Friday, 28 August 2015

Waratah - and the SS Appam.

The Argus (Melbourne) Monday 31 January, 1916

Six Days Overdue.
Waratah Mystery Recalled.
342 Souls on Board.
LONDON, Jan. 28.
Grave fears are entertained for the safetyof the West African liner Appam (7,781tons). She is six days overdue on a voyagefrom Dakar (Senegambia) to London, andthe mystery of her disappearance recalls theloss of the Lund liner Waratah off thecoast of South Africa in July, 1909.
The liner has been posted at Lloyd's asmissing. Eighty guineas per cent havebeen paid to reinsure her. It is feared thatshe has been lost with all hands. The s.s.Tregantle reports that she passed betweenMadeira and Gibraltar one of the lifeboatsof the Appam. The boat, which containedwater-cans and a lifebuoy, had had 5 ft. ofits bow knocked away.
It is reported that 200 passengers wereon board, while the officers and crew numbered 142. The 87 passengers in the firstclass included Sir Edward Merrewether(Governor, of Sierra Leone), Lady Merrewether, and his suite. Many West African civil servants were travelling by thesteamer, which, however, carried notroops.
Leaving Dakar on. January 11, the Appamwas last seen on January 14. Steamerswhich have arrived at London from WestAfrican ports since the Appam was due report having encountered heavy storms between the Canary Islands and Cape Finiterre. The Appam has been regarded as one of the show vessels of the Elder, Dempster line. She was splendidly equipped and manned, and fitted with wireless telegraph apparatus. Her commander, Captain Harrison, was one of the best known navigators on the West African coast.
It was on January 17 that the Tregantlesighted the derelict lifeboat near Teneriffe. The captain of the steamer states that the boat was quite new. It was capable of carrying 40 persons. He considers it probable that the lifeboat was damaged by a passing steamer hitting her in the darkness. A search revealed no wreckage. The company suggest that, as one boat was found, others may yet be picked up by passing vessels.

SS Appam

The SS Appam was in fact captured by the SMS Mowe, a merchant raider of the Imperial German Navy.

SMS Mowe

The Mowe was disguised as a neutral cargo steamer, so that it could get close to targets. Not only was this vessel successful as a 'commercial raider', but sank a number of merchant vessels during WWI.

The Appam was then redirected to Hampton Roads, Tidewater, Virginia, US, in effect bringing a prize of war into a neutral port. The British and African Steam Navigation company, filed a suit to recover her from the Germans. Federal Judge, Edmund Waddill of Virginia, in a 15 000 word opinion, directed, 29 July 1916, that the Appam, with the cargo (valued at between 3 and 4 million dollars) remaining on board and the proceeds of the perishable cargo already sold, should be restored at once to her British owners (wikipedia).

Of the many theories surrounding the disappearance of the Waratah, I am surprised that a similar scenario to that of the Appam, is not included.

If it is to be believed the Waratah was conveying a significant quantity of gold in her bullion hold, this could be considered a prime motive to 'highjack' the steamer.

The Waratah had sufficient coal to take her across the Atlantic to some obscure South American port. It seems very unlikely that a team of 'highjackers' would have boarded the Waratah after she departed company with the Clan MacIntyre. Mutiny would be a far more feasible option.

Personally, I do not believe the Waratah was subjected to a forced take-over or mutiny. But if whirlpools and methane gas were postulated, why not add this one to the list.


Mole said...

Fascinating post, thanks.

speedbird said...

Indeed, mutiny is almost never recalled. I'm surprised at this. If every missing ship was carrying the gold legend states, there would be a lot of missing gold!

andrew van rensburg said...

The extent of searches at sea and considerable cost, does make one more reason to find the wreck and answer this and other questions.