Wednesday, 29 June 2016


The Mail (Adelaide) Saturday 3 January 1920.

Karatta's Eventful Voyage.
While the steamship Karatta (Capt. C.
J. Barry) was proceeding to Kangaroo
Island on Saturday last a very unusual
phenomenon in the form of a huge water
spout was observed from the deck of the
vessel. At the time— about 5.38 p.m.—
the Karatta was steaming across Back
stairs Passage. The sea was fairly rough,
and a strong south-westerly wind was
blowing. The uncommon spectacle 
resembled a large whirlpool, with dense
columns of steam rising to the sky, and
was estimated to be about three miles
from the boat, in the vicinity of Cape
Not far behind the vessel was a long
tapering white cloud connecting the sea
with the clouds. The whirlpool, which
was plainly visible to the passengers,
seemed to be gathering in force and
ascending at a tremendous pace, but as the
white cloud lifted the whirlpool gradually

These facts were verified by Mr. A.
Le Messurier (secretary to the Coast
Steamships, Limited, which owns the
Karatta) in an interview with the 'Mail '


'I was travelling on the same boat
said Mr. Le Messurier, and I saw the
whirlpool myself. It seemed to be between 
Cape Jervis and Hog Bay, about
two or three miles away from the vessel,
which was in a direct line with the
phenomenon. The spout was travelling
from a north-westerly to a South-easterly
direction, and after a little while it disappeared 
towards land and got out of the
range of vision. It looked a magnified size
of the tail of a comet.'
'What theories have you for such occurrence?' . ,
'There may be many. It just looked
like a whirlwind that we see on land
except that on the sea there was nothing
to stem its progress, and it must have,
been gathering great force and power.'
'Do you think it would have caused
disaster had it struck the boat?'
'If it had got our upper works it might
have made a short job of them, or if it
had struck something solid damages could
have been done. It is hard to say. One
of the members of the crew of the
wrecked Warilda who was on board the
Karatta remarked to me that when he
was on a vessel of about 300 tons some
where in the eastern seas she was struck
by one of these spouts and just narrowly
escaped disaster.''


'Do you know whether this phenomenon 
has ever before occurred in South Australia?'
'No,' said Mr. Le Messurier; 'not in
gulf waters.'
There was a. large number of passengers
on board the Karatta, and the extraordinary 
incident aroused great interest and speculation. 
It was recalled that some time ago the ketch 
Trucannai just missed a waterspout outside 
Kingscote. It was considered possible that 
if a vessel were caught in one of these the 
water descending would speedily swamp it, 
and that such mysterious disasters as 
overtook the Waratah, Yongala, and 
Koombana might be attributed to this cause.

The above description is more in keeping with a tornado at sea:

The video suggests that serious damage if not total destruction of a vessel could be the end result. 

Have such tornadoes ever been described off the South African coast?

No comments: