Wednesday, 13 July 2016


 The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 8 October, 1909

According to advices received in Sydney yes-terday the committee of Lloyds has been sup-plied by Messrs. Cayzer, Irvine, and Co., withextracts from the log of the steamer ClanMacintyre, which recently completed a voyagefrom New Zealand ports, via South Africa, toLondon.
The Clan Macintyre sighted the missing stea-mer Waratah on July 27, the day after herdeparture from Durban for Capetown. TheWaratah was signalled on the starboard beam at 6 a.m., and greetings were exchanged. Shortly after 7 o'clock the Clan Macintyre was abeam of Cape Hermes, from which she was distant 13 1/2 miles.
The Waratah crossed from the starboard tothe port bow, and went out of sight at 9.30a.m., the sea being moderate, and the weatherclear. Entries in the Clan Macintyre's log-book show, that at 10 o'clock the wind hadchanged, and the sea was rough, while shortly after 5 p.m. there was a strong south-westerly gale blowing, accompanied by a high head sea.
An entry made on July 28 states that "dur-ing all this day it blew a heavy storm fromW.S.W. to W., with squalls of hurricane forceand a very heavy sea, the sea rising in a walllike formation owing to the current beingagainst it."
It is often assumed that the signal exchange between the Clan MacIntyre and Waratah took place at 6 am abeam of Cape Hermes. This report based on the log of the Clan MacIntyre suggests otherwise and was confirmed at the Inquiry - the Clan MacIntyre was abeam of Cape Hermes at 7.11 am
When crew of the Clan MacIntyre first sighted Waratah she was 'proceeding very close to the shore' according to some reports. This has always intrigued me and Clan MacIntyre's position 13.5 miles offshore makes sense in terms of making full use of the +/- 2 knot Agulhas Current, but causes me some confusion - read on.... 
George Purssey Phillips, Chief Officer of the Clan MacIntyre :-
'When I came on watch at 4 a.m. on 27th July a steamer was in view a good distance astern of us, on our starboard quarter. She was bearing north-easterly from the 'Clan Macintyre,' that is nearer the land. She gradually overhauled us, and when abeam, at 6 a.m., and distant from 2 to 3 miles, we exchanged signals.'

'At the time mentioned, 6 a.m., we were approaching Cape Hermes. The steamer remained in sight until about 9.30 a.m., and we could distinguish a blue anchor on her funnel a little after she passed, and recognised her perfectly. When I first saw her we were steering S.W. true, and she was steering S.W. southerly. She passed ahead of us, crossing our bow, and when we lost sight of her she was heading much the same way; she was then one point to one and a half points on our port bow, and would be 8 to 10 miles away, as the weather was fairly clear, and she would be about abeam of Bashee River, and about 12 miles out from it. Her speed all the time was quite 13 knots over the ground. She passed the 'Clan Macintyre' rather quickly, and we were making 9 1/2 knots by log, and the current was about 2 to 3 knots an hour in our favour.'

The Bashee River is 50 nautical (n) miles from Cape Hermes.  

The Waratah was heading in a more southerly direction, 1 to 2 points on the Clan MacIntyre's port bow - roughly 8.4 degrees. This implies that the Waratah had to cover more than 50.54 miles between 7.11 am and 9.30 am - 2.32 hours. We know that the current favour was 2 knots, implying that the Waratah was making an average speed of 22 knots, which was impossible!

Let's say for argument's sake Waratah was making 13.5 knots plus 2.5 knots (Agulhas Current) = 16 knots. She would therefore have covered at most, 37 miles, which places her more or less off the Xora River mouth, not the Bashee.

When the Waratah was abeam of the 'Bashee River', akshully Xora River mouth, Officer Phillips estimated that she was about 12 miles out. This gives us a figure of 4.62 miles out from shore for the Clan MacIntyre and the Waratah 7.38 miles further out than the Clan MacIntyre, a calculation based on 1 to 2 points on the Clan MacIntyre's port bow - roughly 8.4 degrees. From this we may deduce that the Clan MacIntyre could not have been 13.5 miles off Cape Hermes at 7.11 am, but roughly 4.6 miles, which makes sense! The Clan MacIntyre was tracking SW true.
Let us return to the quote 'proceeding very close to the shore' and Mr. Phillips' statement:
When I first saw her we were steering S.W. true, and she was steering S.W. southerly.
When Mr. Phillips first saw Waratah at about 4 am, she was astern and steering in a more southerly direction relative to the Clan MacIntyre.
Let us remind ourselves that Clan MacIntyre must have been about 5 miles out and 2 hours after the first sighting, Waratah was 2 to 3 miles abeam on their starboard, closer to shore - roughly 2.5 miles offshore. 
But given that when Mr Phillips first saw her at 4 am tracking a more southerly course, Waratah had to have started at a position very close to shore at 4 am!!
Where was this?
We can assume that waratah, during the initial phase outside the Agulhas Current, was doing about 13 knots. 3 hours between 4 am and 7 am gives us an average distance covered of 39 miles, the Clan MacIntyre having covered about 28.5 miles. Keeping in mind the bearing of 8.4 degrees, the Waratah was less than 1.5 miles offshore (possibly 1 mile) at a position off Isikombi Point, 9 miles southwest of Port Edward !!!!!!

This virtually proves that Waratah was far too close to shore to make adequate sense. 
Note the position of Waratah at 6 am, abeam of the Clan MacIntyre and according to the graphic between 2 and 3 miles apart.
Mr. Phillips went on at the Inquiry to say:
The 'Waratah' was showing the usual navigation lights, there were also numerous electric deck-lights, &., on and off from time to time. She had no list, but seemed to be in good order, and not to be in any difficulty whatever. We saw nothing more of her after she passed out of sight.
Mr. Phillips stressed that Waratah was in good order using the word 'but' rather than 'and' - a slip of the tongue? After all, Waratah was well within the inner steamer track when first sighted and at risk of collision with an oncoming steamer !! 
It was pitch dark and yet Waratah's electric deck lights were going on and off - why? Once lights were switched on surely they stayed that way until daybreak?
I cannot help wondering what the true state of affairs were on board Waratah between 4 am and 7 am, 27 July. It is reassuring that she maintained an appropriately consistent speed and 'looked' fine.
But had the cracks already begun to show??
One thing is clear to me, the detailed Clan MacIntyre account was flawed and to what extent is of great concern. We tend to rely on it as a meter stick - I do not believe we can.

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