Wednesday, 11 January 2017


Mr. Hoehling concludes his excellent section on Waratah by exploring some further revelations long after Waratah and her souls were gone to a watery grave.

1939: timbers thought to have originated from Waratah washed up at the mouth of the Bashee River. This is fascinating but without any confirmatory evidence to support the claim. It is important to remember that significant upwellings from the Agulhas Current occur off the Xora and Bashee, which might, as a very long shot, explain why timbers came ashore at this location. Did it take so long for these timbers to be released from the sunken wreck?

1950's: an Air Force pilot spotted what he thought looked like a large ship lying on her side on a reef. Mr. Heohling gives the location as Bashee River / Cape Hermes. This probably relates to Roos who was thought to have confirmed Joe Conquer's eye witness account off the Xora. Emlyn Brown comprehensively dispelled this notion with a thorough search which did not reveal the wreck of the Waratah in this vicinity.

1954: Frank Price came forward with an interesting story:

He related the story of a 'boer' by the name of Jan Pretorius who was illegally prospecting for diamonds along the banks of the Bashee River during the last week of July, 1909. Pretorius witnessed a large steamer rolling heavily close to shore in stormy conditions. Being so close to shore he believed the steamer ran onto rocks or a shoal and sank. Pretorius withheld this information because he did not want to be arrested for diamond prospecting in that location. He confided what he had seen to his friend Frank Price, whom he swore to secrecy until after his death.

1915: Young Staunton sent a message to his parents that he had survived the sinking of the Waratah:

The Register (Adelaide) Thursday 19 August, 1915
LONDON, August 17. 
Leinster newspapers state that in response to missing friends advertisement an Irish soldier named Staunton has written home from France declaring that he is the sole survivor of the Waratah. He promises, later, to furnish his parents with a full account of his adventures.
Unfortunately Staunton was killed on the Front without ever getting a chance to elaborate on his 'adventures'.

Mr. Heohling refers to Eric Rosenthal's (Schooners and Skyscrapers - 1963) theory that Waratah struck floating dynamite:

"It has been stated by a visitor that there
is a possibility that the Waratah may have
had the misfortune to strike some floating

"Mr. Shepherd stated that a few
weeks ago half a hundredweight of dynamite
was jettisoned from a vessel, and was
subsequently observed floating in the ocean
along the Durban coast."

''I had an experience once," he said,

"with floating dynamite, when a few pounds of it was
caught in the propeller of a vessel, and exploded, tearing a hole in the hull and doing
damage to the extent of £1,500."

"If the Waratah struck the jettisoned dynamite,
which floats for weeks before sinking, with
her propeller, it might account for her being posted as missing."

Mr. Heohling leaves us with this tantalizing vision:

Or is she in a shallow grave so close to, say, the African coast that even a scuba diver could explore the mysterious caverns that “sea change” has wrought upon her saloons?

Mr. Hoehling's Lost at Sea: The Truth Behind Eight of History's Most Mysterious Ship Disasters (Kindle Locations 1152-1153). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition, is absolutely superb and anyone with an interest in mysterious ships should download and enjoy. 

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