Sunday, 21 June 2015


The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 09 December 1909

The return of the Sabine without dis-covering any trace of the Ill-fated Waratahcompels us to abandon the last hope forthe safety of the missing steamer, and herdreadful end must go to swell the long listof the sea's mysteries. 
Such satisfaction as we can feel lies in the knowledge that nothing has been left undone to end the doubt as to her fate. The search by the Sabine has been as patient and thorough as it has been fruitless. All that seamanship could do, we may take it as certain, has beendone. The search has been long protracted,and at the back of it has been the best possible expert advice, and the assistance of anaval party. 
But since the Waratah wassighted by the Union liner Guelph on July27 she has disappeared completely fromhuman knowledge. Not a trace has beenpicked up to suggest her fate. In the lightof the three months' cruise of the Sabine,the search by the warships, and the keenlookout kept by the masters of all vessels,we have perforce to abandon the theory ofdrift. The hundred and three days' driftof the Waikato in the same region can nolonger be quoted as an argument for hope,and we are driven to the sorrowful conclusion that, overtaken by terrible weather,the Waratah foundered with all hands.
The disaster will live long in our memoryas one of the worst that has befallen Australian shipping. The loss of some threehundred lives, passengers and officers andship's company, swallowed up, in all human probability, in one moment of suddenrain, is hard to realise, and harder to writeof; for in the face of death sympathy isstricken silent. 
Still more futile is it to harrow our feelings with speculation as to the immediate cause of the disaster, speculation which in the nature of the case can have no basis of evidence. There are times when the sturdiest, best found steamer, and the ablest seamanship, count for nothing in the fury of the elements, and we must think that it was so in this case. 
Rumour with a thousand tongues will be all too quick to assign reasons for the loss that can only add pain to all concerned. It is better toclose one's ears to it. 
But that there are certain outstanding dangers in modern steamship construction cannot be denied. The building up of top hamper in response to demands of traffic, the carrying of deck cargoes endangering stability, and so on, represent a new risk added to the perils ofthe ocean, and we know that it often happens that vessels safe enough in summerseas are sent at times where the wildestweather must be met. 
Again, the provision of wireless makes small headway, and there is no doubt that it should be made compulsory  for every ocean-going steamer to carry an installation. 
When all is done that humanexperience can devise, and when there isno question of ships that sail for profit withscant regard for safety, the sea will stillexact its toll. But a disaster of such magnitude shocks the whole community, andinevitably sets it thinking of those avoidable risks the seaman is too often calledupon to run. 
The great liner nowadays hasevery advantage that science and skill cangive her; but the case is very different withmany a cargo boat, whose crews have tocarry their lives in their hands. But suchreflections leave us where we were as tothe missing Waratah. From first to lastperhaps some forty ships have searched forher with never a sign, and except for somestrange chance no sign can come to us.The greatest disaster of the year leavesliterally "not a wreck behind."

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