Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Waratah - sighted off Marion Island?

The Mercury (Hobart) Monday 14 February, 1910
THE MISSING WARATAH.
MYSTERIOUS STEAMER UNDER
SAIL SIGHTED IN NOVEMBER.
LONDON, February 12.
The whaling schooner Ulva has reached Durban, and reported that on November 23 last she sighted in a snowstorma large two-funnelled steamer undersail to tho south of Marion Island, offthe South-East Coast of South Africa.The steamer sighted could not havebeen the Waratah, as she had only onefunnel, and no two-funnel steamer ismissing.

FURTHER PARTICULARS FROM
AFRICA.
The Premier (Mr. Murray) to-day received the following cablegram from thePremier of Natal:-
"Instructions contained in your code telegram of to-day will he communicated to the officers of the Wakefield on arrival at Durban,the Portmaster at Durban has forwarded a report from the master of the schooner Ulva, which arrived at Durban from Marion Island on February 7. The report states that onNovember 22 or 23 last a steamer wassighted from the island going to thesouth-east under sail and appearingto be travelling about three knots perhour. The vessel was not sighted bythe master of the Ulva, but was reported to him as having passed by asealing party on the south end of theisland. According to the descriptiongiven she was a big vessel, with twofunnels, and the fact that she carriedall possible canvas seems to prove thatshe was in distress. The vessel wasonly seen once after a snow squall, anddisappeared in the following squall.The weather was very cloudy at thetime." 
Marion Island is to the south-east ofDurban, and right in the track of sailingvessels running their easting down.

This account is very interesting indeed!
It reminds us of the Waikato experience, adrift for 103 days:
"The current took us at first in a westerly direction, and then shot us all down south to latitude 40 deg., the ship drifting as much as 60, 80, or 100 miles a day.
Some days when we expected to be driven north by the gales we would find instead that we were miles south of the previous day's position."

"We were, adrift for 52 days without
sighting a sail, rolling and wallowing all
the while between latitudes 36deg. and 46 deg. south, gradually working east."

"On the 103rd day the tramp steamer
Asloun hove in sight, and at last our long
wait was to be ended in long. 60deg. east, lat. 41 deg. south."

"After drifting about 2500 miles, and 1800 miles in an easterly direction, going round in squares, circles, and triangles, and crossing our own track seven times, we were really in tow at last, heading for Fremantle."
If a large steamer with twin funnels was sighted off Marion Island and it was not the Waratah, which steamer could it have been?
Sounds a bit like the question asked of the Harlow account :)
Clearly, the Waratah had only a single funnel, but I do wonder about visibility conditions and the extent of sail ('carried all possible canvas') obscuring clarification of one vs. two funnels.
If, for argument's sake, it was the Waratah, it suggests that she covered 1080 nautical miles in a southeastward direction over the course of 118 days. The Waikato covered 1800 nautical miles in a generally eastward direction over the course of only 103 days. 
Even if one takes into consideration that the Waikato was half the size of the Waratah, there would have to be a very good reason why the Waratah covered almost half the eastward direction in a longer period of time, without being sighted by other steamers using the prevailing eastward current. The Waikato was sighted by no less than 6 other steamers (after day 52).
If, all things considered, it was the Waratah off Marion Island, why did survivors not attempt to lower boats and attempt to land on the island? Perhaps conditions were too extreme to lower boats?
I am reminded of one final contribution in a previous post:
http://waratahrevisited.blogspot.com/2014/04/waratah-captain-ilbery-speaks-from.html
Oh dear, the 'voice from the other side' describes hitting an uncharted island of rock and ice between the Crozets and Antarctica. The Crozets are considerably further east relative to Marion Island - covered in no less than an astonishing 30 day drift!
There are no simple answers or solutions to the Waratah mystery. 









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