The fate of the steamship Waratah,which left Durban on Monday, July 26,for Cape Town, is still enshrouded inmystery. A story was told in EastLondon, which, while it differs in one ortwo essentials from the facts as alreadypublished (says the "East London Dispatch"), is yet entitled to a certainamount of credence. Mr. Edward Joseph Beet, a partner in the firm of Messrs. Beet Bros., farmers and general dealers, carrying out business at Fort Grey, came into East London, and made a statement to Messrs. Mitchell, Cotts, & Co.'s representative (the local agent of Lund's Blue Anchor line), which led the latter to proceed with Mr. Beet to the police-station, where Mr. Beet made an affidavit as to what he declares he saw off the coast on Monday night, July; 26.
Mr. Beet's Story.
Mr. Beet's story is that on that evening he saw a large steamer at a point opposite Cove Rock, and about six miles out to sea, steaming slowly westwards. After proceeding some 10 miles along the usual trade route she stopped, blew off steam, and finally appeared to be driftingback towards East London, along acourse two miles nearer inshore, rollingheavily, and showing signals of distress.On reaching a point near Cove Rockagain she altered her course outwards,and finally disappeared. Later in theevening he saw what might have beensignals of distress.
As related to the police authorities, Mr.Beet's narrative was from his shopdoor, situated about six miles from thecoast. We have a clear view of the Indian Ocean, and the coastline for about 10 miles from Cove Rock on the one side to Mr. Dredge's farm on the other.
Between 4 and 5 p.m. on Monday, July 26, I was standing at the shop door. It was a clear, calm, sunlit evening, and the sea was calm. I saw a steamer coming from the direction of East London, travelling along the trade route under slow steam. She was painted white, with dark funnel, high decks, with cabins on deck, and she appeared to be about 300ft. long. I do not know how many masts she had.
When I first saw her she was about sixmiles from the coast. She travelled in astraight course until she reached the spotmarked B on the rough plan, when shestopped and let off steam. She remainedat the point B for about 20 minutes, then turned, and retraced her way towards East London, gradually workinginshore until she reached the spot markedC, when she was about four miles fromthe coast. She then turned towards theocean. I watched her for some time, and then went into the shop. I came out again about 15 minutes later, but could see no trace of the vessel. My brother Arthur watched the vessel with me for some time, and said it appeared to be in distress. It is unusual for any vessel to approach so close inshore as this one did unless disabled. The whole time that the vessel was under observation she appeared to be rolling heavily.
About 8 p.m. on the same day I wasin bed, when I noticed three flashes as oflightning. I remarked to my housekeeper,who had brought me a cup of coffee, thatwe were going to have a thunderstorm.She went outside and came back sayingthat the sky was quite clear. Subsequently I met Mr. Ronald MacLean, and he said about 8 p.m. on Tuesday he was returning to his home at Cove Rock from East London, and saw three rockets discharged from beyond Cove Rock. Besides my brother, and myself, and housekeeper, two natives saw the vessel in distress. I am quite sure of the day (Monday), as I had to give my brother, whowas going to East London, an order forsupplies for the shop. I had the vesselunder observation for about an hour altogether.
-Was it the Waratah?
The first question which suggests itself on hearing Mr. Beet's story, is, "Was this vessel the Waratah ?" That the Waratah had to pass the port of East London and within sight of Cove Rock is, of course, obvious. The one important fact in the narrative which differs so materially from the facts as they concern the Waratah is the question of date. Mr. Beet fixes the date as Monday evening, July 26. Now the Waratah only sailed from Durban on that evening, and it is obvious that she could not have been seen in the vicinity of East London before Tuesday. So near, but yet so far.