Sunday, 31 January 2016


The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 11 September, 1909.
A story which, but for a slight discrepancyin dates, might have thrown a new light onthe Waratah mystery, is related by a farmernamed Edward J. Beet, a partner in the firm ofMessrs. Beet Bros,, carrying on business atthe farm Fort Grey, in the district of EastLondon. On visiting the town of East Lon-don last month, he made a statement toMessrs. Mitchell Cotts and Co.'s representa-tive (the local agents of Lund's Blue AnchorLine), which led the latter to proceed withMr. Beet to the police station, where Mr.Beet made an affidavit as to what he declareshe saw off the coast on Monday night, July26. Mr. Beet made his statement to the policeInspector in a clear, intelligent, and sinceremanner, and further submitted a rough sketchplan by way of illustrating his narrative.
Mr. Beet's story is to the effect that onthat evening he saw a large steamer at apoint opposite Cove Rock, and about six milesout to sea, steaming slowly westwards. Afterproceeding some ten miles along the usualtrade route she stopped, blew off steam, andfinally appeared to be drifting back towardsEast London, along a course two miles nearerin shore, rolling heavily, and showing signalsof distress. On reaching a point near CoveRock again she altered her course outwards,and finally disappeared. Later in the eveninghe saw what might have been signals of dis-tress or flashes of lightning.
On being questioned several times, Mr. Beetstated positively that it was on July 26 thathe saw the distress signals. The Waratahsailed from Durban on that date, and couldnot possibly have been in the vicinity of EastLondon until the following day.
Whatever value may be placed on Mr. Beet'sstory, the police authorities have not been disposed to discredit it, while the local agents of the Waratah have taken the evidence with a degree of seriousness. 
Mr. Beet is corroborated by four independent witnesses, and another account by Mr. Maclear of the rockets would seem to fit in with that portion of Mr. Beet's story regarding what he thought were lightning flashes.
He describes the distressed vessel as paintedwhite, with dark funnel, high decks, withcabins on deck, and about 300ft long. Thisdescription, however, does not correspondwith that of the missing liner, which is amuch larger steamer.
Of course the agents for the Waratah would have taken 'the evidence with a degree of seriousness'. The date was wrong, the colour was wrong, the length of the steamer was wrong. It was the perfect red herring.
Reminds me of the Talis account....

Cove Rock.


The Coburg Leader, Friday 11 March, 1910. 
When news came of a vessel being seen on fire which subsequently blew up and foundered there was a wild outburst of incredulity in Melbourne and experts proceeded to point out the impossibilities of the case. Then floating bodies were seen, but the maritime experts would have none of that and put them down as "skates."
This extract gives us important clues. The public response to the Harlow account was one of horror and 'incredulity'. Searches were still actively underway and no one, but no one, wanted to accept the possibility that 211 souls had been blown up on the Waratah. The so-called experts veered sharply away from the possibility of such a catastrophe and vehemently denied that bodies were discovered. It appears from this extract that 'skates' were proposed, not proven, an ideal scapegoat to avoid the collapse of hope. Everything was pinned on finding the disabled Waratah drifting with all souls alive and well. 
The general public, relatives of those on board and the Lunds did not want to accept the possibility the Waratah and her compliment were lost in such a gruesome manner - and so the mystery was born.....

Alien, perhaps. Not human.

Saturday, 30 January 2016


The following newspaper report captures public incredulity, BEAUTIFULLY.
The Coburg Leader, Friday 11 March, 1910.
The most remarkable feature throughout hasbeen the apparently casual manner inwhich captains of ships have treateddiscoveries which should certainlyhave a bearing one way or the otherin regard to the fate of the Waratah.
The captain of one vessel saw asteamer apparently on fire and subsequently noted two explosions: Heconcluded quietly that the Waratahhad blown-up but he never went closeto see if there were any signs offloating debris or wreckage that mightestablish the sunken vessel's identity.
The word 'quietly' resonates as loudly today as it did in 1910. The credibility of Captain Bruce's account was doomed for this very reason.
The captain of the Insizwa sees whathe takes to be human bodies in thewater, but bless your life, he does notworry about it. It is suggested thatit may have been skate or some otherlarge fish but nobody knows becausethe skipper of the Insizwa was tootired to go closer. 
If the matter were not so serious, this passage would be  hilarious.
Some men on an island saw a vessel beating her way under canvas and she was thought to have been the Waratah but for the fact that the vessel reported had two funnels while the Waratah has only one.Some people, experts too, said thefishermen were probably mistaken andthat it was a one funnel boat after all.
And how they wanted the facts to confirm the Waratah was adrift.
Now the story of the floating corpsesis revived and the information is notmuch more definite than it was before.The one conclusion that an ordinarylandsman is 'forced' to is that the average seafaring man is very unstableand almost unreliable in his observations on "ships that pass in thenight" and also that he takes little orno trouble to verify his impressionsupon what he had seen.
I could not have put this better if I tried.

Officers of the Carpathia - rescued Titanic survivors. 

Friday, 29 January 2016


The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 29 December, 1911.
The new P and O branch liner Ballarat, nowon her maiden voyage to Australia has done some goodsteaming. She left London on November l8, two dayslate, and reached Adelaide travelling via the Cape,two days ahead of her schedule time. She thus madeup four days on her journey- a good performance. The  Ballarat is the first of two new vessels specially designed for the trade via the Cape and was launchedat Greenock last September. She offers many ad-vantages not hitherto obtainable at the same low fare  Like her forthcoming sister ship- Bendigo - the Ballarat  is of 11 000 tons gross register. Her dimensions are:-    
Length 515ft; breadth 62ft 6in; and depth, 42ft. 
The new liner, which is classed 100 A1 at Lloyd's, is finelyequipped in respect of passenger accommodation, andthere is a commodious and well-appointed dining-room,    together with smoking room. The main and after holdsand 'tween decks are insulated for carrying meat andfruit, and an extensive equipment of gear is providedfor rapid loading and discharge. The vessel is  supplied with triple-expansion engines. She is due  at Sydney next week.
After purchasing five ships from what was left of the Blue Anchor Line, the P&O Line continued the emigrant service to Australia from England via the South African coast.
The Ballarat was the first steamer built exclusively for the P&O Line and this trade. There are a number of interesting points worth noting:
1. The Ballarat kept the Blue Anchor Line funnel for the first three years, which could be interpreted as a favour out of respect for the Blue Anchor Line, or a symbol, continuation of the emigrant model started by the Lunds.
2. The Ballarat was 50 ft. longer than the waratah, but with a similar beam of 62 ft. 6 in. (marginally broader). 
3. The Ballarat only had two superstructure decks which suggests that the Waratah's reputation had negatively impacted on the construction of this new ship.
4. The Ballarat had a depth of 42 ft. and a draught of 31 ft. 8 in.. This leaves a freeboard of 10.25 ft. This far more healthy freeboard, compared with the Waratah's 8 ft., further suggests that the P&O Line did not wish to repeat history by sending out a steamer with reduced buoyancy and deck-flooding potential.
5. The Ballarat was fitted with triple expansion steam engines, which was a step back in progress from the Waratah's quadruple expansion engines. The latter had proven less efficient and produced significant vibration.
6. Note the size of the Ballarat's funnel, significantly smaller than the Waratah's. There is no doubt that a large, high funnel contributed to top heaviness and enhanced the wind-catching factor.
7. Note the difference in the length proportions of the superstructure decks. The Waratah's should have made up at least half the total length, 465 ft., whereas the Ballarat's did. This is very significant in terms of structural integrity and relation to freeboard.
My feeling is that by the time the Ballarat was launched, lessons had been learned from the ill-fated Waratah, not to be repeated.

The following is an extract from clydesite, which eloquently describes the SS Ballarat in more detail:


built by Caird & Company Greenock,
Yard No 318 
Engines by Shipbuilder

Port of Registry: Greenock
Propulsion: Two four cylinder quadruple expansion steam engines, 9000ihp, twin screw, 16.5 knots 
Launched: Saturday, 23/09/1911
Built: 1911
Ship Type: Passenger Liner
Ship's Role: UK/Australia emigrant service via the Cape of Good Hope (Branch Line)
Tonnage: 11120 gross; 7055 net; 13881 dwt
Length: 500ft 2in
Breadth: 62ft 9in
Draught: 31ft 8in
Owner History:
Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company
Status: Torpedoed & Sunk - 25/04/1917

23/09/1911: Launched by Mrs F C Allen, wife of the manager of the P&O Branch Line. When P&O bought Lund’s Blue Anchor Line’s emigrant service via the Cape in 1910, they immediately ordered five new ships, of which BALLARAT was the first, with improved accommodation aimed at a higher quality of emigrant. P&O took over the service complete, renaming it the Branch Line (hence the Australian “B” names used for their new tonnage), and running it separately from their other ships because Australian regulations required all white crews. 
01/11/1911: Registered. She began life with a Blue Anchor Line funnel, changing to P&O black in 1914. Her maiden voyage via the Cape set a London/Adelaide record of 37½ days. 
1914: When war came served initially as an Indian transport. 
08/1915: Carrying Australian troops. 
25/04/1917: Torpedoed by the German submarine UB.32, 24 miles SxW from Wolf Rock. She was sailing as HM AMBULANCE TRANSPORT A70 on a voyage from Melbourne to London with Australian troops and a cargo of copper, antimony ore, bullion and general cargo. Despite 50 lookouts on each side and HMTBD PHOENIX as escort the torpedo was not spotted, the starboard screw was smashed and the engine room flooded. Taken in tow by a destroyer and HM Drifter MIDGE, she sank in 44 fathoms of water 8½ miles off the Lizard the following day. All 1,752 on board were saved. 
12/1917: P&O Chairman Lord Inchcape negotiated £420,000 compensation for a ship that cost £176,109! 

The following from 'Dictionary of Disasters at Sea During the Age of Steam' (C. Hocking): 

The troopship BALLARAT, taken over from the P. & O. company, was approaching the entrance to the Channel on April 25th, 1917, when she was torpedoed by a German submarine. Including troops, who were all reinforcements from Victoria for the 2nd and 4th Australian Brigades, there were some 1,750 persons on board at the time. The day being Anzac Day the men were parading for a memorial service on board when, at 2.5 p.m., the torpedo struck the ship. One propeller was smashed, a 6 in. gun destroyed, the main steam pipe fractured and the after watertight bulkhead blown in. The BALLARAT at once began to settle in the water but admirable discipline was maintained and the men, who had been exercised at boat drill repeatedly by the colonel of the Victorian Scottish who was in command of the draft, went to their places in splendid order. There was no loss of life, all the troops and crew being taken off by their own boats or by escorting destroyers. The captain of the BALLARAT, Cdr. G. W. Cockman, R.N.R., D.S.O., received the congratulations of the Admiralty on this splendid feat, and the Australian troops were congratulated by King George V.


The Advertiser (Adelaide) Tuesday 10 March, 1910.
News, carefully suppressed for some reasonwhile the steamer Tottenham was inMelbourne (says the "Age"), has come tohand from Auckland, New Zealand, inregard to the missing steamer Waratah. Mr. Day, formerly second officer of the Tottenham, has supplied information in respect to the dead bodies which were said to have been sighted on the coast of South Africa.
The Tottenham left Durban about ten days after the Waratah, which sailed on July 26 last year, and steamed over the same course, bound for Antwerp. When the vessel was off East London, an apprentice reported seeing the body of a littlegirl clothed in a red dress, with her hair flowing in the water, float past the vessel and the chief and second engineers said they had seen pieces of bodies and the body of a woman clad in a nightdress floating about in the water. When the captain and Mr. Day were summoned from the chart-room they went on deck. Mr. Day stated that he pointed out an albatross sitting onsomething, and the steamer was broughtround to make an examination, with the result, Mr. Day states, that he was fully convinced that the object on which the albatross was perched was the trunk of a body, with the arms and legs missing. They did not see any of the bodies previously reported as observed by the apprentice and engineers, but Mr. Day states that pieces of a body were floating 3 ft. or 4 ft. deep in water over a big area of sea, with a flockof birds hovering around. For some reason, which Mr, Day can merely surmise, this was not reported to the lieutenant of the H M S. Forte when the latter put off in a boat in Simon Bay, into which the Tottenham had run for shelter, to make enquiries as to whether the Tottenham had seen any sign of the Waratah. Mr. Day says that strict injunctions were given on the Tottenham to say nothing of "the affair", and he overheard the apprentice, by request, give the account of what he had said to a gentleman whom he believed was agent for the Tottenham, or who had something to do with the ship'scargo, at Melbourne. The apprentice wasthen advised to say nothing of the affair - as it might cause friction. "Let me here remark"added Day, "lest people think that I bear prejudice against anyone, that such suggestions, if they are made, are absolutely incorrect. I deny any prejudice and any statement I have made, I am willing to make on oath. My reason for making this statement now is that while I was on the vessel orders were given to keep the thing quiet, and now I am off the vessel I am free to speak my mind regarding what I saw and what others on the ship told me they saw. I have clean discharges and credentials from the ships on which I have served.

"Three gentlemen in Westport state that they heard a story as to what was seen from the second engineer, who is reported as stating that he was positive that he saw the body of a child float past the ship, and that the effect of what they saw that day put them off their food for several days. 
The Tottenham carried Chines firemen at the time, one of whom is reported as having said,
"Plenty people in the sea".
In my opinion, such detailed accounts, confirmed and proved that bodies were discovered adrift both north and south of East London, two weeks after the Waratah disappeared. For bodies to be in these locations two weeks after the disaster implies that the Waratah foundered at a position considerably northeast of East London, taking into consideration the powerful, southwestward flow of the Agulhas Current.
The fact that tugs sent out to confirm the sightings did not find bodies reverts to common sense. The bodies were not likely to wait around for discovery and would either have drifted further southwest or been consumed by predators.
The detailed accounts, of which this is just one example, refer to the little girl clothed in a red dressing gown and the torso, 'clad in a nightdress'.
By virtue of the nightwear, one comes to the conclusion that the disaster took place at night. This comprehensively rules out the validity of the Conquer account - midday.
The locations of the bodies comprehensively rule out the disaster taking place south of the Bashee River. If the Waratah continued to make good progress, as described by the crew of the Clan MacIntyre, she would have been well clear of East London by nightfall, 27 July. This could not possibly account for the bodies seen off the Bashee River.
If the Waratah had foundered at some time after departing company with the Clan MacIntyre - within a few hours, explaining why the Clan MacIntyre crew did not sight her again - the two bodies would not have been clothed in nightwear.
In order for any of this to be true, the Waratah had to have come about, attempting to return to Durban.
Would passengers be in nightwear at 8 pm, 27 July? If there was a fire on board and problems relating to this, I believe passengers would have been requested to remain in cabins until further instructions (abandoning ship). 8 pm, mid winter off the Wild Coast, would have been conducive to retiring to the warmth of bunks in nightdress.