Saturday, 29 August 2015


The Waratah of 10,000 tons register  owned by the Blue Anchor line sailedfrom Durban South Africa for CapeTown on July 26 1909. She should havereached Cape Town on July 29, but, exceptthat she was "spoken" by the ClanMcIntyre the day after her departure shehas not been seen since nor has any trace of her been discovered.
The ship left Melbourne on July 7.Among her passengers were well knownVictorians — Mrs and Miss Starke, motherand sister of Mr Justice Starke ; Mrs.Wilson, wife of the manager of the RoyalBank ; Miss Lascelles ; Mr Neil Black,a Western district pastoralist ; Mr Ebsworth, solicitor, who had been a ship'sofficer, and Mr G. Tickell, son of thenaval commandant of Victoria. Dr Fulford a graduate of the Melbourne University was surgeon of the ship. 
It was not until she was three days overdue that her non-appearance caused any anxiety. Even then the owners and the relatives of the passengers took comfort from the reflection that she had merely suffered a breakdown, and would find her way to port. As the days passed with no news, anxious inquiries began to pour into the office of the Melbourne agents. The fact that no wreckage was found by H.M.S.  Forte and Pandora and a tug chartered by the owners temporarily reassured those concerned. Messrs. John Sanderson and Co., the Melbourne agents, kept their office open until 10 p.m. each day in order that inquiries might be answered. On August 7, 433 persons called, and 134 telephone calls for news were received. 
There was a revival of hope on August 11, when report was received that a Blue Anchor steamer had been seen approaching Durban. This news was mentioned in Parliament and at the theatres, but it had no foundation. 
On August 17 the owners were still hopeful, but the underwriters were pessimistic. On August 23 the search was abandoned by the Admiralty. Up to this time no one had suggested that the vessel had capsized, but the view that she had done so rapidly spread, and rumours of prognostications that she would "turn turtle" were recalled in London as well as in Australia. The Commonwealth Government was moved to act, and the Union Castle liner Sabine, with naval officers on board set out to search from Cape Town on September 11. She was out for 88 days and covered 14,000 miles on her quest.

The log of the Clan McIntyre on July 28was as follows : — " 2 a.m., wind and seaincreased. Ship plunging heavily, enginesput half speed ; 4 a.m. whole gale, highsea ; vessel labouring heavily ; 8 a.m. vessel pitching heavily, shipped water foreand aft ; noon squalls of hurricane forceand tremendous seas ;4 p.m. storm withtremendous sea, hard storm, hurricaneforce, vessel shipped water fore and aft ; 8  p.m. strong gale, with high sea ; 6 a.m.on 29th weather moderated, and enginesput full speed ahead." The chief officersaid that in 13 years on the South Africancoast he had never met a storm of suchviolence. From noon to noon the steamermade only 32 miles. In such a storm ifthe steering gear broke down it would beimpossible to keep the ship out of thetrough of the sea. There would be dangerto a vessel, however stable she might be.Stephen Lamont, a midshipman on theClan McIntyre said that at 8 a.m. onJuly 27 the Waratah had a list to starboard, and was progressing like a yacht,heeled over. At 9 a.m. she still listed to  starboard.
Passengers Misgivings
"A Big Hole In the Water"
Mr. W. Church a passenger outward  on the first voyage, said that the Waratah was top heavy and some passengers for Australia left the ship at Cape Town. He told Captain Ilbery he could not compliment him on the Waratah, and the captain replied that he was not altogether satisfied with her, but there was no reason for alarm. 
Mr Sedgwick said he was told by an officer that the Waratah had not more decks than other vessels of her class but her decks were 10 in. or a foot higher than usual.

promenade deck, Kildonan Castle.

The Waratah's decks, according to this account were reported to be 1 ft. higher than average (above). This would almost certainly have contributed to the impression of top heaviness. But impressions are not reality.

Claude Sawyer, disembarked at Durban and continued his journey to Cape Town on the Kildonan Castle. She was used as a troop ship during the First World War, and the image above is from this period.

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