Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Waratah - remembered, 1940

Border Watch (Mount Gambier) Tuesday 20 February, 1940

It is now 31 years since the S.S.Waratah left Australia on her illfated voyage to England via SouthAfrica. After leaving Durban forCape Town she disappeared, and avain search was made for months insouthern latitudes, as it was thoughtthat her machinery may have brokendown, and that the vessel had driftedsouth.
"... The following letter, written by Mr Paul Krummel to the "Border Watch," '' extracted from Mr. Anderson's scrapbook, recounts the last heard of the ill-fated vessel " :
"The Waratah arrived at Durban Harbour from Sydney on Sunday, July 25, 1909. After disembarking passengers, about 50 were taken on at Durban, and loading cargo for Cape Town and London. Besides 300 tons of bunker coal, which was placed on the bridge deck for lack of space. This convinced many later that the liner had turned turtle. The steamer sailed from Port Natal at 8 o'clock on the evening of 26 July. Her destination was London, via Cape Town, direct.
At 6 o'clock next morning Captain Weir, of the Clan Mclntyre, which had left Durban a few hours before the Waratah, sighted the latter fairly close inshore, about five miles off Port St. Johns (Lat, 91,33 S, Long, 20.60. E.)'. As both vessels were approximately on the same course they carried on a short conversation in Morse as they passed. The Waratah was doing about 12.6 knots, and rapidly overhauled the freighter, passing below the horizon about 8.30 a.m.
The captain of the Clan McIntyrenoticed that the Waratah was pursuing course that would take her a good distance out to sea. The tramp continued her voyage to London without calling at Capetown, and so did not hear of the disappearance of its company of that early July morning until a month later. The Blue Anchor liner was expected at Capetown on the Thursday evening, July 29, allowing three days for the 820 mile journey.
At 10 o'clock the same evening that the Waratah was spoken by the Clan Mclntyre,  the intermediate liner Guelph, bound from Capetown to Durban, passed a vessel about 15 miles off the Bashee River, with whom she exchanged names. Owing to the haziness of the weather and the rough sea beginning to rise, all that the Guelph could make out ofthe unknown liner's message were the last three letters - T A H. There is no doubt that the vessel was the Waratah. That was the last ever seen of the liner and her human freight between the Bashee River and Table Bay she vanished.
Speaking at the Marist Brothers' College during his visit to Mount Gambier, the Governor Sir Malcolm Barclay-Harvey recalled the mysterious disappearance of the Waratah off the iron-bound coast of Africa. The passengers included Colonel P.J. Browne, former owner of Moorak Station. The loss of the Waratah is the most astounding case in the whole of the shipping industry.
Mention of the fate of the Waratah brings back to memory the thoughtful and generous gift of Colonel P. J. Browne in establishing the swimming baths in the town, and donating as a gift for their upkeep, 20 acres of valuable land adjoining the Blue Lake. Since the opening of the baths in 1897, the opening ceremony being performed by the Mayoress (Mrs. F. H. Daniel), it is no exaggeration to say that many hundreds of young folks have acquired the art of swimming, and are under debt of gratitude to the late Colonel Browne.
Another mystery of the sea, was the loss of the comparatively new ship, built to the order of the Adelaide Steamship Company for the inter-State trade, named Yongala. Leaving Cairns for southern ports, she encountered a gale or tornado, and no trace of ship, cargo or passengers and crew were ever found.

Blue Lake, Mount Gambier


speedbird said...

Even in 1940, they recalled the spar deck coal. Seems to me to be a very likely candidate

andrew van rensburg said...

All 340 tons of it :)