Wednesday, 8 July 2015


Northern Star (Lismore) Monday 28 February, 1910
Was it from the Waratah?
Following quickly in the report from theTyser steamer Tomoana of the passing ofa ship's boat in the Southern Ocean a fewweek's ago comes a story of the sighting ofanother derelict craft, bottom up, aboutthe same locality.
The steamer Thistleroy, a tramp steamerof 1027 tons, arrived in Sydney on Thursday from the Tyne via Adelaide, and theCaptain, on landing, made a report to theeffect that he had passed an upturned boaton January 28. The Thistleroy was inlat. 39 deg. south, long. 21 deg. east, whenthe boat was reported. The steamer wasbowling along before a south-west gale,and actually passed the boat before it wasobserved by the look-out on the bridge. Anexamination through the glasses convincedthe captain that it had been some time inthe water.  It was painted white (Waratah's lifeboats were white), but covered with marine growth, and though agood look-out was kept, there was no appearance of any wreckage in the vicinity.
In view of the mystery surrounding thedisappearance of the Waratah, CaptainStanley, of the Thistleroy, would haveliked to have made an examination of thederelict craft, but the weather conditionswere so bad that this was found to be impossible. With a south-west gale blowingand heavy sea running, and the steamer,which was in light trim, rolling and pitching violently, the captain was compelled tokeep on his course for Australia.
It was on January 8, two days beforethe vessel rounded the Cape of Good Hope,and about 500 miles distant from that headland, that the Tomoana passed a drifting boat, painted white, most of which was submerged. A sailor reported the matter to the chief officer, but by this time the Tomoana had forged so far ahead that the boat was almost indistinguishable. It was evidently a large lifeboat, and had been in the water for considerable time. There is, of course, no evidence to connect the drifting derelict with the disappearance of the steamer Waratah, although it is, of course, possible that the boat belonged to the liner as all her boats were painted white.

The coordinate position quoted is south of the tip of the Agulhas Bank, where the Agulhas Current retroflects in a southerly direction before joining the Antarctic Circumpolar Current flowing eastward.
If the white lifeboat was indeed from the Waratah it confirms that she foundered along the South African coast.
As in the case of the bodies sighted at sea, rough conditions prevented the crew from confirming alleged sightings.
I wonder how many other steamers 'bowled along' in gales, passing vital clues relating to the Waratah? 
Large white lifeboats were not exclusive to the Waratah. But in the waters off South Africa, the reference to size, if nothing else, is highly suggestive.

Recovered Titanic lifeboats

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