Saturday, 22 August 2015

Waratah - Captain Elford sighted the Waratah.

The Argus (Melbourne) Saturday 30 December, 1933

Sea Mystery Recalled.
The commander of the liner MoretonBay (Captain H. C. Elford), who reachedMelbourne yesterday, was probably thelast man to sight the steamer Waratah,which was lost off the South African coastin mysterious circumstances in 1909. 
At the time of the disaster I was junior officer on the Ellerman steamer Johannesburg bound from East London to Durban  said Captain Elford. It was my watch on the bridge. A terrible gale was blowing, during which the lights of a steamer passed us inshore. That was near the dreaded Aliwal Shoals, about 70 milessouth of Durban. The passing vesselsignalled that she was the Waratahbound from Durban to Cape Town. Sherapidly disappeared into the storm, andwas never seen again.
Captain Elford said that it was not surprising that no wreckage was found as during such a heavy gale all movable articles would be lashed fast and would go to the bottom with the ship.

By 1933, memories of the details surrounding the disappearance of the Waratah were fading. Captain Elford probably did catch sight of the Waratah off the Aliwal Shoals, but that evening was calm and he was not the last to witness the Waratah before she disappeared. But such are the stories of legend, acquiring nuances and adjustments to suit the 'eye of the beholder'.

SS Johannesburg (courtesy Stanley Robinson)

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