Tuesday, 1 December 2015


(2) The circumstances of the "Guelph" report are as follows: 

Mr. James Northcott Culverwell, who was, on the 27th July, 1909, in command of that ship, made an affidavit setting out that at 9.51 p.m. on that date, when abeam of Hood Point (latitude 33º 21' S., longitude 27º 54' E.) on a course N. 52º E. true, his chief officer reported sighting a steamer distant about 5 miles outside the "Guelph," and making out the last three letters of her name as T A H. 

A short but yet powerful affidavit. One would expect the Waratah to have been considerably further out to sea by the time she, if she had made it this far, was abeam of Hood Point. If she had maintained her bearing after departing the company of the Clan MacIntyre, she should have been more than 20 miles off East London. The inner track, which the Guelph followed, would have been less than 5 miles offshore.  

The signal was so far doubtful that only a portion of it could be made out, and even as to that portion the Court is of opinion that there must have been some misapprehension on the part of the "Guelph's" chief officer, because if the ship sighted had been the "Waratah," she had only covered about 70 miles since being seen by the "Clan Macintyre" at 9.30 a.m., and in that case must have been overhauled by the latter, and seen by her. The "Clan Macintyre" was herself off Hood Point at 5.13 p.m.

Excellent points made. If the Waratah was experiencing mechanical problems accounting for her significant delay - only covering 70 miles in just over 12 hours - there would have been even more good reason to avoid the continental shelf and unstable sea. One of the masters of the time commented that Captain Ilbery, under such circumstances, would likely have put as much blue sea between him and the coast as possible - suggesting as much as 60 miles offshore. If Waratah for some reason was only 5 miles off the Guelph she would have been overhauled and seen by the crew of the Clan MacIntyre.

Clan Macintyre account of the storm:

"During the 27th July the wind was first S.S.W. fresh, then about noon S. by E. strong, after that S.W. strong gale, moderating between 4 and 8 p.m. and being N.W. by N., going round to W. towards midnight. The sea was at first moderate, then from 8 a.m. to noon rather rough, then from noon to about 5 p.m. a high head sea, ship pitching and shipping heavy seas over the forecastle head, and then from 5 p.m. to midnight it was rather less rough. The weather was fine and clear throughout the day.

Note that during the course of 27 July, conditions were clear, a high head sea between noon and 5 pm, thereafter until midnight 'rather less rough'. The storm of 'exceptional violence' only came into effect 28 July as follows:

"On 28th July we experienced a great storm. I never met with anything of such violence on this coast during the 13 years I have been sailing in this trade. The wind seemed to tear the water up and was of quite exceptional fierceness and power, rising at times fully to hurricane force. There was, too, a tremendous sea, with the wind, flooding our decks fore and aft, the ship pitching heavily and shipping very heavy seas. in the 24 hours ending noon on 29th July, the 'Clan Macintyre' only made 32 miles; at times the steamer, an able vessel, was driven backward by the force of the storm. We reduced speed of engines to half-speed at 2 a.m. on 28th July, and they were kept at this until 6.30 a.m. on the 29th July. The storm was now abating, and the engines were put at full speed ahead. After this the weather continued to moderate, and we had fair weather with moderate wind, and passed Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope, distant 5 3/4 miles, at noon on 31st July."

Long after the Guelph had received the mysterious 'TAH' signal did the conditions become so rough that the Clan MacIntyre had to reduce speed, only covering 32 miles in 24 hours. This, therefore, cannot be used as an explanation for the delay of some 8 hours when Waratah was alleged to have been sighted by the crew of the Guelph.

However, if the Guelph account was accurate, it would dispel the Harlow account. I am not at liberty to go into details but there is concrete proof that Waratah foundered northeast of the Bashee River. Why this account even found the light of day is a mystery in itself. It's almost as though it was 'planted' to reinforce the contention that Waratah must have succumbed to the 'storm of exceptional violence' rather than due to any flaws relating to the vessel.

The crew of the Guelph could never be held to the account simply because the signal exchange was incomplete. If it was contrived it was brilliant!

Hood Point Lighthouse

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