100 years since SS Waratah disappeared off the Wild Coast

The Waratah 1908 - 29 July 1909 The SS Waratah, sometimes referred to as "Australia's Titanic", was a 500 foot steamer. In July 1909, the ship, en route from Durban to Cape Town, disappeared with 211 passengers and crew aboard. The disappearance of the ship remains one of the most baffling nautical mysteries of all time. To this day no trace of the ship has ever been found. According to Dispatch archives, the 10 000 ton ship passed along the Transkei coast on July 28, 1909 after stopping off in Durban the previous day. It was heading to London and would have stopped over in Cape Town before setting sail on the high seas. A Dispatch report from July 1971 said: “Two people had disembarked in Durban – one to find a job and the other after he dreamt that the ship would sink – and after being spotted by two other ships along the Transkei coast, the Waratah disappeared in what was to become ‘one of the most baffling nautical mysteries of all time’.” As it sailed past the Transkei coast, between the mouths of the Bashee and Xora rivers, the ship is said to have encountered bad weather and battled to sail against high winds, a combination of tide and turbulent ocean swell. Carrying provisions on board to last a year, the Waratah is said to have fallen victim to a freak wave, capsized and been sucked to the ocean floor with all aboard. In the 100 years since it disappeared various theories have tried to explain its demise. Numerous attempts to salvage it and a few sightings have been reported, with none proving to be true. A world genealogy website reports initial theories suggested it remained adrift for a while and was carried away from the southern African shoreline and drifted into the Antarctic Circle where passengers and crew died of cold and starvation, the ship itself eventually being crushed to pieces in the southern ice. “Another possibility was that the ship blew up because of an explosion due to heating of her bunker coal, bringing a quick and painful death to all on board,” the website reports. Agreeing with the theory that the ship went down in a storm, Smit said debris wasn’t found because everything was secured tightly when the storm hit. He said the ship was either deliberately steered away from the coast to avoid it bashing onto rocks, or it was driven away from the shore by the current, and swept past the southern African tip away from the coastline. “Since they found the Titanic, why can’t they find the Waratah,” Smit asked. - By NTANDO MAKHUBU Source: Daily Dispatch More info: Wikipedia
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Do you think the Waratah hit a bad storm or had engine trouble and tried to return to Durban and lost its way?

I think it unlikely that she would have tried to return to Durban. According to one of the passengers who disembarked at Durban, the ship had been very unstable and had been rolling heavily. This was probably caused by moving ballast. A watcher on the Transkei coast saw the ship hit a huge wave and then disappear. I think it likely that it capsized.

I believe the vessel broached when struck by a massive wave.On capsizing the volume of air within the hull afforded a measure of negative boyancy(similar to a submarine)and the Mocambique currents exceptional speed of plus minus 6 knots pushing against a hull of 500 feet moved the ship a further 16 to 20 miles further South before it finally settled on the seabed.In the vicinity of the Kieskamma River mouth.Hows that for a theory?

A war ship was found on the wild coast while filming the sardeen run this year.what ships have sunken there ?

I believe the Waratah was overwhelmed in a storm and turned over. I believe that she floated long enough for the currents to carry her away from her original track before going under. Remember that a vessel reported having sighting bodies in the water later, but it was never followed up on. It is my sincere hope that her remains can be located someday before it is too late. It the Titanic can be located, so, too, can the Waratah. My money is on Emlyn Brown finding her. If anybody can find her, he can.

Why can't we use the same technology that traced the remains of AirFrance Flight 447 to locate the wreckage of S.S.Waratah ?

It's sad to say, but Mr. Brown has apparently given up the search for the Waratah. In 2004 he reportedly stated he'd no longer be seaching because he'd 'run out of places to look.' This is unfortunate, because the Waratah is truly one of the last great mysteries of the sea. With Clive Cussler's backing through his N.U.M.A. organization they've looked in every logical place imaginable. While I like some of the theories presented here, I tend to believe that it sank in a place off of the continental shelf and into the deep abyss beyond. While it could still be found there, the efforts would have to take on a much grander scale and the area searched would take far longer and be far more expensive than would be feasible. I hope one day we find out what happened to the great ship, but I sincerely doubt that after the all of the efforts made to find her already, any new efforts would prove any more successful.

Hello Scott, Emlyn and I correspond frequently through Facebook. He is currently writing a book about his adventures in looking for the Waratah. He hasn't entirely given up on it. It lives with him everyday. If he could come up with the right plans and funding, he'd go back out again. We've spoken about it before. He is very passionate about the Waratah. I'd give anything to see her found before I leave this earth. I'm sure Emlyn feels the same way. He believes that she overturned, and that she floated for a day, maybe a two, and that the currents carried her to a place where she eventually went under. I've read what I can find on her disappearance, and what gets me, is a ship travelling through the region she disappeared in actually came in contact with floating bodies. But they didn't stop to pick them up and bring them in for identification. That's astonishing to me. You're conjecture that she sank in very deep water makes alot of sense. Emlyn is of the opinion that by this time, she's probably an unrecognizable junkyard wherever she's resting.

Thank you for responding to my post. I have been fascinated by the story of the Waratah for years, but only recently went into 'search mode' myself for whatever information I could find on the ship. The more I have read about the search, and the more I have read about the theories surrounding the disappearance, the more that the unlikey or implausible seems to in fact be likely or plausible. When you have exhausted all reasonable or logical conclusions, then whatever remains is your answer. Turning over and floating for a few days before sinking-absolutely possible (I'd say as likely as not)! As difficult as it may be for me to believe, the possibility of it breaking down, drifting for weeks or even months, and then sinking in a storm now seems very likely also. That would take it away from any logical search area, and make finding it impossible. To your point about another ship spotting bodies, but NOT picking them up or investigating further (in light of the great storms that frequent the area) is not only astonishing, but also reprehnsible! Regardless of the circumstances, those 'bodies' were once someone's loved ones-fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers-and deserved more respect that to be callously passed by because a Captain did not want to 'upset his female passangers' (as was reported). Please give Mr. Brown my best and tell him he definitely not alone in his curiosity about the last great mystery of the sea!

I have an interest in the Waratah. My father's Christening Mug is in the Captain's safe. He was a friend of my grandmother's family, and was given the mug by family members in Australia when my father was born, to bring back to UK. The search for the vessel is of great interest to me, so if anyone knows of any expeditions to try and find her, I would really appreciatehearing about them. Regards, Paddy Secretan Barcombe, East Sussex, UK

Dear paddy Was some of your family on the ship I maybe able to find the ship Regards David Pells Ocean Construction and Salvage

According to accounts by various people,she was considered to be a "tender" ship from new,needing care to move even in port,....designed to be a sister ship to "GEELONG"she was reportedly not as stable,l seem to recall reading somewhere that even Captain Ilbery was unhappy with her "she is top heavy but l will take her anyway" is a comment said to have been made by him....the facts are fairly well known,she vanished somewhere near the bashee river,with shipping ahead and astern of her,all of which made port,there is talk of "waratah weather",indicating unusual conditions found only in that area,a ship in or expecting heavy weather will obviously batten down,which,assuming she did not break up,could account for the lack of wreckage if she turned over rapidly-it would all be trapped under the hull-l am at a loss to understand a captain not stopping to pick up bodies at sea,there can be no supportable defence for such an act,if these WERE bodies,then the odds of identifying them would have been good,if they were from "WARATAH"then the search area could have been narrowed...be that as it may,it is my belief that she was caught by a wave whilst "hanging"at the end of a roll,if her bow wre pressed down at the same time she would carry out a very fast corkscrew roll in the same direction as the original roll,becoming inverted in a few seconds,but in rough weather l would expect her to at least partially right herself before finally filling and sinking..l believe she will eventually be found,and l think she will not be far from "CLAN MACKINTYRE,S" last sighting, though it is entirly possible that her final plunge took her over the edge of the shelf and into abbysal waters.

I am really suprised at how almost all internet mystery-sinking threads seem to miss three very basic points that appear entirely by-passed. The most obvious starting point being well documented similar occurances. These details are easily accessable by doing a google/you tube search on the loss, 80 years later, of a modern cruise ship sinking in virtually identical conditions, and within a stones throw of the suspected Waratha site. Excellent sinking-graphics and filming of the Oceanos going down are simple to come by, and show just how easily it could happen today, let alone how much easier it could have occured back in 1909. The next point focusses on deconstructing the two myths that have elevated this tragedy to a great maritime mystery, way up there with the Mary Celeste and the Flying Dutchman. 1. The ship was never found... Is this really so strage? Without the type of funding spent in locating the Titanic, unchartered, and unpredictable ocean foors, is it not in fact more likely that the ships location is as yet undiscovered. 2. The disembarking passengers phrophecy.... This is the crucial part of the legend. Every great story needs that little bit of extra flavour....enter the passenger who's phophecys and warnings were ignored, but who escaped certain death after questioning the ships sea-worthyness, and being visited in his sleep by visions of the ships fate. He attempts in vain to warn fellow passengers of impending doom should they ignore the warnings, and even writes-off the cost of the remainder of his ticket home, so certain is he of that all aboard the cursed vessel shall perish. The disembarking passenger sends a telegram home stating his predictions prior to the ship leaving port, and ensures written proof that his Nostradamus-esque predictions are recorded in time to ensure the twist that will propell this ship's fate into maritime legend forever. A recently published article by Fortean dares to question this crucial element of the story, which sheds an entirely new light on events. Do tune in tomorrow for concluding chapter. Anton, London.

You wrong about about the waratah not been found

The passenger Sawyer...The man who was blessed with life-saving visions of impending doom, a latter-day Nostradamus, a man so convinced of the ship's unsea-worthyness that he jumped ship in South Africa en-route back to England, sacrificing his precious onward ticket, and tried in vain to warn other passengers of their fate. All very entertaining, and certainly the difference between a simple vessel loss and one terrific mystery, but how many of the facts here have been slightly distorted, or at best glossed over in order to create a somewhat better story. Lets begin with Sawyer's journey from Sydney to his home in England. What may have slipped everybody's attention is that he boarded the ship in Sydney. From there, it docked at Melbounre and Adelaide before heading for Durban. Sawyer therefore had two earlier ports he could have alighted at, and a distance of 800 nautical miles, in which he could have concluded the ship was unsafe, and declined to continue his voyage. Most articles also seem to deliberately mislead readers into believing Sawyer was in possession of an England-bound ticket, a man who's unshakeable convictions on the ships fate led him to give up a significant financial sum by sacrificing his home-bound ticket by jumping ship in Durban. This is without doubt the biggest flaw of the the entire story, as it provides the legend with an almost supernatural quality that has been greatly embellished over time. Sawyer had in fact only paid as far as Cape Town, the next post of call. Having journeyed past 2 ealier feasible drop-off ports, if his firm beliefs in the ships unsafety are to be believed, he jumped-ship just one port short of his final destination, having got over 95% of his moneysworth already. With this in mind, the great gesture of giving up one's non-refundable ticket price, his futuristic-vision convictions become somewhat less impressive. Next, the telegram home, definate proof of preminations...well, not exactly, in those days, as in these, a message home notifying all of any schedule-alterations were routine. Telegrams were not cheap, and as they were charged by the word, tended to be short. Sawyer's certainly did not mince words, but was this perhaps the deliberately shortest phrasing he might have used to convey his delayed arrival, and if so why....? Concluded tomorrow. Anton, London

Really enjoying your posts on the Waratah, and looking forward to the conclusion... :)

26 July, 1909, Durban...an unexpected passenger disembarks from a London-bound ship and will set into motion a series of events that will catapault its imminent loss into maritime folklore forever. Most of his contribution stems from a very short telegram home stating his unexpected early departure from the vessel was based upon his doubts on her sea-worthyness. The testimony of the passengers who chose to ignore Sawyer's phophecy's cannot be verified, as they left no statement either way prior to their demise. All that is certain is that Sawyer had already seen fit to pass two possible earlier exit ports, and had far less to loose than most on board by getting off just one stop short of his final destination, with well over 95% of his paid for voyage already behind him. What is less reported, but not denied, is that Sawyer was also seeking some sort of assistance for a medical ailment of some form. Vague references are made towards a from of Neurosis. The topic is then discreetly shelved. Archchair diagnostics today can do a very quick search to find this possible diagnosis, if correct, opens up a veritable Pandora's Box of possibilities and explanations for our lead character, with vivid nightmares and psychosis being just the tip of the iceberg. But there is no need to have our lead-character dismissed as a nut-case. Whatever Sawyer's mental capacities at the time might have been, they play just a supporting role in the legend. It is a chapter that could diminish the value of the only supernatural wittness in this tale, and so the less said about it the better if the whole mystery-legend angle is gonna float..... Lets instead return to Sawyer, wisely heeding the phrophecy, sacrificing his onward ticket and now about to jump ship once it arrives in Africa. Africa....the dark continent...untamed, and as Wild as the stretch of coast gives its name to where the Waratha was lost. Perhaps the natives were restless when the Waratha approached the shores of Africa. Perhaps their drums beat to the rhythm of the ancestors, perhaps the spirits of the ancestors were resentfull of ships from afar who had brought nothing but evil, or perhaps this entire paragraph is an excercise in phoney-baloney mood setting to remind us of what 1909 readers would have percieved Durban/Zululand to have been like. Unlike the far more urbane Cape Town, Durban would indeed qualify as the Waratha's most untamed and uncivilized port of call for a disembarking English gentleman, which would again add credence to the theory that by alighting here, Sawyer is demonstrating a resolve so strong that he gets off at the most inconvinient, and unknown of all possible ports. But just how unfamiliar was Sawyer with Durban....? Stay tuned.... Anton, London.

The waratah was highly unstable her metacentre was one foot when loaded modern passenger lines must have at least 2 m she was accident looking for a place to happen Claudia sawyer was dead on the nail you don't need to question his integrity or creditabilty Regards David Pells OCS

How marvelously challenging....an opportunity to write an entirely unexpected additional chapter on the great mystery. David has posted an extremely valid point on the whole Waratha-seaworythness debate. Along with all intelligent and sensible minds, the question has to be raised....what did other characters involved in this tradedy believe ? I am unfamiliar with the maritime-safety-regulations quoted above, and so will proceede quoting facts understandable to the general public instead. Ship-hands had indeed agreed that they felt uncomfortable with the ships performance and had jumped ship. The Captain sensed rumours were adrift regarding the ship's performance, and had taken the unprecedented and unheard of step of stating on record his ship was not lacking in any way. An elderly passenger was so badly wounded that she had to be admitted to hospital in Durban due to injuries caused due to the ship's instability. The Captain seemed uncharacteristically concerned with the whole freight loading procss prior to departure. It appeared to observers as if the good Captain seemed obsessed with the whole top-heavy concept for some reason. With these facts in mind,perhaps it might seem an appropriate time to evaluate where this new angle on the maritime-mystery might be heading... Hold on to your hats, this turns out to be the big finale several chapters early.... Contrary to what might be so-far percieved, the conclusion of my questioning approach to the facts is that Sawyer was in fact used by writers to add a sensational twist to the story. No contest was ever thought neccessary in court to question Sawyer's character in any way, and, were he to have had any motive what-so-ever to launch himself as some latter-day-Nostradamus, these attempts are today unrecoreded, and presumabely, non-existant, so in the absence of any contadictory evidence, one can only view his testimony as being without dishonnest intent. So what point could an unscrupulous crank possibly have in suggesting that the entire Waratha Legend is some nutter-based invention..? Well, David is to be commended....further chapters would have revealed nothing more than that a series of so-far unconnected co-incidences that would have lead a reader to conclude that Sawyer was the passenger most likely to have jumped ship, with or without of any supernatural intervention. It might also have urged modern-day readers to question what ever truth they are being fed without questioning facts that today would have led modern conspiracy- theorists into believing just about anything, and have led realist-theorists to argue against the supernatural element to the Waratha disaster. Perhaps readers will indulge me with a final take on what is know acknowledged to be Australia's greatest Maritime Mystery. One of Australia's best known cult-movies was based upon the novel of the same name "Picnic at Hanging Rock". The publishers could spot a hit when they saw one, and commisioned the work on the spot. There was just one minor issue.....The whole movie/book project would be a lot more viable if they shredded the final chapter and put the work out without it. Generations of fans later, their wise descision was rewarded a thousand times over (as anyone who has read the now-revealed "hidden chapter" will almost certainly agree with..) Perhaps another Australian cult legend suffers from the same fate. The Waratha's sole supernatural wittness can, by modern- questioning-skeptical judicial analysis, at the very least be questioned if not dismissed ( do the rest of the research yourselves folks....!), the proven risk that these shores pose to modern passenger shipping is well documented...see the case of the Oceanas. This leaves us with a relatively tiny vessel (in ocean terms) so far undiscovered somewhere in an unchartered ocean floor crator, canyon or crevice. Dissapopinting the essence of the story might seem without the whole hocus-pocus element, but ships sink.....end of story Anton, London.

George W. Hodder, son of Captain George L.G.A.Hodder, was the chief engineer on the Waratah. Capt Hodder had seen the vessel in dock and warned his son from sailing on the vessel. Family legend has the Captain telling young George not to sail and making the statement that 'She (Waratah) would turn turtle in rough weather and will go quickly if she goes.' George was seen off at the docks by his wife who was wearing a green dress, not approved of in maritime circles at all. George died without ever seeing his child. How do I know this? Capt George Hodder was my Gt Grandfather and George W Hodder my great uncle.

many theories have been postulated as to the disappearance of the Waratah. Even in the case of the Oceanos, which went down relatively quickly, debris washed up on shore for weeks afterwards. Something catastrophic had to have occurred aside from turning turtle and 'disappearing'. No wreck has been discovered despite intensive searches. When the Titanic struck the iceberg, only a series of rivets (less than an inch breaches) were compromised in a horizontal plane. The external forces and zipper effect with rivets popping in a domino fashion created the rents ultimately sinking the ship. Up until 1904, the sand bar at Durban harbour made docking difficult for large ships. Dredging solved the problem but was an on-going challenge. Waratah reported no problems leaving Durban harbour, but there again, they had no radio and the captain my have decided to continue with the voyage rather than re-dock, after a subjectively 'light scrape' of the hull against the sand bar. The rivets of the Waratah may have been of similar sub standard steel as those of the Titanic. A few compromised rivets in the horizontal plane may have 'popped' during the bad weather encountered along the Transkei coast. If this were the case, and a similar domino effect resulted in a catastrophic horizontal rent, there would be good enough reason for the Waratah to have literally dived, under full power, as would a submarine. The Harlow reported two flashes of light which might have been a desperate attempt to signal distress with two gunshots (not the pre-requisite five minutes apart due to the speed with which the catastrophe unfolded). With no time to deal with the boiler, this may in turn have exploded under water as the ship dived, altering the wreck profile. Just a thought

A witness said in the court inquiry that she went aground at kangaroo island in australia before she came to Durban she was aground for sevral hours before the tide lifted her off It was also said that bolts were breaking off the superstructure and there was a gap opening between the door and the superstructure that you could put your hand in a witness said the whole superstructure was creaking badly when the ship rolled this was on the first voyage Something else I picked up was that her sister ship the narrung kept on trying to capsize I think she eventually did capsize The waratah had an extra deck more than the narrung you can imagine the effect she was basically an accident looking for a place to happen Professor Bragg testified that her metacenre was above her centre of gravity when she rolled she came to eqilibruim listing on her side he was a professor of physics from Leeds university To make sure she would turn over they loaded 300 tons of coal on the boat deck in Durban that was the top deck ie the roof I rest my case Regards David

Hi David, You make a very convincing case. They say that the sinking of ships tends to be the result of more than one factor. Waratah ticks a few boxes. Just need an explanation for the wreck being so hard to locate, Regards Andrew

Goeffrey Jenkins in his excellent book,scend of the sea,brings forward a hypothesis of unusual topographical features on the sea floor. This coupled with very strong winds diametrically opposed with the sea current and swells running in the opposite direction combined to form a ,perfect storm, albeit in a very localised area. This together with a top heavy ship ensured that her demise was both swift and catastrophic.However I do believe the supernatural element to be true.In 1909 a fictional book called the TITAN was published. Sunk on her maiden voyage after hitting an iceberg and not enough lifeboats.Three screws,four funnels and the same route completed the story. Years later the Titanic echoed the fictional book almost to the letter. Sawyers account ties into the fact that there is a lot we dont know about major disasters and the pre-recognition that happens on a psychic basis. The Waratah will continue to keep her secrets a while longer. God Bless her and all who sailed on her.

Gooday, Please could you send me Emlyn Browns contact details. We are tinkering with some new technology where we hope we can try and identify "anomalies" off the Transkei coast not previously identified as wrecks in the hope that one may turn out to be the "Waratah". We are hoping to be able to identify these in depths to 3000m.

clint emelyn brown is on facebook i will find his email address for you i belive the waratah has already been found you are welcome to contact me at ocsalvage@gmail.com and i can give you further info regards david ocs

I have a connection to the SS Warata. A Christening mug for my father was in the personal possession of the Ship's Captain having been given to him to bring to the UK, by a relative of my grandmother's in Australia. I have always been told that the mug is in the Captain's Safe, but I can't confirm that. My guess is that the mug has my father's name (Philip Buckley Secretan) inscribed on it. 3000 meters is extremely deep, but if modern technology was able to recover any "bits", and if they happened to include the Safe with my father's mug in it, I would be awfully pleased to get possession of it - a bit of a forlorn hope, I freely admit! Is there any way I can follow what is happening? With kind regards, Philip A.D. (Paddy) Secretan

paddy theres a good chance we will get the mug the wreck is in about 150 m of water we will keep you posted regards david

Well, well, well! My old man will be smiling up above at that piece of information. When will all the diving be done? I'm pretty busy until after a big conference I run on aquaculture next May, but if there was anything going on after that,I'd be very tempted to come out with my wife just to see what's happening. Please keep me posted. I am now going to search for a letter that I think I have, which refers to the Mug and the fact that it was lost on the Waratah. I will let you know if I find anything. Best regards to everyone involved in this venture. Paddy Secretan

What I am about to write now is'nt for publication.Shortly after my original letter to you,I experienced a weird dream re the wreck site.I also at the onset wish to correct a spelling error.Instead of noting the theoretical spot as the Kei river mouth,I incorrectly wrote the Keiskama mouth. At 84 I sometimes get things muddled up.Here's the dream. My mother,who lost her mother(my grandmother)in 1905 at the age of 2,and who was buried in the Brixton cemetery,Johannesburg appeared to me in a vivid dream.She was standing at her grave site and posturing with her outstretched arm in a southerly direction said "She lies due South",George.Right from early childhood I was fascinated about the ""Waratah",saga and I suppose this played on my mind.To cut a long story short,I drew a line from Johannesburg vertically down to the coast into the sea,and this point is slightly East of East London.Cheers,G.

What were Sawyer's EXACT words regarding the Waratah? I have never actually read them - he said she was 'top heavy' and then gave a testimony about a "man with a bloody sword." But this I found on Wikipedia, and too much brains, people on Wikipedia aren't blessed with. Any help is greatly appreciated.

I believe the vessel had structural variations in the holds where extra cabins were constructed to cater for emigrants proceeding to Australia.This extra "empty"space would reinforce the theory that a capsized ship would drift far further with the "negative buoyancy"created by the reduction in actual hold capacity. Its a pity the ships plans are not available so that a Naval Architect could put this "negative Buoyancy"to the test. Theories are a "dime a dozen"but only facts will settle the mystery. I still think the hull drifted far further South,than we could imagine. Closer to East London as I intimated in my last Gmail.

sawyer sent a telegram to his wife when he landed in durban saying he thought the waratah was top heavy thats why he got off he testified in the court of enquiry that the vessels bow ploughed into a big wave and did not rise to the followig wave one of the passengers who were with him confirmed they had this conversation i think the passenger also got off at durban regards david pells

the plans are available

Mr Ebsworth was in fact the passenger who commented that the Waratah put her bow into oncoming waves rather than rising over them. He was lost with the Waratah.

Just wondering why, with all the eyewitness accounts of her going into a wave, then foundering, why no submersible has concentrated a search pattern where she was seen going under?

Dear Andrew Thank you for your enquiry. I hope the information below helps. If not please let me know and I'll see if there are any other links I can send you. Judging by the bathymetric chart "SA Marine Geosciences Series 1" which was prepared around 1977 following survey of the SA continental shelf by the UCT Research Ship "Thomas B Davie", the closest point of the continental abyss to Port St Johns is the head of a great undersea canyon about 12 - 15 nm due West of the lighthouse. The chart is available on-line. Search Google under search reference: "Bathmetry of the Continental Shelf off the Republic of South Port St Johns". The remarks of the hydrographers in the comments section on the chart include "...Off the east coast the continental shelf is narrow and quite irregular, particularly near Port St. Johns, where it is cut by several canyons....". I believe this to be one of the closest points anywhere on earth between the beach and the continental deep. Apparently Umgababa, just North of Port Edward is another such point. Other notable and unusually close points occur off New York (Verrazano Narrows/undersea canyon) and off the Galician and Portuguese Coasts. I understand that only in Antarctica is the distance between shoreline and the deep consistently similar or closer. My grandfather sailed this coast as a young deck officer on the coaster MV Cecile Mapleson. He used to regale us with stories of bouncing across the bar at high tide to enter Port Shepstone and Port St Johns, and the local gaol population being sent out to stand on the breakwaters with long poles to fend the ship off as she entered and left port. All my family since have been heavily involved in ships and shipping on the East coast over the last 80 years. Anecdotal accounts of sea and weather phenomena off the East coast of SA were and are the stock in trade of family gatherings. The Wild Coast and Port St John's in particular is a specially magical place and features often in family tales of marine adventure and the unusual. Best regards Kevin Oram

Dear Kevin, Thank you so very much for a detailed and enlightening response. Bouncing across the bar at high tide sounds like risky business :) Regards Andrew

I have a book written by Lawrence Green called "Eight Bells at Salamander". In it he writes and I quote: "I knew the man who saw the Waratah sink. He was the famous Joe Conquer of the South African Air Force. a sergeant-major when I first met him, later a commissioned officer. Conquer was a signaller in the Cape Mounted Riflemen of July 29, 1909, stationed at the Xora River mouth in the Transkei for live shell practice. That day Conquer watched through his telescope while a ship exactly like the Waratah crawled down the coast in a gale. Another signaller named Adshead was with him. 'I saw her roll very heavily,' Conquer told me. 'She seemed to be overtaken by a following sea, and then when I looked for her again she had gone. I am convinced that I saw the end of the Waratah. Three days later newspapers reached our camp reporting that the Waratah was overdue.' Conquer marked on a map the spot where he had seen the ship disappear. A bearing of 240 degrees from the knoll at the Xora River mouth gives the direction, and he estimated that the ship was four miles offshore. He reported what he had seen to C.M.R. headquarters, first by semaphore and later in writing. Wreckage was found in the neighbourhood soon afterwards. Deck-chairs, cushions and an oar drifted ashore, but there was nothing bearing the name of the Waratah. Years aterwards a military pilot pin-pointed a sunken wreck he had observed while flying along the coast. He compared his map with the map Conquer had kept. The positions almost coincided. So the Waratah no longer dominates the missing ships as far as I am concerned." Don't know if this would be of any help to you. Lawrence Green was a journalist who later became an author writing stories of various people and events he had covered.

Hello all! I have come across the following information, although I cannot confirm it to be true. On October 2, 1947 an extraterrestrial craft landed in Illichivsk Odessa, Ukraine. Two days later 12 sailors on a fishing boat disappeared. In 1982 one of the missing sailors, Mr. Kyrylo, in 1947 only 16 years old showed up in Maardu, Estonia. He reported that he had been ‘In the Moon’. He died in 1983 from a self-inflicted wound. On his chest he carved (with a knife) the following: “SS Waratah…they are still waiting…” Make of that what you will.

“Since they found the Titanic, why can’t they find the Waratah,” Smit asked." Um, because they knew where the Titanic went down, maybe?

In all probability the Waratah foundered about 7 nautical miles north east of the Cape Hermes lighthouse. She had come about and was attempting to return to Durban (probably coal bunker fire). There were three separate witnesses. The waters are not deep (20 fathoms) but rough and turbulent (powerful current). The wreck probably lies beneath layers of sediment from silt deposited by the Umzimvubu River. It will take commitment and a great deal of money to find what is left of the wreck. But it can be done