Initially the Fuller was sent out to search for the Waratah, but due to hostile sea conditions had to abandon the search.
The Royal Navy deployed cruisers HMS Pandora and HMS Forte (and later HMS Hermes) to search for the Waratah. The Hermes, near the area of the last sighting of the Waratah, encountered waves so large and strong that she strained her hull and had to be placed in dry dock on her return to port.
In September 1909, the Blue Anchor Line chartered the Union Castle ship Sabine to search for the Waratah. The search of the Sabine covered 14,000 miles, but yielded no result.
1910: relatives of the Waratah passengers chartered the Wakefield and conducted a search for three months, which again proved unsuccessful.
"A FRUITLESS SEARCH."
Melbourne, September 13.
"The Aberdeen line steamer Salamis,
which arrived from London today, made
a fruitless search for the Waratah."
Many commercial vessels plying the South African coast were asked to keep watch for signs of the Waratah, but all to no avail.
CAPTAIN TICKELL STILL HOPEFUL.
THE SABINE'S SEARCH."
MELBOURNE, December 12.
'Captain Tickell, the Victoria naval commandant, whose son is a passenger on the missing steamer Waratah, said yesterday that, in spite of the fact that the Sabine had returned from an unsuccessful trip, and that the Waratah was to be posted as missing on December 15 if no news was to hand, he still had hopes that she was afloat.'
'A meeting of the Waratah search committee today decided to send a cable to the Premier of Natal, expressing indignation at the delay in the Wakefield's departure to look for the missing vessel, and urging him to expedite it in every possible manner.'
'The life insurance companies do not intend to pay on the lives of the Waratah's passengers until the court grants probate, and even then they will require an indemnity. They do not regard the fact that the English Court is granting probate of Captain Ilbery's will as binding on them.'
It took until December, 1909, to post that the Waratah was officially missing. Life insurances were withheld until the Court granted probate. As if it wasn't enough for widows and families to deal with the unknown, they were left in financial limbo while extensive searches were conducted for many months after the waratah failed to arrive at Cape Town.
What were widows to do while they waited in vain?