Friday, 2 June 2017



The Ballarat Star, 7 August, 1909.

The absence of news regarding the
steamer Waratah has deepened the
anxiety which is being felt in 
Melbourne for the overdue steamer. 
Up to to-day the Waratah is seven days
overdue on the short run from Durban
to Cape Town. What has happened to
the Waratah is merely a matter of 
conjecture. The general opinion among
shipping people is that the liner is
drifting about in the Indian Ocean in a
helpless condition. There are many
who believe that something more serious 
has occurred. The possibility of an explosion 
on board is not entertained by the agents 
who state that the cargo did not include 
anything of a combustible nature. Explosives 
are rarely ever carried on passenger steamers. 
Messrs John Sanderson and Co, local agents 
for the Waratah, were again besieged with 
enquiries regarding the missing ship. To all 
of them they could only say that they 
were hopeful, but had no news.

As it turned out Waratah was not adrift but had gone down along the coast between Durban and Cape Town, as 'many' suspected. Waratah was 7 days overdue and already the 'agents' were fielding speculation that she might have exploded! This is very interesting indeed! Captain Bruce of the Harlow only publicly stated that he and his crew witnessed the Waratah 'exploding', after the Harlow reached Manilla - late September, 1909. This report suggests that instead of saying nothing at Port Natal, as was widely believed, someone from the Harlow probably mentioned that they saw a steamer explode astern of the Harlow on the night of 27 July, which in turn fueled speculation prompting the 'agents' to deny that anything flammable was on board. Of course coal bunker explosions; boiler explosions etc could occur without there necessarily being flammable cargo. IF the Harlow account was shared at Port Natal, 28 July, it begs the question why the tugs sent out in search did not investigate the mouth of the St. Johns River (Cape Hermes). Perhaps weather conditions prevented this, but I have not found any reports suggesting that a search was conducted at a later stage - in fact NOT AT ALL!! They would have steamers searching for a drifting Waratah for MONTHS, and nothing was done to confirm or refute that Waratah had gone down off Port St. Johns!!


Cape Hermes


No comments: