Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Waratah - absence of wreckage 'means nothing either way'.

The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Saturday 18 September, 1909
One of the correspondents of "the "ShippingGazette and Lloyd's List," published In Lon-don, writing on the subject of the non-appearance of the Blue Anchor liner Waratah,says:- 
Various theories have been put forward inpossible explanation of the Waratah's disappearance. One suggestion is that in the terrible weather she encountered she may have foundered. Perhaps this is the only suggestion worthy of attention. People say "if she is lost, how is it they have found no wreck-age?" Certainly underwriters feel prettywell assured that, whatever has happened tothe ship, she has not been wrecked on thecoast between Natal and Capetown. Had thishappened it would have been known beforethis. Eliminating that aspect of disaster, wemust conclude that the ship is either driftinghelplessly at sea or has foundered. Supposingshe had foundered suddenly away out at sea,how much wreckage would have been leftafloat after she went down? Again, in thevast expanse of ocean, who was likely to seeand to recognise this wreckage? The factthat no wreckage from the Waratah has beenreported means nothing either way. 
The presence of wreckage would be dependent on a number of factors:
- the speed with which the vessel sank- whether fittings etc on deck were secured or not.- the nature of the accident; explosions creating a swathe of debris vs. a relatively intact vessel inundated with water.- the location - eg. far out to sea.- onshore / offshore currents.- and perhaps most importantly, someone present in the location to witness and identify the debris (or bodies).
Let us not forget that the Wild Coast is rugged, inaccessible in many parts, and in 1909, sparsely populated.
Would indigenous clans have been motivated to report debris from a shipwreck? In 1909, there were considerably more shipwrecks along the Wild Coast than in the modern era. Debris discovered along the coast would have been 'dime a dozen', and I believe largely ignored or appropriated, if useful.

Wild Coast


Mole said...

Fascinating thank you Andrew. I note that you and Stan Robinson are thinking about the same wreckage topic. So good to have informed discussions online.

andrew van rensburg said...

Yes, Mole. It is the only way to deal with a controversial subject. Collectively we might edge closer to the truth. Andrew