The Advertiser (Adelaide) Tuesday 10 March, 1910. THE WARATAH
A BELATED STORY.FLOATING BODIES SEEN.
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.