Saturday, 16 July 2016


The strange tale of the liner "Waratah," a new ship carrying 300 passengers and crew, which, in July, 1909, mysteriously vanished between Durban and Cape Town, South Africa, right in the track of ten other steamers all of which safely reached port, had light thrown on it in May, 1929, when an Englishman wrote to a well-known London newspaper stating that, in 1913, he met a white trader at the mouth of the river Xora, near the native reserve of the Transkei, near East London, South Africa, who told a queer story. 
"One very wild night in July, 1909," he said, "I saw a large steamer close inshore off a dangerous coast with terrific surf running on razor-edge reefs. Wondering what on earth she was doing in so dangerous a spot right off the steamer track, I went to my hut to get my night glasses, but on returning to the shore, I found the steamer had vanished. 
Three months later, I heard of the loss of the 'Waratah'. I am certain it was the same steamer. I have a piece of wood with the letters 'WAR' carved on it. A tremendous depth of water runs outside the reefs and it is quite conceivable that a ship could turn turtle and leave no trace. Sharks would kill any human even if he or she could keep afloat in such strong tides." 
One theory of the disappearance of the Waratah is that she was top heavy and went to the bottom after turning turtle in a hurricane.

This account is very intriguing. The writer draws our attention to the fact that if the Waratah had maintained her course, there were 10 other steamers out there, at least one of which should have definitively sighted her, after the Clan MacIntyre and apart from the Guelph.
The 'white trader' also pointed out that the steamer was large and too close inshore, out of the normal steamer track - by implication, in danger of striking 'razor-edge reefs' and by implication that there was something wrong on board.
The steamer disappeared very quickly (as in the Harlow account) and by the time the 'white trader' returned with his night glasses, she was gone.
Could the piece of wood with the letters, 'WAR', be yet more wreckage from the doomed Waratah?
We shall probably never know the veracity of this account, but it is extraordinary and fascinating.
A 'wild night' suggests that this account might relate to 28 July, and not 27 July.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wot no rockets sent up?