Monday, 12 June 2017


Clarence and Richmond Examiner, Tuesday 14 December, 1909.

Mr. Lund, of Messrs. W. Lund and
Sons, the owners of the missing liner,
stated that when sighted by Captain
Weir the Waratah was proceeding very
close to the shore at about 12 knots,
the Clan M'Intyre making about 10.
The Waratah was seen to be steering a
little more southerly than the other
vessel, or taking a course further out
from shore.

My thoughts constantly return to this claim, quoted in a number of period newspapers. Some schools of thought scoff at the suggestion that Waratah had slowed down and was out of the favourable Agulhas Current, close to the shore off Cape Hermes. But how can we ignore this often repeated claim? There is no logical reason for this under normal circumstances.  Whatever the reasons, Waratah altered heading, more southerly relative to the Clan MacIntyre, regaining the Agulhas Current and accelerating to about 14.5 knots, finally going out of sight some 12 n miles off the Bashee River. 

We can rule out mechanical trouble, because Waratah steadily gained and overhauled the Clan MacIntyre. The crew of the Clan MacIntyre observed her to be upright and showing no signs of problems, so we can rule out stability issues. In my opinion it can only come down to two possibilities: 

There was a fire on board and a decision had to be made whether to continue on course or return to Durban. Such a decision could have involved slowing down off Cape Hermes to assess the extent of the problem. 

Secondly, the crew were aware of the approach of a severe storm from the southwest and were confronted with a difficult choice. Waratah was under powered and very heavy in the water, with limited buoyancy. It is possible that they slowed down off Cape Hermes to make a decision whether to continue or turn back.


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