Tuesday, 4 August 2015


The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 28 December, 1911
If it is correct to assume that thebarnacle-covered lifebuoy found on thewest coast of New Zealand, and bearingthe name of "Waratah," really belonged tothat ill-fated vessel, then several interesting topics of conversation and discussioncome into view. There is, first of all, thereawakening of feelings of regret andsympathy as we are reminded of the oceantragedy by which so many lives were lostand so many homes made desolate nearlytwo and a-half years ago. 
The, healing operation of time is kind, though slow; and as troubles recede the asperities of memory are softened, but the loss of the Waratah will be fresh in the minds and hearts of Australians for years to come.
The appearance of this far-travelled relic of a once stately ship is the first visible and tangible evidence of her fate, and there is no reason why other flotsam from the same source should not be found along the track of the currents that have brought back across 7000 miles of ocean the pathetic traces of a great disaster. To the lay mind it would appear an astonishing thing that an object should survive a drift over so long a stretch of ocean, and through a journey extending over two years and a half. Granted the power of the material to resist the disintegrating forces to which it is exposed, there is no reason why such an object as a lifebuoy should not be the sport of ocean currents for years. 
The ocean's system of circulation, due to differences of temperature and the action of trade winds, may play queer pranks with the things that fall, so to speak, within its grasp. And it is not only in the surface currents that these manifestations may be expected. Perhaps below the surface similar movements are taking place, so that objects suspended in these depths may take long journeys before finding their resting place at the bottom of the ocean. 
The movements of the Indian Ocean arewell known both to mariner and scientist,and the action and reaction of cold Antarctic, and of hot equatorial, currents producewell-defined phenomena. The Waratahlifebuoy has thus travelled along a route dictated by the play of acknowledged physical forces, and, supposing the Waratah to have gone down soon after leaving Durban, the released lifebuoy has moved down the Mozambique Channel to the neighbourhood of the Cape, where it has met the eastern drift towards Australia. 
According to the data furnished by thegeographers, the Waratah relic must havegone far south of any of the few islandsin the Southern Indian Ocean to be pickedup and carried along by the stream thatflows to the south of Australia. The most pronounced current of that part of the world is east and north, skirting the coast of Western Australia, and on to the Malay Archipelago. 
It will be remembered that the search steamers inspected the shores of the islands of Crozet, Kerguelen, and McDonald without finding the slightest trace of the Waratah, and all the time this lifebuoy was slipping on its way eastward, to be cast eventually on. the shores of New Zealand - 7250 miles away from the spot where the vessel it belonged to went down. The discovery of this object furnishes one more example of the strange ways of nature, and adds another item to the long list of remarkable journeys taken by similar objects along the ocean paths of the world.

A lifebuoy from the period.

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