I have referred, perhaps ad nauseum, to the speed with which the Waratah foundered off Cape Hermes, as witnessed and described by the Captain of the Harlow. This would certainly explain the absence of wreckage or debris, even though the Waratah was relatively close to shore.
However, there is another explanation for the lack of physical evidence after the Waratah foundered. At the time, a mariner commented on her disappearance and shared the following crucial observation and opinion:
"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."
We know that unprecedented, extensive searches at sea were conducted after the disappearance of the Waratah, which according to the Inquiry, ruled out the theory that the Waratah drifted due to mechanical failure. We also know that two separate vessels sighted distinct bodies floating off East London a week after the Waratah failed to arrive at Cape Town. There were no other reported shipping accidents during this time.
There can be little doubt the Waratah foundered en-route to Cape Town at a position significantly northeast of East London to justify bodies drifting southwestwards with the powerful Agulhas Current over the course of a week to a position off East London. Physical 'evidence' from the steamer could have been swept further out to sea by the quoted, prevailing winds. In such a case, it is not surprising debris from the Waratah was not discovered off the South African coast.
A theory has been postulated regarding the disappearance of Malaysian flight MH370. Some believe that the Captain intentionally depressurized the main cabin while his co-pilot was out of the cockpit. He would have had access to a longer period of supplemental oxygen supply allowing himself to survive whilst the remaining souls on the plane perished. During the following number of hours the Captain followed a course into the vast, desolate Southern Indian Ocean. To complete the theory, the Captain ditched the 777 in the ocean (much the same as the passenger plane in the Hudson River, New York). The virtually intact 777 would therefore have sunk without a trace. A heavily loaded Waratah sinking within a couple of minutes after striking a reef, would have done precisely the same thing.
The largely intact Airbus 320 is not surrounded by significant debris and contents as she slips beneath the waves