Thursday, 30 April 2015


The following extract from a newspaper report is one of the vital pieces of circumstantial evidence supporting the theory that the Waratah foundered off the Wild Coast and not further down the coast. For bodies to have been discovered off East London two weeks after the Waratah went missing, they would have to have drifted down the coast with the prevailing Agulhas Current. At the time when these statements were made, there were no other reports of vessels foundering off the Wild Coast. The bodies could only have originated from the Waratah. Mr Day was prepared to support his allegations under oath:

"When the Tottenham arrived off the Cape of Good Hope the sea became fearfully high and the master deemed it advisable to turn back and go to Simon's Bay. On arriving there a boat put off from H.M.S. Forte with an officer aboard to make inquiries whether the Tottenham had seen anything of the Waratah, and reply was given by the chief officer that there was nothing to report."

"The second officer, signalling with a Morse lamp, inquired of the warship if she had any further news of the Waratah, and was informed that the steamers Director and Insizwa, which had left Durban about the same time as the Tottenham, had reported seeing bodies floating off East London, and that the Forte had orders to proceed to the vicinity and ascertain what these bodies were."

"It will be remembered that the Forte afterwards reported that she had seen some large fish floating, and that it was surmised that these were what the captains of the Director and Insizwa had seen. Concerning this, however, Mr. Day says:--"The chief and second officers of the Tottenham stated to me and others on board the ship that they saw the body, of a little girl, and could stake their lives that it was that of a girl 10 of 12 years of age, and not fish."

"Mr. Day adds that the second engineer also stated that he saw the body of a woman and the trunk of another body close to the ship. The seas were running mountains high when the Tottenham was proceeding on her voyage."

"Speaking from memory as to dates, having, unfortunately, left his notebook on the Tottenham, Mr. Day says the Tottenham arrived at Durban about midnight on Saturday, August 7, and anchored in the roadstead, signalling her arrival to the lighthouse."

"The Insizwa was also anchored in the roadstead, and at about 1 a.m. Mr. Day, who was then on watch, received a signal from her, asking if he knew anything about the missing Waratah. Mr. Day replied in the negative, stating that the Tottenham had just come from Port Pirie (Adelaide). Owing to the rough state of the weather the Tottenham remained in port till the Tuesday morning at 8 o'clock when she left for Antwerp, with instructions to keep a diligent look-out for the Waratah."

"The sea at the time was very high. When off East London the incidents already described took place. Mr. Day says he pointed out to the officers an albatross sitting on something, and the steamer was brought round to make an examination, which fully convinced him that the object on which the bird as perched was the trunk of a body, with the arms and legs missing."


"Mr. Day says that strict injunctions were given on the Tottenham to say nothing of the affair, and that he overheard the apprentice, by request, give an account of what he had seen to a gentleman whom he believed to be the agent of the Tottenham."

"The apprentice was then advised to say nothing of the affair, as it might cause friction."

"Let me remark," added Mr. Day, "lest people think I might bear prejudice against anyone, that such suggestions, if they are made, are absolutely incorrect. I deny any prejudice, and any statement I have made here I am prepared to make on oath. My reason for making this statement now is that, while I was on the vessel, orders were given to keep the thing quiet, and now I am off the vessel I am free to speak my mind as regard to what I saw and what others on the ship told me they saw. I have clean discharges from and credentials from all ships on which I have served."

Why would such reports have caused 'friction'?

Firstly, I believe that the general public would have taken a dim view of the master's decision not to retrieve the bodies - rough seas or not.

Secondly, there was a desperate prevailing hope that the Waratah was adrift and her souls alive. This brutal evidence would surely have shattered such hope and I do not believe the Tottenham's master was prepared to take such responsibility.

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