Wednesday, 13 January 2016


Clarence and Richmond Examiner, Tuesday 28 June, 1910.

 In certain nautical circles it is still stronglyheld that shortly after leaving Durban a fire broke out which ultimately resultedin an explosion, completely destroying thevessel with all on board. To some extentthis theory is strengthened by the discoveryof what appeared to be bodies floating in the sea off the South African coast.
It will be remembered that there was alack of certainty on the part of those whosaw the bodies. While some held thatthey were the remains of human beings,others expressed doubt. Those who incline to the theory that the Waratah tookfire and exploded believe that  whatwas seen were carcasses  of frozenmutton from the vessel's refrigerating chamber which had been released by the explosion.
There were two separate witness accounts of bodies afloat; off the Bashee River and further south, in the proximity of the Fish River. These accounts were highly controversial due to the stark fact that neither captain of the Insizwa nor the captain of the Tottenham made attempts to retrieve the bodies for identification.
The sightings were made 11 August, two weeks after the Waratah disappeared. It was 'early days' and optimism that the Waratah had suffered mechanical failure and was adrift captured the public's attention and fed hope of rescue. Of course, the Lunds' first public announcement regarding the overdue Waratah, placed emphasis on mechanical failure and the strongest possibility that she would be found adrift and intact. NO ONE wanted to hear negative reports at this stage - particularly graphic descriptions of bodies, including that of a little girl. And it seems the captains of the Insizwa and Tottenham were not prepared to be the bearers of bad tidings and exerted a certain amount of pressure on crew not to discuss what they had seen.
There is the possibility that mutton carcasses could have been confused for bodies. However, mutton carcasses do not wear clothes which was described by more than one witness on the respective ships. However, there might have been a combination of both creating a measurable degree of confusion.
When all is said and done I believe a vital opportunity was lost at the time. If bodies had been retrieved and identified, it would have forced the public away from the Lunds' vain optimism back into the realm of reality. It would have saved a fortune in extensive searches for a drifting Waratah and cut short protracted hope which came to nothing.

1 comment:

Jon Kingon said...

Hi Andrew.
Can you please e mail me at