Tuesday, 10 January 2017

DID WARATAH VANISH WITHOUT A TRACE?



1. Local 'natives' attempted to sell a lifebuoy from the Waratah to a 'white' trader, claiming that it was found at the mouth of the Bashee River. Date unknown (probably August / September, 1909) 



2. 15 September, 1909, a fisherman at Swartvlei, near George, discovered a portion of a steam pipe covering. It was free of barnacles and weeds, suggesting that it had not been in the water for too long. 


3. November, 1909, charred wreckage was discovered at Port Alfred. There were no reports of missing (burning) steamers, during this time frame, apart from the Waratah. 


4. Basket and frame of deck chair, Poenskop beach, December 1909:

"I have just returned from a delightful holiday spent
with friends on the Transkei coast, about 120 miles
from East London. Whilst there I learnt that a few
months after the disappearance of the Waratah, the
frame of a deck chair and a basket with a border
of the colour known to have been in use on the ill-
fated vessel were washed up on the beach where
we bathed."  

http://waratahrevisited.blogspot.co.za/2016/12/eye-witness-poenskop.html)

There is a possibility that the 120 miles could refer to an obscure land route to Coffee Bay.


5. January, 1910 - a lifebuoy discovered near Fremantle, Western Australia. The letters 'W.A.H.' made out. (http://stanleyrobinson309.blogspot.com). A lifebuoy, by virtue of its function, has the advantage of speed with prevailing currents. 


6. A large, white lifeboat, partially submerged and covered in marine growth, sighted on January 2, 1910, by the ship Tomoana, and again by the Thistleroy, January 23, 1910, further out, roughly off the Agulhas Bank, heading in southerly direction.


7. 3 March, 1910 - a cushion marked with the letter 'W' and a hatchway, discovered at Mossel Bay.


8. 25 March, 1910 - a twin-screw steamer's notice board discovered between Flinder's Bay jetty and Cape Leeuwin LIghthouse.



9. "A deck chair bearing a passenger's name, and 'SS Waratah' was picked up on the foreshore at Coffee Bay on Thursday, November 3, 1910."


10. 19 December, 1911 - section of a lifeboat discovered on the shores of Kangaroo Island - it consisted of a top streak of a boat, of teak, with portions attached of two lower streaks of Baltic pine. The boat was copper-fastened, painted white, with a moulding under the top streak. Portion of name visible; 'S.S. W.' and an 'A'. The wreckage was covered with barnacles. 


11. 28 December, 1911 - a barnacle-encrusted lifebuoy from the Waratah discovered on the west coast of New-Zealand.  


12. Scantling seen, but not investigated by the crew of the Sabine, during a 3 month search of the Indian Ocean, late, 1909. Could this have been yet a further object from the lost Waratah? 


13. July, 1939, baulks of sea-worm timber were discovered at the Kei Mouth, claimed by experts to be wreckage from Waratah.

14. And, oh yes, the tile from Waratah which I was accused of having picked up from 'builders' rubble' as a 'yarn'. Laughable! 


This list illustrates a significant number of objects from a ship which allegedly disappeared without a trace. Yes, some of the items could have fallen overboard without signifying a foundering steamer, but not in all cases. The various items of flotsam and wreckage (if genuine) appear to have started a journey from a location northeast of Coffee Bay. The prevailing Agulhas Current carried the items of variable weight and buoyancy southwest, tracking a course along the South African coast until the current retroflected off the Agulhas Bank, heading south until merging with the general Antarctic Circumpolar Current heading east, back to Australia and New Zealand. 









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