Explosion/s aside, there has to be a plausible explanation for the sudden disappearance of a large steamer which had been, up until that point, steadily gaining on the Harlow. The Waratah had to have struck an object, in all likelihood a reef. However this period comment from a newspaper cutting throws another light on the subject:
'The coast has a bad name for submerged wrecks, which are swept along by the current.'
"She may have struck something like that", added the officer....
This comment is important in two respects:
Firstly, submerged wreckage was a common occurrence in 1909, with potential to inflict significant damage to steamers, and particularly those like the Waratah, already compromised by cargo overloading strain and brittle hull plates with or without hairline cracks from prior damage.
Secondly, floating wreckage was common during 1909 suggesting that wreckage constantly washed up onshore creating a complicated scenario how to establish from which vessels the wreckage and debris originated. Unless specifically searching for debris from the Waratah (remembering all land searches were conducted south of Cape Hermes), this evidence might have gone unnoticed among a selection of steamer remains, further highlighting the weakness of claims made that the Waratah disappeared without a trace.