Tuesday, 10 January 2017


Mr. Hoehling refers to no less than 5 hoax bottle messages having been picked up on the coast of Australia alone, purporting to have been last words from the doomed Waratah. Examples of such:

The Advertiser (Adelaide) Saturday 5 February, 1910.

Melbourne, February 4.
While walking along the beach two miles
from Prospect Reserve, Sale, this after-
noon Mr. J. W. MacLachlan. M.L.A.,
picked up a bottle containing the following 
message, which is undated:-

''Thrown overboard while the steamer Waratah is
sinking fast. Latitude 48 east (the "eight" is not very clear), 
longitude L 30 south.- J. Milburn."
The bottle was a large-sized beer bottle,
and the message is written on thin white
writing paper. It was folded once, and
the edges were torn and discolored. The
message was written in lead pencil, and the
writing is fine and clear. The locality indicated 
by this message would place the missing ship 
about 600 miles south-west of Victoria. The 
lists of those on board which have been 
published from time to time do not disclose 
the name J. Milburn. There was a W. Milburn 
on board, but he landed at Durban.

A Capetown message says that thenotorious disappearance of thesteamer  Waratah and herpassengers; and crew some years ago off the South African coast;has been recalled by the picking up ofa bottle in Table Bay. The bottle hadapparently been a long time in thewater and was stopped up  by a pieceof lead beaten into the mouth. Inside was a piece of paper on whichwas written in pencil:
"Send help, starving, Waratah, Island in Antarctic." 
It is generally believed to be a hoax.

Captain E. Hillman, master of theisland mail steamer Malaita, hasbrought to Sydney a bottle and a pencil note marked "We are lost; there is no hope. G. W. E., S.S. Waratah."
The bottle (says the "Evening News'") was picked up by some natives on the south-east end of the Island of Tanna, in the New Hebrides, and Captain Hillman, after making various inquiries, is inclined to the belief that the bottle message is not a hoax. It is now close on four years since the Waratah disappeared with all hands between Durban and Capetown.

The finding of the bottle on the Island of Tanna set Captain Hillman thinking, and he got his charts out of the rack for the purpose of tracing its progress after being thrown overboard. He is quite satisfied that the bottle could have come from the ill-fated steamer. The track from the South African coast is clearly defined. The current sets that way - as was proved by the buoy which drifted to New Zealand. The bottle missed the land there, and was carried a distance of between 1,400 and 1,500 miles from Auckland to where it was found on the Island of Tanna. It was carried in north-north-westerly direction.
"It is interesting to notice, too,"says Captain Hillman, "that the steamer Pilbarra, when she broke down a few years back, drifted in the same direction towards the Island of Erromanga, which is only about forty miles from where the bottle was found on Tanna.This proves the direction of the current, and that place on Erromango at where the Pilbarra brought up is now shown onthe latest charts as Pilbarra Point.
"Then, again,'' continued the captain, "A raft was thrown overboard from the Pilbarra at the time she was drifting, and it was carried by the same current 1,650 miles further N.N.W., until it landed in the Fly River, Papua, not far from the spot where the famous missionary, Dr. Chalmers, was murdered. All this shows how that bottle could be brought up from New Zealand, and the buoy found at Manakau is evidence enough that those things driftedacross the Southern Ocean."
The bottle was one of Marchant's, of Melbourne, with a screw top, and when the natives came across it barnacles covered all that portion where, the name of the firm and other letters had been blown onto the bottle. Mr. Carruthers, the local trader, was informed, but the natives knocked the barnacles off and cleaned it out. The screw-top was a novelty to them, and they used the bottle for drinking purposes and for carrying water. The traces of the barnacles, however, remain, and the top of the indiarubber screw shows signs of wear and tear. Mr. Carruthers, secured the bottle, and gave it to Captain Hillman.
The paper note is rather well preserved, and this is explained by the way the bottle was screwed down. It was quite watertight. The bottle could not have been on the beach very long, and, according to Captain Hillman, must have been carried ashore about the end of the south-east (prevailing) weather.
The bottle and the note were taken to Messrs. Gilchrist, Watt, and Sanderson, Sydney, agents for the. Waratah, and a scrutiny of the names or initials was made. '"G.W.E." was not found, but "G.E." and letters transposed which would make "G.W.E." were in evidence.
It would seem that there is no reason for supposing that the Tanna bottle is not genuine.
The drift from Durban to Aucklandby the great circle track would be about 6,000 miles, and from there on to Tanna about another 1,000 miles.'
It is said that Waratah only carried Schweppes bottles. But who knows... 

"Mystery of the Waratah", The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.), Tuesday 26 May 1914, page 3


(From Buenos Ayres "Herald.")

"It is so long since the Blue Anchor liner, s.s. Waratah, 10,000 tons, disappeared from human ken that even those who were closely interested in that drama of the ocean have given up all hope of knowing the truth until the sea gives up its dead."

"Now comes the intelligence from Cape Town to Buenos Ayres by a recently-arrived ship of the discovery of a bottle containing a message of despair from one of the passengers on the ill-fated vessel. If the authenticity of the epistle can be established, it forever dispels all doubts about the Waratah's end."

"The bottle with its weird message from the deep has been had been cast up upon the beach of Bird Island (located some 100m off the shore of Lambert's Bay), which lies between Durban and Cape Town, and is charted almost directly in the course the Waratah would have steered after passing the Port Elizabeth light."

"The message bears a signature similar to that of one of the passengers known to have been on the liner. It is brief and dramatic in its hopelessness. Securely corked and carefully sealed in a bottle, it bears the ship's name, and reads:--

"Ship in great danger. Rolling badly. Will probably roll right over. Captain is going to heave her to (bringing the vessel to a complete stop)."

"Later. If anything happens, will whoever finds this communicate with my wife, 4, Redcliffe-street, South Kensington, London."

(Signed) John N. Hughes.

"The writing on the paper is plainly legible, large, and denotes great mental excitement. An indelible pencil was used, and the lack of punctuation would suggest that it was written hurriedly. Evidence of the finding of the bottle and its contents is given by four reputable local residents, and has caused considerable excitement in the coast ports."

"It is now just on four years and seven months since the Waratah left Durban for Cape Town en route to England. She was returning after her maiden trip to Australia with a full passenger list. Two days out she was spoken by the Clan Mcintyre, with whom she exchanged greetings. Since then no tidings of her have ever been heard, and the general presumption is that she "turned turtle" on September 28 in a gale which raged on the African coast about that date."


(From our Special Correspondent.)
London, January 16, 1914.

"What satisfaction any human being in possession of his senses can find in manufacturing messages purporting to be from people in dire peril of their lives at sea, and setting such messages adrift in bottles or cans is beyond the comprehension of the average man or woman."

"But there are creatures in every civilised land who appear to get some pleasure out of this silly pastime. The loss of the ill-fated Lund liner Waratah has produced quite a crop of these bogus bottled messages from the dead."

"The latest to be noted by the papers came by cable from the Cape. It was stated that a bottle containing a message from a passenger on the Waratah had been picked up off Bird Island. The message, dated September 6, 1909, was to the effect that the ship was rolling so badly that she was in imminent danger of capsizing, and that the captain was going to heave to, and the finder of the bottle was requested to send the message to the writer's wife, Mrs. John N. Hughes, at 4, Redcliffe-street, South Kensington, London."

"Whether there was, or was not, any such person as John B. Hughes in board the Waratah on her fatal voyage is not known for certain, but the fact that no person of the name of Hughes has lived at 4, Redcliffe-street, during the past 12 years has been proved beyond all reasonable doubt."

"The present occupant of No. 4 has lived there for three years. Prior to that the house stood empty for two years, after having been occupied by Lady Fitzgerald for about seven years, and Mr. Cox, who stayed at the house during the whole period of Lady Fitzgerald's tenancy, states most positively that no one of the name of Hughes was known there at that time."

"Moreover, a member of the firm of Messrs. Rogers, the agents who have the letting of the property, states that the firm have no record at ll of any person of the name of Hughes having an connection with the house."

"The tenant of No. 6 stated that she had a vague recollection of a Mme. Hughes in business some years ago in the West-End as a dressmaker, who lived at 2, Redcliffe street, but enquiries at that number disclose the fact that the present tenant came there several years before the loss of the Waratah, and had never heard of Mrs. Hughes, and the previous tenant of No. 2 certainly did not bear that name."

"Enquiries at other houses in the street and from local tradesmen also failed to produce any facts in support of Mrs. Hughes' residence in Redcliffe-street. Moreover, in spite of the wide publicity given to the Cape Town story, no person has come forward to claim relationship with John N. Hughes, so doubts as to the genuineness of the message may be reasonably entertained by the most credulous persons."

"The rest of us will probably decide offhand that the message is a bogus one, and allow ourselves to entertain for a few minutes a desire to kick the person responsible for it."

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