32["The Lost Waratah", The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 04 March 1910, page 7]

THE LOST WARATAH.

WRECKAGE WASHED ASHORE.

ON SOUTH AFRICAN COAST.

London, March 3.

Reuter's correspondent at Capetown reports that a quantity of wreckage has been washed ashore at Mossel Bay.

A most significant object is a cushion marked "W." A hatchway which has been washed ashore among other wreckage has been sent to the builders of the Waratah, Barclay, Curle, and Co., Glasgow, with a view to identification.

A very strong current - the Agulhas current - sets to the southward along this portion of the South African coast, and even should the wreckage now found be identified as belonging to the missing Waratah the exact spot where the great ocean tragedy occurred will still remain in doubt. The Waratah sailed from Durban for Capetown at 8 p.m. on July 26 last, nd 10 hours later--at 6 a.m. on July 27--she held communication with the steamer Clan McIntyre, and exchanged greetings in the vicinity of Cape Hermes, and close in to the land.

The captain of the Harlow many weeks afterwards asserted that he sighted a vessel which he believed to be the Waratah on fire at 7.30 p.m. on July 27, abreast of the Cape Hermes lighthouse--the position of the Waratah 13 hours previously.

The master of the Insizwa, it will be remembered, reported having passed four bodies on the beach at the mouth of the Bashee River, 70 miles from East London, while the steamer Guelph spoke a steamer believed to be the Waratah off East London at 10 o'clock on the night of July 27.

THE LATEST STORY.

EXTRAORDINARY REPORT BY STEAMER'S OFFICER.

BODIES SEEN IN THE SEA.

Wellington (N.Z.), Feb. 25.

An extraordinary story bearing on the loss, or disappearance, of the big steamer Waratah was made the other day to the Press Association's agent at Westport, New Zealand, by Mr. Day, late second officer of the steamer Tottenham, which called recently at Westport for bunker coal, and sailed for Ocean Island. He says the Tottenham left Durban about 10 days after the Waratah,, and steamed over the same course, bound for Antwerp. While off East London at noon one day, an apprentice at the wheel reported to the third officer, who was in charge of the bridge, that he saw float past tho ship the body bf a little girl clothed in a red dressing-gown. The officer looked round/but did not see the body. He, however, went down, to the chart-room, where the captain and second officer were laying off the ship's position, and reported that bodies had just floated past. The captain and second officer rushed on to the bridge, and the second officer said he saw something white floating on the water. The captain gave the order, "Hard a-starboard," and the vessel steamed round in the vicinity of floating objects. They did not catch sight of the body reported to have been seen fully dressed, but saw what appeared to be portions of human bodies. The weather being very heavy, the steamer was unable to make a thorough examination, so she proceeded on her voyage.

"Nothing to Report."

When the Tottenham arrived off the Cape of Good Hope the sea became fearfully high and the master deemed it advisable to turn back and go to Simon's Bay. On arriving there a boat put off from H.M.S. Forte with an officer aboard to make inquiries whether the Tottenham had seen anything of the Waratah, and reply was given by the chief officer that there was nothing to report. The second officer, signalling with a Morse lamp, inquired of the warship if she had any further news of the Waratah, and was informed that the steamers Director and Insizwa, which had left Durban about the same time as the Tottenham, had reported seeing bodies floating off East London, and that the Forte had orders to proceed to the vicinity and ascertain what these bodies were.

It will be remembered that the Forte afterwards reported that she had seen some large fish floating, and that it was surmised that these were what the captains of the Director and Insizwa had seen. Concerning this, however, Mr. Day says:--"The chief and second officers of the Tottenham stated to me and others on board the ship that they saw the body, of a little girl, and could stake their lives that it was that of a girl 10 of 12 years of age, and not fish. Mr. Day adds that the second engineer also stated that he saw the body of a woman and the trunk of another body close to the ship. The seas were running mountains high when the Tottenham was proceeding on her voyage, and the conclusion come to aboard the ship was that the Waratah took a head sea, and before she had time to recover took another, which stove in the fore hatch and caused her to founder.

Speaking from memory as to dates, having, unfortunately, left his notebook on the Tottenham, Mr. Day says the Tottenham arrived at Durban about midnight on Saturday, August 7, and anchored in the roadstead, signalling her arrival to the lighthouse. The Insizwa was also anchored in the roadstead, and at about 1 a.m. Mr. Day, who was then on watch, received a signal from her, asking if he knew anything about the missing Waratah. Mr. Day replied in the negative, stating that the Tottenham had just come from Port Pirie. Owing to the rough state of the weather the Tottenham remained in port till the Tuesday morning at 8 o'clock whe she left for Antwerp, with instructions to keep a diligent look-out for the Waratah. The sea at the time was very high. When off East London the incidents already described took place. Mr. Day says he pointed out to the officers an albatross sitting on something, and the steamer was brought round to make an examination, which fully convinced him that the object on which the bird as perched was the trunk of a body, with the arms and legs missing.

SILENCE TO AVOID FRICTION.

Mr. Day says that strict injunctions were given on the Tottenham to say nothing of the affair, and that he overheard the apprentice, by request, give an account of what he had seen to a gentleman whom he believed to be the agent of the Tottenham. The apprentice was then advised to say nothing of the affair, as it might cause friction. "Let me remark," added Mr. Day, "lest people think I might bear prejudice against anyone, that such suggestions, if they are made, are absolutely incorrect. I deny any prejudice, and any statement I have made here I am prepared 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 as regard to what I saw and what others on the ship told me they saw. I have clean discharges from and credentials from all ships on which I have served.

"PLENTY PEOPLE IN SEA!"

Remarkable as the story is, it is not without corroboration. Three residents of Westport state they heard a somewhat similar account from the second engineer of the Tottenham, who is reported to have said he was positive he saw the body ot a child float past the ship--and that the effect of what they saw that day was to put them off their food for several days. The Tottenham carried Chinese firemen, one of whom is reported to have remarked at the time: "Plenty people in sea!"