Saturday, 26 December 2015


Clarence and Richmond Examiner, Tuesday 14 December, 1909
Mr. Lund, of Messrs. W. Lund andSons, the owners of the missing liner,stated that when sighted by CaptainWeir the Waratah was proceeding veryclose to the shore at about 12 1/2 knots,the Clan M'Intyre making about 10.The Waratah was seen to be steering alittle more southerly than the othervessel, or taking a course further outfrom shore.
It seems extremely unlikely that Mr. Lund would have been misquoted, December, 1909. We simply cannot ignore the statement; 'the Waratah was proceeding very close to the shore'. In this case the statement is a bird in the hand rather than two unfounded opinions to the contrary.
To a large degree there is logic in the report. If the Waratah was marginally inshore of the Clan MacIntyre, maintaining a similar trajectory, there would be no obvious reason for her then to be seen following a more southerly course, crossing the Clan MacIntyre from starboard to port. However, if the Waratah had started in a position 'very close to the shore' when first sighted, it would make perfect sense that her trajectory would be heading out to sea, and in this case, beyond the course followed by the Clan MacIntyre.
There is no reason for the Waratah being 'close to the shore' other than a period of decision-making - whether to continue or turn back. No explanations were offered in the polite exchange between the two vessels, but it would have been strange if the officers of the Waratah chose to share the outbreak of a bunker fire with a random tramp steamer.
It took the best part of eight hours before the fire on board the Waratah progressed to a situation similar to the one depicted below. Note the vast amount of smoke produced by the burning SS Sardinia. No wonder Captain Bruce spotted the Waratah from as early as 5.30 pm. Going by the image, one wonders if the Waratah didn't mimic bush fires on shore rather than the other way round.

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