Thursday, 17 September 2015

Waratah - fire and explosion.

The Clarence and Richmond Examiner, Tuesday 28 June, 1910.


The return of the steamer Wakefield fromthe second unsuccessful search for theWaratah practically brings to an end thissad chapter in maritime history. The failure to find the missing vessel tends to confirm the theory of nautical experts that the Waratah was overtaken by disaster shortly after leaving Durban, and while still making her way along the South African coast. What caused the accident and just how the vessel was overwhelmed must now remain a mystery, one of the many secrets that the ocean holds regarding ships that have disappeared. 
In certain nautical, circles it is still stronglyheld that shortly after leaving Durban a fire broke out, which ultimately resulted in an explosion, completely destroying the vessel with all on board. To some extent this theory is strengthened by the discovery of what seemed to be bodies floating in the sea off the South African coast. It will  be remembered that there was a lack of certainty on the part of those who saw the bodies (not in the case of Mr. Day). While some held that they were the remains of human beings, others expressed doubt. 
Those who incline to the theory that the Waratah took fire and exploded believe that what was seen were carcasses of frozen mutton from the vessel's refrigerating chamber, which had been released by the explosion (not according to Captain Pidgeon - hold 1)Whether such was the case, or whether the hurricane encountered soon after leaving Port Natal was more than the steamer could weather cannot now be decided, but there is fair reason for supposing that the Waratah did not drift helplessly into the Southern Ocean. 
Not only have two vessels, made a lengthy and specific search, but scores of others on the outward and homeward voyage kept a sharp lookout for the missing vessel, with the result that many thousands of miles of the ocean not regularly traversed have been examined.The search made by the Wakefield of the Islands not visited by the first search party completes then work, and it may now be honestly said that all that was humanly possible has been done to unravel the mystery. 
To those who sorrow for relatives on board the missing vessel the thoroughness of the search affords some degree of consolation, still there is an uncertainty remaining which makes the bereavement extremely sad. As a rule, when death comes into the home, sad though the circumstances may be, there is certain knowledge that the end has been reached. In the case of the Waratah, as with all other vessels that have disappeared, the certainty does not exist, and in spite of the weight of evidence to the contrary, many of the bereaved will still find it hard to give up hope. That has been the experience of many whose loved ones have gone down to the sea in ships. 

The Waratah is brought home to us because the vessel sailed away with some 300 people on board, the majority of whom were Australians, and their failing to safely reachtheir destination means the breaking ofmany a family circle. The same thing isgoing on almost every day in the bigshipping centres. A glance down thecasualty columns of the leading shippingpapers will show frequent brief referencesto vessels posted missing. Occasionallyone long overdue, struggles into port in acrippled condition, but the majority arenever heard of again. They have gone tothe "port of missing ships."' It is only insuch cases as that of the Waratah thatthe world is made aware of the disaster that has taken place.
The ravages of fire - no wonder no one wanted to accept the Harlow account.

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