The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 11 September, 1909. A STEAMER IN DISTRESS.
WHAT A FARMER SAW.
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....