Tuesday, 5 April 2016


It's time to tighten up on the details of the Harlow witness account. Because Captain Bruce gave out
information which did not correlate with Cape Hermes, I took the liberty of exaggerating mileages in a
previous post to illustrate possibilities. The Bashee / Xora River option is enchanting and many
Waratah experts believe that the wreck lies in that vicinity. Such a possibility is further enhanced by
bodies discovered off the Bashee; a lifebuoy allegedly recovered from the Bashee River mouth and the
specific account of Jan Pretorius, illegal diamond prospector, who claimed he saw from the banks of
the Bashee River a large steamer founder close to shore.

But let's get real about the account and look to the true facts as they appeared in print. Creating maximum confusion has to be the oft quoted figure of 180 n miles from Durban. Neither Cape Hermes, nor the Bashee correlate with this distance from Durban. The Bashee River is about 200 n miles from Durban and Cape Hermes is about 150 n miles from Durban. Phonetics (118 / 180) have no connection with this figure.

180 n miles is a tantalising position between Coffee Bay and Hole in the Wall. This should have us jumping up and down with excitement as Captain Bruce referred in the Inquiry to 'near Hole in the Wall'. This possibility has a deckchair in its favour, even if that alleged deckchair only washed up onshore some 15 months later. The problem with this theory relates to a fundamental landmark that Captain Bruce could not have missed, even if in retrospect he was confused about his exact position - there was no lighthouse at Coffee Bay or Hole in the Wall. There was (is) a lighthouse at Cape Hermes. Further to this, Captain Bruce quoted that he was '18 hours out from Durban' when the large steamer exploded. The Harlow was capable of between 9 and 9.5 knots which would give us a position off Cape Hermes, and back to the original theory - the drama took place between Cape Hermes and the mouth of the Nkadusweni River - not the mouth of the St Johns River (Umzimvubu). 

For any theory to hold water that the Waratah foundered off the Bashee River or higher up the coast
requires that she came about, attempting to return to Durban. No other possibility exists. The reasons
for coming about had to relate to a problem on board, compounded the approach of a severe storm.
The Harlow account is the only theory which addresses this possibility in full. But it might not be the
only possibility.....

Having said all of the above I feel it is important to keep an open mind and not rely too heavily on the
printed facts as they stand. I like the possibility of the Bashee River mouth, despite comprehensive
searches off this section of the coast which have not identified the Waratah. The Lighthouse at the
Mbashe was not manned which is a further positive tick in that box - no keepers to witness the drama. 

Joe Conquer reported seeing the Waratah founder off the Xora River mouth, midday, 28 July. Unfortunately this account refers to the 'Waratah' steaming down the coast, which does not make sense in the context of the last reported sighting from the Clan MacIntyre being Bashee River mouth, 9.30 am, 27 July. Also the Waratah was unlikely to have been off the Xora 28 July. There were reports of various items from a steamer washing ashore in following days, and if these items had originated from the Waratah, it still does not confirm the position of the tragedy. Emlyn Brown, I believe, has ruled out this possibility, comprehensively.

I like the idea of Coffee Bay for the simple reason that Captain Bruce mentioned both 180 n miles and Hole in the Wall, but it has limitations which can only be resolved by further searches in this vicinity.

For now, unless something concrete comes to light, I am obliged to stick with the Cape Hermes / Nkadusweni theory. You have no doubt made up your own minds....

Hole in the Wall

Cathedral Rock

 Take your pic...

more realistic site

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