Saturday, 7 January 2017


Mr. Hoehling details the extensive yet unsuccessful searches for the missing Waratah starting with the tug Thomas Fuller sent out from Cape Town to comb the coast, but due to severe weather conditions had to return to Cape Town without any news of Waratah. Harry Escombe from Durban was sent out on a similarly unsuccessful mission down the expansive South African coast. 

Advocate, Saturday 14 July, 1923.

The storm was still raging when, on
Sunday, the T. E. Fuller, equipped, for
salvage work, left the Capetown Docks
to search for the missing Waratah.
Hundreds of people, impelled either
by fear for the safety of those they
loved or through curiosity, came down
to wish the T. E. Fuller God-speed and
success in its mission.
"I shall never forget the sight,"
said an eye witness. "The tears of
the women mingled with the rain that
beat on their wan faces. Oilskin clad,
the men stood by, sombre-eyed and
with heavy hearts. Knowing the coast,
as they did, they could not hope; they
could only wait. ''
On Monday the tug returned, battered 
by the waves and weather. Its
mission had been fruitless. No news,
either good or bad, could it bring of
the Waratah to her friends in Capetown. 

No formal announcement that Waratah was overdue was made until early August. Despite this Waratah was all people could talk of at Durban and Cape Town. Formal searches by the Naval cruisers HMS Pandora, Hermes and Forte were also doomed to failure, Hermes suffered damage from the persistently adverse conditions at sea.

London Time, August 4:

“It may safely be assumed that the vessel’s machinery was in some way broken down…the case is admitted to be serious.”

The Lunds' response:

“do not consider there is cause for anxiety.”

however, two days later, and 10 days since Waratah went missing:

“Concern is felt for the safety of the Waratah.”

Public reaction, 8 August:

“Intense anxiety prevails,”

Despite it all and the false report that the Waratah was seen slowly making her way to Durban, the Lunds remained sanguine:

“There has been very bad weather off the coast,” “We are of the opinion that some part of the machinery has been disabled, such as the main steam-pipe,which would take several days to repair. The vessel is probably drifting.”

Foolish false hope and delays incurred in scouring the coast for wreckage from Waratah.

Chronicle (Adelaide) Saturday 6 November, 1909
Field cornets have examined the whole coast from Cape Town to Port Natal for wreckage. 

Months later!!

At least there was acknowledgment that something had to be done about providing wireless communications along the South African coast and that large passenger ships should carry the Marconi Set:

“the need for wireless stations at Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and Durban…[and] on board liners…is especially great.”

The difficult task of establishing the full list of all souls on board Waratah and informing nearest and dearest was undertaken. On a lighter note, if there can be such a thing, Maude Sawyer, wife of Claude Sawyer, responded to the messengers of doom:

“I expect my husband will be along soon, don’t you think?”

 to be continued...

an image of a salvage tug circa 1909 

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