Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Waratah - Harlow account, 'aroused conjectures'.

The West Australian (Perth) Tuesday 2 November, 1909
London, November 1.
The "Times" states that Lloyd's atfirst determined, owing to lack of substantiation, not to publish the fuller report from Captain Bruce, of the s.s. Harlow, regarding the supposed explosion of a steamer (afterwards alleged tobe the Blue Anchor liner Waratah) offCape Hermes, on the South Africancoast, on July 27. Private perusals ofthe report, however, aroused conjectureswhich were regarded as justifying thepublication of the document.
"A critical examination of the facts,"remarks the "Times," will show that ifall were well with the Waratah that vessel would be 190 miles from Cape Hermeswhen Captain Bruce saw the two explosions, the first of which threw a flash300ft. high, while the second threw aflash 1,000ft. into the air. But if an outbreak of fire had occurred onthe Waratah during the day thecaptain would undoubtedly haveretraced his course, hugging thecoast in order to beach the steamerand land the passengers. 
The latter theory would explain the reports fromCaptain Weir, of the s.s. Clan Macintyre,and Captain Bruce, of the Harlow, butnot the report from the master of thes.s. Guelph. Those who dispel the Harlow's narrative argue that if the Waratah were on fire and retraced her course to Durban she should have been sighted earlier by the Clan Macintyre.
(I find this rationale limited. It makes the assumption that a fire in the initial stages would necessarily slow progress. This is not necessarily the case, and if it were a coal bunker fire, instructions might be given to reduce a particular coal pile on fire (in order to work down to the burning portion), increasing the feeding of furnaces and ironically producing more speed. It is well known that fires initially responded to fire fighting measures and appeared to be under control. Within minutes, such fires could rage out of control. This is highly unpredictable, dependent on a number of contributory factors. No, the Waratah could have been at Cape Hermes by that time and a coal bunker fire which was not as yet beyond control. Further to this, the crew of the Clan MacIntyre would not necessarily have sighted the Waratah again, as she was heading in a more southerly direction out to sea, a position from which, if the decision were taken, coming about in a wide arc further out to sea beyond view of the general sea lane.)  

Captain Weir, of the Clan McIntyre, statedthat he sighted the Waratah on July 27, at6 a.m., in lat. 31.36 S., long. 29.58 E., whichis (approximately) the position of Cape Hermes. The Waratah crossed from the starboard to port bow, and went out of sightabout 9.30 a.m. The Waratah when sightedwas proceeding fairly close to the shore atabout 12.1 knots, the Clan McIntyre makingabout 10. The Waratah was seen to besteering a little more southerly than theother vessel, or taking a course further outfrom shore. 

No comments: