Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Waratah - Staunton and the steam pipe covering.

The Register (Adelaide) Thursday 19 August, 1915
LONDON, August 17. 
Leinster newspapers state that in response to missing friends advertisement an Irish soldier named Staunton has written home from France declaring that he is the sole survivor of the Waratah. He promises, later, to furnish his parents with a full account of his adventures.
The cablegram recalls a mystery of thesea which has never been cleared up inthe slightest degree. The Blue Anchorliner Waratah with a long list of passengers and a valuable cargo, left Australianports for the old country, by way of theCape, in 1909. She went out from the portof Durban, Natal, on July 26, of that year,intending to call at Capetown, and wasnever more heard of. 
cryptic telegram from George, an inlandtown on the south coast of Cape Province,on September 15, 1909, stated that a fisherman had picked up, a mile outside the Zwartvlei fishing grounds, a piece of wood 16 ft. long, without sign of decay, and with neither barnacles nor weeds, composed of two pieces joined together, one being 5 in. wide and the other 3 in. wide, both 2 in. thick. The wood appeared to be a portion of a steam pipe covering, and was of tapped pitch-pine, painted black, with moulding on one side only. 

Young Staunton did not get the opportunity to relate his story of escape from the doomed Waratah. He died on the front in France, during the Great War. It seems highly unlikely that he was on the Waratah's last, fatal voyage. His name does not appear on the passenger / crew list.

The discovery of what could have been a steam pipe covering at Swartvlei is intriguing. Could this have been further debris from the Waratah? In favour of the item originating from the Waratah is the claim made that the wood was neither covered with barnacles nor weeds, implying that it had not been in the water very long. There were no other reports of missing steamers during this time period.

I am becoming more and more convinced that the Waratah did not disappear without a trace.

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