Wednesday, 28 December 2016


Mr. Hoehling made reference to the absence of wireless communication on Waratah.

Much has been said about the absence of wireless on Waratah, which was due for installation after returning from her last, fateful voyage. Some 6 months prior to the disappearance of Waratah, the RMS Republic was involved in a collision with the steamer Florida in fog off Nantucket, Massachusetts. Of 742 souls on board only 6 perished. The badly damaged Florida was able to take survivors on board, but being dangerously overloaded, had to wait for the arrival and assistance of the Baltic, summoned by wireless distress calls by Republic's Jack Binns operating a Marconi apparatus. This proved the efficacy of the system and necessity for such installations on ocean-going steamers.

If Waratah had had such a wireless could this have saved her souls or at least indicated where she had run into trouble and why? This reminds me of the Koombana years later, 1912, when she too disappeared without a trace off Port Hedland, Western Australia. Koombana was fitted with Marconi and the day before her departure and disappearance had communicated with a German steamer some 800 miles distant. However, despite the new-fangled appliance, Koombana disappeared without any distress messages being received either on land or at sea. Why? The answer applied both to Koombana and Waratah. There were no land-based stations along the coast to receive messages from shipping and the majority of steamers did not carry wireless to receive distress calls from other steamers. I don't believe it would have been of any help to those on the doomed Waratah if she had been fitted with wireless. In my opinion, as in the case of Koombana, Waratah went down so rapidly that even if there had been wireless on board there would have been little chance to deploy it before the flagship took her final plunge.  

RMS Republic

SS Baltic

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