Tuesday, 10 January 2017


Searches for the missing Waratah continued, and Sabine, 3800 tons, loaded with 4000 tons of coal, departed Cape Town to search the Indian Ocean over a period of 3 months, armed with a powerful search-light. After this expensive gamble the captain had only this to say, “no trace…no wreckage, or anything of that sort.”

The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.), Monday 13 December 1909, page 5


MELBOURNE, December 12.

'Captain Tickell, the Victoria naval commandant, whose son is a passenger on the missing steamer Waratah, said yesterday that, in spite of the fact that the Sabine had returned from an unsuccessful trip, and that the Waratah was to be posted as missing on December 15 if no news was to hand, he still had hopes that she was afloat.'

'The Sabine's search only covered a little more than half of the ocean to Australia, and from Amsterdam Land (Kerguelen Islands) to Australia remained unsearched.'

'The Sabine was out 90 days zigzagging across the track of shipping. She had a powerful search- light burning at night, which would have made, her conspicuous at least 20 miles on either side in clear weather, yet they had only news of her being sighted once during the 90 days, and that was when she came north.'

'By the report of the Sabine's search she could only go to Possession Island and the Crozets, being unable to get to the others owing to the fog. If she could not find islands that were marked accurately on the chart, she had a slender chance of sighting the Waratah, whose position she did not know.'

The searches, such as that by Sabine, were not all-comprehensive as pointed out by Captain Tickell. One can understand his frustration and despair. But Waratah, as proved by yet another search, SS Wakefield, 1910, was lost to human ken:

The Argus (Melbourne) Saturday 25 June 1910
(By our special reporter.)
"Steamer, yellow funnel, with red bands, off the Otway."
There was nothing particularly startling in the message signalled from Point Lonsdale to the pilot steamer Victoria outside the Heads yesterday morning, but to the watchers on the Victoria it told that their waiting for the steamer Wakefield was at an end. The Wakefield has been four months searching for the missing Waratah, and the Victoria has been four days waiting for the Wakefield.
The search steamer hove in sight far off the Heads shortly after 2 o'clock. By 3 o'clock a boat from the pilot steamer had made fast to her side.
"Any news of the Waratah?" shouted a man from the Wakefield's deck".
"No; have you?" was the answer and counter query.
"No news." This time the message carried from the Wakefield's bridge.
In those two words was summarised the story of the Wakefield's search. "We havebeen out 4 months," Lieutenant Seymour, the naval officer on the search steamer, supplemented later on, "and we haven't seen any sign of the Waratah or the slightest trace of any wreckage."  
Waratah was gone and somehow those who held onto hope for so long had to find a way of letting go and continuing with their lives never knowing what had become of loved ones, where and why??

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