Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Waratah - negotiations for funding search.

The Argus (Melbourne) Saturday 4 September, 1909 
In moving the adjournment of the Houseof Representatives yesterday afternoon, Mr Deakin said that it was only fair to place the House in possession of the facts relating to the proposed search for the Waratah. Messrs John Sanderson and Co had forwarded the following statement  to Sir Robert Best (Minister for Customs) -
Referring to the interviews which we havehad with you, and the cables which have passedbetween Messrs W. Lund and Sons, the owners ofthis steamer, we herewith hand you a copy of theexact cables, which have passed between us, andfrom these we understand that Messrs W. Lund andsons are at present in negotiations for a suitablesteamer to make a search for the Waratah, thatshe will be chartered for a period of about threemonths to make a thorough search, that theyheartily agree to your suggestion that the costof the search steamer should be divided equally be-tween the Commonwealth Government, subscriptions from the friends of the passengers, the underwriters, and the owners themselves. The estimated cost of the whole thing, we reckon, should not be more than £6 000. This, therefore, would require a contribution from each of these of £1 500. We understand from the cables which have passed that Messrs W. Lund and Sons are quite agreeable to find their quarter, and we take it also for granted that they have arranged with the underwriters to find theirs. We will, however, make this latter point quite clear in a cable we are sending tonight as regards the subscriptions from the passengers' friends, this is a matter which is at present in the hands of the president of the Chamber of Commerce and we understand from him that from negotiations he has had with several of the passengers' friends, there is no doubt at all that the money will be forthcoming."
'The enclosures with this communication were as follow -
Copy of cable to W. Lund and Sons,dated August 31, 1909 -
"Chamber of Commerce is urging AustralianCommonwealth arrange for steamer to search forWaratah, to be despatched from South Africa. Government will probably agree to subscribe equivalent to public and passengers' friends' subscriptions. Cabinet considers matter tomorrow morning. For their information telegraph immediately whether suitable cargo steamer at present available for time charter in South Africa, also state approximate price monthly, including coals"
Copy of reply received same date -
"Replying to your telegram soon as possible "
Copy of cable to W. Lund and Sons(September 1) -
"Government ask us to obtain firm offer timecharter, suitable searching steamer and chartererssharing salvage only to extent of their outlay.Reply by 10 am tomorrow. "
Copy of cable to W. Lund and Sons(September 2) -
"Proposal is that searching steamer should bechartered, and also coaled for period up to threemonths. On our estimate, cost would not exceed£6 000. Government idea, this should be dividedbetween Government, subscribers, owners, andunderwriters, one fourth each. What is your idea?If you agree, we immediately very probably authorise you fix charter in name of yourselves. Weguarantee Government's and subscribers' shares.Ministry here very anxious, made announcementParliament to allay public impatience Thereforetelegraph very fully what is present position ofnegotiations."
Copy of cable from W. Lund and Sons,London, September 2 -
"Heartily agree to proposal. It will be fewdays before anything can be arranged. We willsubmit terms for confirmation as soon as possible. "
Mr Deakin said that the public subscriptions could only be guaranteed by those who answered the appeal. The Commonwealth undertook to find £ for £ on the public subscriptions.
Mr. Morrow - Will the despatch of thesteamer be delayed until the subscriptions have come in'
Mr Deakin -The financial arrangements were almost completed, and the arrangements for the steamer were proceeding.

In the days which followed 27 July, and the Waratah failed to arrive at Cape Town, the Lunds made it publicly known they believed the Waratah to have suffered mechanical failure and was adrift, following prevailing currents.
Anything less than this would have implied the Waratah had foundered, opening a can of legal worms in terms of her seaworthiness, or the skills of her crew. The Lunds had no choice but to witness and participate financially in the unprecedented searches at sea for the missing Waratah.
Personally I believe they were caught between a rock and a hard place. The Lunds had no choice but to show good faith by supporting searches at sea even though they strongly suspected the Waratah had gone to a watery grave. Their responses to the alleged accounts of both the Guelph and Harlow demonstrated the degree to which they were committed to searches, their only option.
In all this time, friends and family of those on the Waratah, were subjected to protracted hope, that glimmer in dark endless nights their loved ones would be discovered and rescued.
The searches continued into 1910, but finally after the last vestiges of hope were placed in the hands of the crew of SS Wakefield, a further 3 month search covering extensive areas of the southern Indian Ocean, it became clear that no trace of a floating Waratah was ever to be found. 
The Lunds were instrumental in perpetuating this foolish hope and in the process helped steer the authorities and public away from exploring the Guelph and Harlow accounts more fully. Time was of the essence, but it was lost, never to be recovered by the opening of the Inquiry, December, 1910.
If the Lunds and authorities had acted differently, making a bold decision to assume that the Waratah had foundered, perhaps more would have been achieved and we would not have the mystery we have today.
Important update:

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