Thursday, 14 January 2016

CAPTAIN CULVENWELL AND THE SS GUELPH.

The Examiner (Launceston) Friday 10 February, 1911.
Captain Culvenwell, of the steamerGuelph, said:-
"On July 27 I saw a steamer, and signalled. I could only distinguish three final letters, 'T. A. H.'"
It is strange that Captain Culvenwell initiated the signal exchange with a steamer 5 miles out, in very poor weather conditions. Records have it that the third officer was actually the one who received the incomplete identification of the unknown steamer. It is feasible that the failed signal exchange was made on the orders of Captain Culvenwell, but the question which begs an answer is: 
'Why'? 
It was 9.50 pm; weather conditions were deteriorating; full attention to duties was required; the signal lamp could cause distracting, blinding light on the bridge and for some bizarre, unknown reason, Captain Culvenwell ordered a signal exchange with a vessel not flying signals of distress and steaming in the opposite direction. The only factor I can think of in favour of this signal exchange relates to the absence of Marconi on most vessels. Perhaps in adverse weather conditions, signal exchanges helped to fix positions of vessels, should something go wrong. 
In my opinion the incomplete 'TAH' 'served' a number of purposes: 
- There were no steamers, apart from the Waratah,  with names ending in these letters on the South African coast that night. 
- Therefore, and very cleverly, it could only have referred to the Waratah. 
- However, because the message was incomplete, the crew of the Guelph could never be held to it. 
This reminds me of planting a seed without taking the risk of claiming gardening skills. There was a lot of fishy stuff connected with the disappearance of the Waratah.




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