wreck has been found that corresponds to her site.
On July 26, 1909, the Blue Anchor
liner Waratah, homeward bound to
England from Australia, left Durban.
A day later she was sighted by the
Union Castle liner Guelph to the east-
ward of East London. She was then
running eight hours late. Communication
between the two vessels was
attempted, but the signals were indistinct.
However, all appeared well with
her. Generally, the weather was reported clear,
but later reports from other vessels indicated
that there had been local gales.
'Local gales' sounds like a gross underestimation of the storm which struck, 28 July, 1909. There are however some sources claiming that this storm was exaggerated at the Inquiry, and weather reports for 28 July did not match the severity of the account. The log of the Clan MacIntyre was convincing, but given the level of misdirection at the Inquiry, I would not be surprised if this storm was blown out of proportion. After all, apart from Waratah, no other vessels large or small were reported missing.
There was nothing to occasion alarm at the time,
however, and it was not until the Waratah was
a week overdue at Cape Town
that reports began to appear in the
Australian newspapers. There was no
immediate anxiety. The newspapers
were occupied mainly with quite a
number of consoling theories. It was
believed that she was temporarily disabled,
and drifting. The weather was calm.
'Calm weather' is taking it too far.
Nothing could happen to so
good a ship. Correspondents recalled
the story of how the Boveric had
drifted for weeks in the Indian Ocean,
with a broken tail shaft in 1902, and
had turned up safe and sound.
Then more alarming reports came.
Two warships had searched the coast
in vain. Underneath a new series of
consoling theories the newspapers
printed the names of the 92 passengers
and of the crew of 119, and particulars
of her cargo of Australian produce,
valued at £200,000. Reports
that bodies had been washed up were
printed, and denied. More remarkable
stories were recounted by correspondents
as ground for hope. Rumours that she had
been seen from the coast
became current and were found to be
false. Weeks passed. Nothing was
found. At last 15 steamers had passed
on her track, and seen nothing. Two
warships and several other craft had
searched systematically in vain. Not
a trace of wreckage reached the coast.
The owners were reported to be still
hopeful ; but the warships were instructed
to give up the search, and
by the middle of September the Waratah
had declined from the top of news
paper columns to obscure paragraphs
which told nothing new. The vanished
ship became one of the strangest mysteries of the seas.
In June last however, after 24
years, something turned up. Writing
on the 23rd. a South African correspondent
to the "San Francisco Chronicle" stated:—
"It is believed that the mystery of the Waratah has at
last been solved. .... A few days
ago the tanker Rigmor, steering round
the coast of Natal from Durban to
Cape Town, struck a submerged obstruction
that appeared on none of the
maps issued by the British Admiralty
for the benefit of mariners."
This mishap took place at a distance
of one mile from the mouth of the
Umgababa River (Aliwal Shoal). When the vessel returned to port,
and her damaged hull was examined, it was found that the
cut had been made, not by a rock, but
by a piece of jagged steel. Records
proved that only two vessels had ever
been lost along that coast— a small
whaler, the Norman, which disappear-
ed in 1903, and the Waratah. Under
Commander H. G. Hean, marine surveyor,
of Durban, an aeroplane was
sent out to examine the locality.
Photographs and a cinema film were
taken over the spot described by the
captain of the Rigmor, and a large
submerged hull was clearly distinguished
from the air.
"'Whether this belonged to the Waratah
cannot yet be stated with certainty, but the
facts at hand agree with the description surviving from
It was never likely the Waratah made it this far attempting to return to Durban, and the most probable candidate for the wreck described:
The Nebo sank in 1884 and lies inshore from the Produce. She was a 2000 ton British iron steamer carrying 4500 tons of railway materials. On her maiden voyage from Sunderland to Durban she struck the shoal and was holed. She quickly sank and lies hull-up on the sand in 25m (82 ft.)
The Nebo was thought to be top heavy and overloaded at the time - let's not go there... She was carrying materials for the construction of the Amanzimtoti railway bridge. Her wreck is still recognisable, 132 years later - giving us hope for the wreck of the Waratah.