Friday, 29 April 2016


Bendigo Advertiser, Saturday 11 September, 1909.

The "Vital Mercury" gives the following
account of the first cruise by the
H.M.S. Pandora in search of the missing
steamer Waratah. The two cruisers
H.M.S. Forte and Pandora left Durban
on 2nd August. The Pandora returned
on 5th of August without being successful.
When the cruisers left an agreement was
come to as to the areas to be searched. The
H.M.S. Pandora was allocated the area between 
long. 28 and 32 E, roughly corresponding to that 
south of the coast between East London and Durban, 
whilst the Forte searched between long. 24 and 28 E.,
carrying on the search to the neighborhood
of Cape St. Francis, while the Capetown
tug, T. E. Fuller, was despatched to the
neighborhood of the Agulhas bank.
A member of the "'Mercury" staff went
aboard the Pandora, a few minutes after
she was moored at the buoys, when her
commander, Commander A. G. Davidson,
kindly gave an account of the nine days'
search of the vessel, and also supplied the
chart of her cruise.
In the course of conversation, Commander 
Davidson said that the Pandora, which
left Durban on the afternoon of Monday,
2nd August, steamed down to East London,
and then having ascertained that no news
of the vessel was to hand, stood off from
that port, at 6 p.m., on 3rd August, almost 
due south. It was of course useless searching 
within a hundred miles of the coast, as the 
numerous vessels which
had passed on the lookout for the
steamer, made it a certainty that she was
not on or near the usual steam line, and
this being the case she bore south till 8
o clock the following evening, when she had
run about 300 miles on the coast, and was
in lat. 28.3 S., long. 27.45 E. During
the afternoon of Wednesday she got in
touch, by wireless, with H.M.S. Forte,
which was searching to the westward, but
as the distance be!ween the vessels was the
extreme range of their installations, they
could do no more than exchange numbers.
At, 8 p.m. that evening she swung her
head to the north-east. At 10 o'clock
that night she sighted the s.s. Paparoa,
bound from Capetown to New Zealand,
which was also on the lookout for the 
missing vessel, but when communicated with
had no news to report. That night the
Pandora ran into a heavy gale—the first
of three which she experienced during the
three days—blowing up from the south-
On Sunday the Pandora ran into a
second gale, this time from northeast
and of a very severe nature, and this 
prevented Commander Davidson
from continuing the search further
south-east, as he had intended, exigencies
of coal supply making it necessary that he
shouId run to port, for, with such weather
it was necessary that a safety margin
should be allowed, when considering the
paucity of coal in her bunker. This decision 
proved decidedly wise, for Sunday's gale had 
not subsided with another arrived on Monday 
from the south-west. The weather, in fact, 
was altogether exceptional, and Commander 
Davidson said that it has been on few occasions 
that he has met with such confused seas which 
was running during these days. The Pandora, in fact, 
had a rough time of it, the waves broke at times 
right over the ship's boats and cabins, including 
the captain's were flooded out and the forecastle 
deck was strained, and some minor repairs will also
be required before she sails again.

If Captain Ilbery did make a decision to come about and head back to Durban due to the approaching gale, one can fully understand the reasoning from this account.

Commander Davidson said that the Pandora
as she proceeded on her search could
be reckoned to cover an area of from 20 to
50 miles in width. During the day a man
was continuously at the crow's nest; on the
foremast, whilst at. night the searchlight
was continuously at work, and could be seen
from a great distance, and which, if it had
been seen by the missing vessel would
doubtless have been answered by rockets.

A comprehensive search hindered by great distances and treacherous weather. No doubt such weather affected searches on land as well. All to no avail. Waratah had taken her secrets with her to the bottom.

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