SUBMERGED OBJECT WRECKS A STEAMER. THOUGHT TO BE THE WARATAH.
SUPPOSITION DISCREDITED. Capetown. March 20.
Some days ago the steamer Palatina struck on a submerged objectoff the south-east coast of SouthAfrica and was so badly damagedthat her captain was forced to runher ashore near East London.
It was thought at the time thatthe submerged object might be thehull of the lost liner Waratah, butthe evidence given at the inquiryinto the beaching of the Palatinatends to discredit that supposition. In the modern era we tend to forget that shipwrecks were far more common in 1909, and wreckage posed a threat to other sea-going vessels. It would be interesting to learn more details about the case of the Palatina and where exactly her master was forced to beach the vessel. Could the Waratah have struck partially submerged wreckage? It is possible, especially on a dark, overcast winter's night. But how is it possible that a virtually new steamer with 7 watertight compartments could founder within minutes? We know from anecdotal reports that the steel hull of the Waratah was subjected to undue forces eg. taking the ground at Port Adelaide. Bearing in mind the case of the SS Koombana, hull plate damage could go undetected until the steamer was next put into dry dock. Rivets could snap and brittle hull plates, crack. This was a recipe for disaster, a collision causing the integrity of the steel hull to fail. We know that the Waratah was heavily laden, with reduced buoyancy. In order for such cargo to be accommodated, the watertight compartments could very well have been compromised. There are anecdotal reports of cargo displacing the bulkhead doors, making the sealing off of 'watertight' compartments virtually impossible. Could this have been the case on the Waratah? The crisis could further have been exacerbated by tons of water flooding the fore deck and overwhelming the wooden hatch, resulting in a catastrophic, irreversible situation. If the above is true, the Waratah and her souls did not stand a chance.