Saturday, 12 March 2016

SS LE SEYNE DISASTER, 1909.

The Advertiser (Adelaide) Thursday 9 December.

The La Seyne was run into by or ran into the British
India Steam Navigation Company's steamer Onda 
and sank almost instantaneously, carrying to their 
deaths 93 persons (101) out of a total of about 154 souls 
aboard.

She went down by the head and the survivors 
were left in the water with only the clothes 
they happened to be wearing at the moment. 
The commander of the La Seyne, Captain Conaflhoe, 
lost his life. So suddenly did the catastrophe 
happen that there was apparently no time for 
orders to be given on the French ship or for boats to be
lowered. The vessel went down like a stone and 
it is quite evident that the majority of those lost 
must have been drowned like rats in a trap. 
A good many of the few who managed to scramble on
deck must have been imprisoned under the
ship's awnings, and it is also clear from
what follows that of those who got clear of
the ship a good many were the victims of
the sharks in which those waters abound.
Mr. Glendinning, "there was
no time for lines, she just sank
in about 3 min. from the time she struck.
When the cold water got to her boilers
they exploded and burst out her sides and
she went down like a stone."


This is an interesting case study. The Le Seyne was 2379 gross tons, 344 ft. in length powered by 1 quadruple expansion engine. November 14, 1909, 26 miles from Singapore, she collided with the British India liner Onda. The Duke and Duchess Deniczki were among the 101 souls lost. 

If Waratah had struck partially submerged wreckage or some other obstacle (St John Reef) she could have been in a similar predicament to the Le Seyne where time and conditions did not allow for launching of boats. Sharks are also a significant presence off the Wild Coast and the account of attacks is both gruesome and tragic. One of the bodies sighted by the crew of the Tottenham was a torso without limbs, suggesting a similar outcome. 

Of great interest in the case of the Le Seyne is the destruction caused by boilers exploding as the steamer sank, blowing her sides out. This could very well have happened to Waratah further explaining the absence of an intact wreck on the ocean floor. However, if Waratah's sides had been blown out, there should have been discoveries of cargo etc along the coast. Given the prevailing current, perhaps most of this was carried away from shore and was lost to detection and history. 











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