Thursday, 9 July 2015


The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW) Friday 4 March, 1910
LONDON, March 3.
Reuter's correspondent at Capetown reports that a quantity of wreckage has been washed ashore at Mossel Bay.
A most significant object is a cushionmarked "W ".  A hatchway which hasbeen washed ashore among other wreckage has been sent to the builders of theWaratah, Barclay, Curle, and Co, Glasgow, with a view to identification.
A very strong current - the Agulhas currentsets to the southward along this position ofthe South African coast, and even should the wreckage now found be identified as belonging to the missing Waratah the exact spot where the great ocean tragedy occurred will still remain in doubt. 

It is very interesting to note that the hatchway was sent to Barclay Curle and Co for identification. I can find no evidence to support whether the builders affirmed or refuted the finding. But what is far more interesting is that the hatchway was not raised at the Inquiry when representatives of the builders were placed under oath. Surely the Court and relatives of those lost wanted to know if it came from the Waratah??????
Even more bizarre was the denial that a cushion with the letter 'W' could possibly have come from the Waratah. If such a cushion did not originate from the Waratah, from which ship did it originate? Surely there should have been official attempts to establish this fact by exclusion. 
These two items remind me of the equally bizarre report of the deckchair found at Coffee Bay with the name Waratah and that of a 'passenger' affixed. By the time the Inquiry convened, the report relating to the deckchair had taken on absurd dimensions. A random name was quoted, without the name of the ship affixed to the deckchair. In a previous post I demonstrated that this was most unlikely and if anything, a plaque with the name of the vessel with or without a passenger's name would have been closer to the truth.
Why did the Lunds (and builders) try so hard to refute these pieces of wreckage as having any connection with the Waratah? Dare I say, that efforts were made to discredit the findings.  
In my opinion the answer lies in a sequence of events which in all probability confirmed the Harlow sighting of the Waratah off Port St Johns.
Let's first remind ourselves that F Lund was in fact the first person to suggest that the crew of the Harlow had mistaken bush fires for a burning steamer. At the Inquiry, the chief officer of the Harlow adopted this interpretation and stance, going blatantly against his captain, John Bruce's witness account. In one fell swoop, the witness account was discredited.
The Lunds and the builders did not want to be held liable for the loss of the Waratah in any shape or form. All circumstantial evidence had to point to a sound flagship overwhelmed by a storm of 'exceptional violence'.
If the Waratah had foundered off Port St Johns, obviously trying to return to Durban, Pandora's Box would have been flung open and no end of trouble visited upon them. The Lunds had lost the Blue Anchor Line - was that not enough?
Let us return to the three objects discovered on the South African shores and assume for argument's sake that all three originated from the Waratah. 
The Waratah foundered off Port St Johns in view of the Harlow due to reasons unknown (explosions ruled out).
It is mid winter and most movables are secured. The sardine counter current takes a few items and sadly the bodies sighted off East London two weeks later, away from shore in a northeastward direction.
At some point the powerful margins of the southwestward Agulhas Current catch the objects which start on a journey down the South African coast. 
The deckchair, which is heavier and less buoyant travels slower and closer to shore, eventually washing up at Coffee Bay the following November.
The light and buoyant cushion, hatchway and unfortunately, bodies, are carried faster within the body of the Agulhas Current southwestward. 
The bodies are sighted off East London, en route, before the elements and predators reduce them to unrecognizable flesh and bone.
The hatchway and cushion keep each other company on the lengthy voyage of 500 miles from Port St Johns to Mossel Bay, where inshore currents wash them onto the beach 7 months later. This should have been a fortunate finding, because not far to the southwest, the retroflecting Agulhas Current would have whipped them down into the Southern Ocean (as in the case of the lifeboat sighted in February, 1910).
If this sequence of events holds water, it explains without a doubt why the owners and builders were so anxious not to acknowledge the finds. They simply did not want, nor could they afford, to have the Harlow witness account verified.
If one were looking for a smoking gun to prove the case of the Harlow witness account, surely this is it!!
SS Waratah.

Eastern Cape

South African Coastline.

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