The Advertiser (Adelaide) Tuesday 10 March, 1910. THE WARATAH
A BELATED STORY.FLOATING BODIES SEEN.
News, carefully suppressed for some reason while the steamer Tottenham was in Melbourne (says the "Age"), has come to hand from Auckland, New Zealand, in regard to the missing steamer Waratah. Mr. Day, formerly second officer of the Tottenham, has supplied information in respect to the dead bodies which were said to have been sighted on the coast of South Africa.
The Tottenham left Durban about ten days after the Waratah, which sailed on July 26 last year, and steamed over the same course, bound for Antwerp. When the vessel was off East London, an apprentice reported seeing the body of a little girl clothed in a red dressing gown, with her hair flowing in the water, float past the vessel and the chief and second engineers said they had seen pieces of bodies and the body of a woman clad in a nightdress floating about in the water. When the captain and Mr. Day were summoned from the chart-room they went on deck. Mr. Day stated that he pointed out an albatross sitting on something, and the steamer was brought round to make an examination, with the result, Mr. Day states, that he was fully convinced that the object on which the albatross was perched was the trunk of a body, with the arms and legs missing. They did not see any of the bodies previously reported as observed by the apprentice and engineers, but Mr. Day states that pieces of a body were floating 3 ft. or 4 ft. deep in water over a big area of sea, with a flock of birds hovering around. For some reason, which Mr, Day can merely surmise, this was not reported to the lieutenant of the H M S. Forte when the latter put off in a boat in Simon Bay, into which the Tottenham had run for shelter, to make enquiries as to whether the Tottenham had seen any sign of the Waratah. Mr. Day says that strict injunctions were given on the Tottenham to say nothing of "the affair", and he overheard the apprentice, by request, give the account of what he had said to a gentleman whom he believed was agent for the Tottenham, or who had something to do with the ship's cargo, at Melbourne. The apprentice was then advised to say nothing of the affair - as it might cause friction. "Let me here remark" added Day, "lest people think that I bear prejudice against anyone, that such suggestions, if they are made, are absolutely incorrect. I deny any prejudice and any statement I have made, I am willing to make on oath. My reason for making this statement now is that while I was on the vessel orders were given to keep the thing quiet, and now I am off the vessel I am free to speak my mind regarding what I saw and what others on the ship told me they saw. I have clean discharges and credentials from the ships on which I have served.
"Three gentlemen in Westport state that they heard a story as to what was seen from the second engineer, who is reported as stating that he was positive that he saw the body of a child float past the ship, and that the effect of what they saw that day put them off their food for several days.
The Tottenham carried Chinese firemen at the time, one of whom is reported as having said, "Plenty people in the sea".
The Register (Adelaide) Monday 16 August, 1909.
The captain of the British steamer Insizwa,
which followed the course of the
Waratah from Durban to the Cape, in a
press interview, declared he was satisfied
beyond all doubt the objects he had seen
were human bodies. Two of them, he
said, were dressed in white, and the other
two had dark clothing. There was no
wreckage visible in their vicinity, but flocks
of birds were hovering about in the
neighbourhood of the corpses. He did not
consider it advisable to stop and pick up the bodies, on account of the effect it would produce on the lady passengers on board.
In my opinion, such detailed accounts confirmed and proved that bodies were discovered adrift both north and south of East London, two weeks after the Waratah disappeared. For bodies to be in these locations two weeks after the disaster implies that the Waratah foundered at a position considerably northeast of East London, taking into consideration the powerful, southwestward flow of the Agulhas Current and the two week time factor. The fact that tugs sent out to confirm the sightings did not find bodies reverts to common sense. The bodies were not likely to wait around for discovery and would either have drifted further southwest or ultimately sunk out of sight. When the Californian came on the scene of the Titanic disaster there were no longer bodies (of the +/- 1500 who perished) 'floating about'. The first detailed account refers to the little girl clothed in a red dressing gown and the torso 'clad in a nightdress'.
By virtue of the nightwear, one comes to the conclusion that the disaster took place at night. One might conjecture that the little girl in the red dressing gown was in the process of being got ready to go up to the boat deck, hence the dressing gown and not simply night dress. The locations of the bodies comprehensively rule out the disaster taking place south of the Bashee River. If the Waratah continued to make good progress, as described by the crew of the Clan MacIntyre, she would have been well clear of East London by nightfall, 27 July. This could not possibly account for the bodies seen off the Bashee River. If the Waratah had foundered at some time after departing company with the Clan MacIntyre - within a few hours, explaining why the Clan MacIntyre crew did not sight her again - the two bodies would not have been clothed in nightwear. In order for any of this to be true, the Waratah had to have come about, attempting to return to Durban, when disaster struck.