of anxious hearts would be correspondingly great.'

'Lack of knowledge so often means serious loss, that in self-defence the companies will have to consider the question, all the more so because the various Legislatures will be forced by public feeling to pass laws, directly to deal with the matter.'

Ironically the older sister ship Geelong had a wireless. The Waratah was due to have a Marconi wireless fitted on her return to England. Perhaps the delay in fitting a wireless (until the end of her second voyage) related to the false belief that she was 'unsinkable'?

Marconi and his Wellfleet wireless

Friday, 11 April 2014

Anecdote Saturday - SS Slavonia

The Slavonia was a steel passenger/cargo steamer built in 1903 by Sir James Laing and Sons, Sunderland, England. She was 510 ft in length, with a draught of 22.3 ft, grosse tonnage 10 605, and net tonnage 6 724. Similar to the Waratah, she also had a double steel hull with eight watertight compartments. Power came from twin triple expansion steam engines (six boilers), driving twin screws, and making 13 knots.

Compare with the Waratah's specifications:

Length 465 ft; draught 35 ft; grosse tonnage 9 339; net tonnage, 6 003; twin quadruple expansion steam engines (five boilers); twin screws; 13 knots. Both triple deck steamers were virtually identical (see image below). There was simply nothing unique about the Waratah's triple deck design which in fact had a greater draught margin for stability compared with the Slavonia.

The Slavonia was owned by the Cunard Steam Ship Company Ltd, Liverpool, England. She was certified to carry 2 331 passengers and crew, which is considerably more than the similarly sized Waratah - 1200 passengers and crew. She was well equipped with life-saving equipment and had three compasses on board - one on top of the chart house, one on the bridge and one aft. Her master of 16 months was Captain Arthur George Dunning.

3 June, 1909 (2 months before the Waratah went missing), the Slavonia departed New York for Gibraltar. 373 passengers and 225 crew comprised the manifest, including 100 first class passengers.
9 June, 11 pm, approaching the Island of Flores, without reducing speed, the Slavonia plunged into thick mist. Captain Dunning had altered course in the southerly direction and was under the impression that they would clear the island by 9 miles. After midnight (2.28 am) the Slavonia ran onto the rocks off pico Joas Martin. The sea was smooth, and due to these conditions and the mist, no indication of land or breakers was given. Passengers and crew were safely transferred to land by lifeboats.  70 crew were evacuated by a line, using a boatswain's chair.  The captain and his first officer were the last to leave the Slavonia. The Slavonia was wrecked beyond salvage.

It was subsequently discovered that junior officers had given incorrect compass bearings resulting in the misjudgement clearing the south of the island. The Court of Inquiry came to the conclusion that human error was to blame but taking into consideration Captain Dunning's excellent track record and actions bringing all passengers and crew to safety, his certificate was not revoked.

Captain Ilbery of the Waratah may have charted a course too close to reefs off Cape Hermes, land bearings obscured by smoke from the fire on board and bushfires onshore.

SS Slavonia

My book 'Waratah Revisited' will be available by 12 December, via Amazon. I explore the human aspect of the tragedy and take a closer look at the Inquiry into the loss of the Waratah. Revelations abound. Don't miss it!

Thursday, 10 April 2014



Colonist, Volume LI, Issue 12663, 7 October 1909, Page 4

'The Australian Star states -

'It seems that a man who was being escorted to South Africa on the Waratah on a charge of murder alleged to have been committed at Johannesburg threatened that his escorts would never land him alive at the Cape for his trial.'

'He is said to have made the remark with determination that if he saw no other chance of escaping his trial he would set fire to the ship (Waratah).  This was regarded by the police at the time as mere bluff, but the threat has grown into significance in view of the cable that the steamer Harlow on arrival at Manila reported that when in the vicinity of Durban on July 27th she saw a steamer on fire.'

This could be the missing link explaining why the Waratah was on fire and had come about, heading back to Durban. The following reports are detailed and suggest that a murderer, J McLaughlin / McLoughlin, escorted by Detective Mynot and Constable J. De Beer, was on board the Waratah when she disappeared. These names, to my knowledge, do not appear among the 211 names of those lost with the Waratah. They might not have been listed for the simple reason the three men were neither passengers (officially) nor crew, or.......


Brisbane, August 17.

'J. Mclaughlin, -who was arrested in
Queensland some months ago on a charge
of murder alleged to have been committed
in South Africa, was aboard the missing
steamer Waratah.'

'He was. under the escort of Detective Mynot
and Constable J De Beer, of the Johannesburg police.'

The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931)  Previous issue Thursday 8 July 1909


'By the Blue Anchor Line steamer Waratah, 
which sailed from Port Adelaide to
South Africa on Wednesday, a criminal
with a bad record has left the Commonwealth.'

'He is being taken from Brisbane
to Johannesburg by two officers of the
Transvaal police force.' 

'The charge against him is murder, 
alleged to have been committed 
in January, 1895.' 

'The accused, whose name is J. McLoughlin, was, during
the steamer's stay at Port Adelaide,
lodged in the Adelaide Gaol.' 

'He is a one-armed man, aged 47 years, 
and is described as one of the most desperate
characters who ever came to Australia.'

'He was arrested on the present charge
rather dramatically on April 16 on board
the Government steamer Otter, in More-
ton Bay, immediately after he had served
a long sentence for burglary in Northern

'His arrest on the capital charge was due 
to the Brisbane detectives, and reflects credit on them.' 

'McLoughlin, it appears, was arrested in Mackay on a charge 
of burglary, and was sentenced to three years' imprisonment.' 

'In due course his photograph was sent to the
head department in Brisbane. There, one
of the detectives was struck with his resemblance 
to a description which had been
published some time back in a New Zealand 
"Police Gazette." 

'Copies of the paper were hunted up, 
and the photograph and the description were carefully

'As a result a telegram was
sent to the Transvaal, and in due course
information was received from there which
led to McLoughlin's rearrest on board the

'He was brought before the Brisbane court 
and charged with the murder
of Albert George Stevenson and Hadje
Joseph Mustaffa, and after several remands
was extradited in the custody of the two
Transvaal police officials, one of whom
identified McLoughlin.'

'McLoughlin's crime is described as one
of the most sensational tragedies which
occurred on the Rand in the days of the

'George Stevenson was known
variously as Stevo, Georgy, Fernie, George
Stephens, Stephenson, and Davidson. He
resided at the corner of Bezuidenhout and
Commissioner streets Johannesburg.' 

'Previous to 1895 it is alleged that he had been
involved in the robbery of a safe from
the Pretoria railway station, in company
with McLoughlin and Thomas Howard.'

'Immediately after the robbery the trio
left Pretoria by train together for
Johannesburg. The authorities obtained
information concerning them and telegraphed 
to the guard of the train, who, to secure the men, 
fastened up the carriage in 
which they were sitting.' 

'McLoughlin. however, whilst the train was
in motion, notwithstanding that he was
handicapped by having only one arm,
jumped out of one of the carriage windows
and escaped.'  

'Stevenson also jumped from the train 
farther along the line, but was recaptured. 
Subsequently he turned State evidence, 
and his testimony against Howard in the safe-breaking case 
was instrumental in securing for the latter five
years' imprisonment with hard labour.' 

'Efforts to find  McLoughlin proved futile.
It was surmised that he escaped to Rhodesia.' 

'A few months later, however, he
was again seen in Johannesburg, and it
was reported to the police that he had
sworn he would shoot Stevenson for having 
given evidence against Howard.' 

'Before he could be apprehended he had
carried out his purpose. One Saturday
morning in January, 1895, he accosted a
woman who was living in the same house
as Stevenson and told her of his intention.'

'At dusk McLoughlin entered the premises
and shot his victim before he could reach
his own weapon to defend himself. He
fired also at the woman, but missed her.'

'McLoughlin. it is alleged, then left the
house and walked down the street. The
two revolver reports were heard in the
street, and a hue-and-cry was raised.' 

'McLoughlin took to his heels. A man tried
to stop him. McLoughlin fired at him
and missed him. Then a young Malay,
Hadje Mustaffa, stepped forward as if to
stop him. and McLoughlin shot him dead.'

'The murderer, having a straight run, managed to 
elude his pursuers.' 

'Then followed an unsuccessful search, lasting
months. As the country at that period
was in a disturbed state - it was about the
time of the Jamieson raid - the task of
tracking him was rendered difficult.' 

'It is now known that he lost no time in leaving
South Africa. He found his way to
New Zealand. and was not long there before 
he was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment 
for having house-breaking implements in his possession.' 

'From New Zealand he came to the Commonwealth,
where he continued his criminal career.'

'When taken to the Adelaide Gaol during
the steamer Waratah's stay at Port Adelaide
he remarked to one of his custodians,'

"I know this place. I spent a month
here once."

'McLoughlin. it is said, lost his arm in a
successful attempt to escape from Potchefstroom 
Gaol, South Africa. He made the attempt in company 
with a fellow prisoner who was shot dead by a warder.'

'McLoughlin ran away with a bullet wound
in his right arm, which eventually had
to be amputated.'

convicts - 1909

The Origins of Organised Crime in Frontier Johannesburg and the Response of the Kruger State, 1886-1892

One evening in January 1895, in a room behind a pub in downtown Johannesburg, a thirty-seven year old Mancunian-Irishman, John McLoughlin, executed a police informer - a young Englishman by the name of George Stevenson who hailed from Staffordshire, England. While effecting his escape, McLoughlin shot dead a young ‘coloured’ man, recently returned from the Hajj in Mecca, by the name of Mustafa Carr. Once clear of the town centre, McLoughlin, with the help of several members of his highly successful safe-cracking gang, staged a final safe-robbery at one of the nearby mines which yielded gold worth several thousands of pounds. McLoughlin then made his way to Lourenco Marques where he boarded a ship for parts of the Indian Ocean world which were already well known to him from his earlier travels as, first a sailor and, some time later, a soldier. As a fugitive, he worked his way through huge swathes of India, New Zealand and Australia. In 1909, as he was released from prison in Brisbane, he was arrested by an off-duty policeman who recognised him as a man wanted on a charge of murder in South Africa and subsequently extradited. His trial, was an extraordinary event, insofar as the prosecution managed, after the elapse of nearly fourteen years, to reassemble almost every witness to the two murders in downtown Johannesburg in 1895. McLoughlin was convicted and hurriedly sentenced to death and executed in 1910 – just months before earlier legal dispensations were about to be superseded by the new Union of South Africa.
McLoughlin and his escorts must have disembarked at Durban.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Waratah - 'would take wreckage (out) to sea'

The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954)  Previous issue Tuesday 24 August 1909


'The steamer Wonga Fell, which sailed from
Capetown on the day on which the Waratah
was due at that port from Durban, arrived at
Sydney yesterday after a direct run of 21
days, but brought no news of the missing

'The Waratah was not regarded as
overdue when the Wonga Fell sailed, and the
officers were unaware until they reached
Sydney that grave fears are entertained for the
big Blue Anchor liner.'

'Captain Campbell, the commander of the
Wonga Fell, describes the storm which raged
on July 26th the day on which the Waratah put
to sea from Durban as one of exceptional

The date quoted is incorrect.

The storm of 'exceptional violence' took place 28 July, 1909.

"We were snugly at anchor In
port at Capetown on that day," he said, "but
the wind blew with hurricane force, and
brought up mountainous seas. It was about
as heavy a north-east gale as I have seen for
many a day, and the weather was extremely

Anyone who has lived in Cape Town is aware of the gale force winds that periodically lash the Cape Peninsula.

'The storm was not spoken of as the
most severe on record, but it was regarded
as the most violent tempest for some years.'

"This tempest raged with unabated fury for
about 15 hours, and right along the coast of
South Africa the conditions were dangerous."

"Of course, the wind was behind the Waratah,
but nevertheless she must have had a very
rough time. The gale moderated on July 27
and was succeeded by a fresh south-westerly
gale, with a high cross sea."

A south-westerly gale (relating to a cold front) would be ahead of the Waratah sailing in a south-westerly direction.

"When we sailed from Capetown for Sydney direct on July 26
the south-easterly gale was still blowing, and
we encountered a nasty cross sea outside."

"We went right out of the track of the
Waratah, and had no opportunity of sighting

"After leaving Capetown I steamed south
until reaching latitude 43 south, where we
always expect to get strong winds. We ran
our easting down between the parallels of 42
and 43 until within 700 miles of Tasmania,
when we proceeded north to make Bass

"I have not found any theory to account
for the non-appearance of the Waratah at
Capetown, but from what I have gleaned since
I arrived the position seems to be a serious

"I should say that if a ship was sea-
worthy she would not meet with a disaster
in the tempest which raged on July 26 (sic). By
seaworthy I mean the proper stowage of her

"When cargo is improperly stowed,
and a ship rolls heavily in a terrible seaway,
such as that experienced on the coast of
South Africa at the end of last month, there
is a liability of the cargo shifting, and then,
no matter how fine the ship may be, she may

"The Waratah, I am told, has a lot
of top hamper, and if she was in light trim
during the gale she would experience a bad

No, she was fully loaded and stable.

"The fact that the wind was behind her
would not save her it the cargo shifted."

"Of course, it is quite possible that the
Waratah is drifting disabled, and she may
have encountered a circular storm that has
carried her away from the track of vessels."

"She may have met with a serious accident, in
the engine room an accident that might take
weeks to repair."

"Or her non-appearance may
be due to an accident to her propellers. I
am aware that the Waratah is a twin-screw
steamer, but if she lost one of her propellers
the revolving shaft might strike the other and
disable it. Such accidents have occurred be-

This, apart from rudder failure, would have been a very plausible sequence of events resulting in the Waratah drifting at the mercy of the currents.

"The fact that no wreckage or any description
has been sighted along the coast of South
Africa or by the search vessels is consoling,
although it must be remembered that the wind
may have shifted and, aided by the currents,
taken the wreckage away to sea."

"A south-westerly wind would take wreckage to sea
and we had south-westerly to westerly winds
about that time."

This crucial further explanation could explain why no officially confirmed wreckage of the Waratah was ever discovered.

"I can offer no definite opinion as to what has happened,
but hope that she has not capsized, or that any serious disaster
has overtaken such a fine ship."

"Time only will tell."

The clock is still ticking....

Important update:


wreck - ocean floor

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

Monday, 7 April 2014


New Zealand Herald, Volume XLVII, Issue 14297, 17 February 1910, Page 5
["The Missing Steamer", The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.), Saturday 07 August 1909, page 5]


MELBOURNE, August 6, 1909.

'The following is a complete list of the passengers on board the steamer Waratah booked for London when she left Adelaide, her last Australian port of call:--

From Melbourne:-


- Mrs. and Miss Starke,
- Mrs. J. Y. Wilson and Miss L. Wilson,
- Mr. John Ebsworth,
- Mrs. Govett,
- Miss Lascelles,
- Mr. Neil Black,
- Mrs. and Miss Wilson,
- Miss M. Campbell.

From Sydney:-


- Mr. C. G Sawyer.

From Adelaide:-


- Mr. M. Morgan,
- Colonel R. C. Browne,
- Miss Lees,
- Miss Cooke,
- Mrs. A. Hay,
- Miss H. G. Hay,
- Miss Hesketh Jones.

From Melbourne:-

Third class:

- Mr. G. H. Tickell,
- Mr. S. Blackburn,
- Miss T. Ramsay,
- Miss B. Murphy,
- Mrs. Ibbett,
- Mr. J. G. Stokes,
- Mr. R. Lowenthal,
- Mr. and Mrs. Page,
- Mr. Calder,
- Mr. Clark.

From Sydney.-

Third class:

- Mrs. S. Pearce,
- Misses Allen (3),
- Mr. J. M. S. Humpher.
- Mr. E. A. Murphy,
- Miss Henderson,
- Mr. and Mrs. Wright,
- Mr. William Cumming,
- Mrs. J. Harwood,
- Mrs. and Master Harvey,
- Miss Miller,
- Mr. and Mrs. Bowden and two children,
- Mrs. and Miss Bowden,
- Misses Schaumer(2).'

'Among the passengers was Lieutenant-Colonel R. Browne, commanding the Dorset Yeomanry. He intended to transship at Cape Town into a homeward-bound Union-Castle mail-boat. He embarked at Melbourne, accompanying his niece, Miss Lees, on a trip round the world.'

'An old lady on board is Mrs. Wilson, who has been fifteen voyages with Captain Ilbery, of the Waratah. The captain called her his "right hand" in rough weather because of the help she gave when the passengers were invalided by continuous seasickness.'

'The following embarked at Durban for England:

- The Rev. Father Fadle [?Johannesburg}
- Dr. Carrick
- Mr. Turner and family (wife and 5 children)
- Mr. Stocken and family
- Mr. Taylor and daughters
- Mr. Donaldson
- Mr. Govardo
- Mr. Nicholson
- Mr. Coote
- Mrs. Sillery
- Mrs. Ashe
- Mrs. Press
- Mrs. Lyon and infant
- Mrs. Connolly and daughter
- Mrs. Dawes and infant
- Mrs. Bradley
- Mrs. Adamson
- Mrs. Petrie
- Mrs. Dunn and children'

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Waratah - equipped with sails?


'[To THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."] Sri,—The missing s.s. Waratah,' which has not been heard of now for three weeks, brings to the fore a question of most urgent importance,—viz., the fact of steamships being allowed to leave British ports without any sails.'

'It is only is times of accident to the machinery or steering-gear that a steam- ship cannot get along without sails, but at such times she needs them badly, and to be disabled off a coast such as ours, with no immediate assistance at hand, may easily mean total loss.'

'Has not the time come for a short Act of Parliament insisting upon every steamship sailing in deep waters having at least one good suit of sails, and at least two spare spars, which could be rigged up as jury-masts in time of necessity, for the small poles which some of our tramp steam- ships carry nowadays are in themselves, though better than nothing perhaps, most inadequate for times of disaster?'

'The Waratah  is reported here not to have had a stitch of canvas on board. As she was practically a new ship, I trust that that report is a mistake; but the fact remains that many steamships are leaving our home ports every month that have no sails on board, or even canvas to make them of.'

'It is just one of those questions which few, if any, landsmen will realise the importance of, but which every sailor will acknowledge without question. It is also something which needs legislation on account of the cost of sails, and the temptation in these days of competition for owners and ship-masters to reduce the actual costs of sailing their vessels to the lowest minimum possible.—I am, Sir, &c.,'

Tarkastad, Cape Colony. ALFRED J. HUTTON.

My personal belief is that sails would not have helped the Waratah. A steamer, the Waikato, 1899, suffered a broken propeller shaft and drifted for several months on the Southern Indian Ocean. The crew rigged a sail on the main mast, 'but it might just as well have been a flag mast' ... 'continually blowing away without giving the ship steerage way'.

the Waikato

Friday, 4 April 2014

Anecdote Saturday - the Chicora

The Chicora was a wooden hulled cargo/passenger steamship built by the Detroit Dry Dock Company, 1892, for the Graham & Morton Transportation Company. She was 199 ft in length, with a draught of 13.6 ft, and powered by a single triple expansion steam engine, making 15 knots. The Chicora was designed to deal with winter seas on Lake Michigan, and had icebreaker capabilities. She was stout and somewhat top heavy.

20 January, 1895, Captain Edward Stines received a message to bring the Chicora to Milwaukee to collect a shipment of flour for St Joseph. He was short of a crew member and tragically signed on his 23 year old son as replacement. The voyage was uneventful, and the weather for the return trip was unusually fine for that time of year. The Chicora departed Milwaukee ten minutes after a messenger arrived with a telegram warning Captain Stines that the barometer was falling rapidly, signalling an impending storm.

It is estimated that the Chicora was half way across Lake Michigan when the storm struck. An eyewitness at South Haven reported seeing a vessel stern down and sinking. Another reported that a vessel in trouble was seen heading for South Haven blowing her horn continuously. The Chicora never arrived at St Joseph.

After the storm a search party were sent out from Saugatuck onto the ice where they found a portion of decking, some oars and both masts frozen into the ice, less than a mile off shore. An iceberg with seagulls was mistakenly reported by a tug as the overturned hull of the Chicora with crew members alive. However, no bodies were ever recovered. 23 crew and 1 passenger were lost. When the ice thawed, a chair used by chief engineer McClure was discovered. This was the last remnant of the Chicora.

14 April, a bottle message washed up on shore:

“All is lost, could see land if not snowed and blowed. Engine give out, drifting to shore in ice. Captain and clerk are swept off. We have a hard time of it. 10:15 o’clock.”

Another bottle message washed up a week later in Glencoe, Illinois:

“Chicora engines broke. Drifted into trough of sea. We have lost all hope. She has gone to pieces. Good bye. Mc Clure, Engineer.”

It is possible the first message was genuine but the second refers to engines. The Chicora had one steam engine. The wreck of the Chicora has never been found.

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