Search for Waratah

SeaStoryWriter
15th January 2007, 04:49
Anybody have anything recent on the search for the Waratah? Always thought Clive Cussler should send Dirk Pitt after it, but that's fantasy, just like bringing up the Titanic intact (God Rest Her). Hope somebody has some new news. WILL(Jester)

gdynia
15th January 2007, 11:39
Heres abit info. If you do a Google search with your title several webpages come up.
WARATAH Home -> Expeditions
Expedition to find the mystery ship Waratah that vanished off the eastern coast of South Africa. September, 1987.

The Waratah was one of the most baffling mysteries of the sea. In July of 1909, the 500 foot steamer, on her return maiden voyage from Australia to Capetown, went missing with over 200 passengers and crew somewhere in the Indian ocean off the rugged eastern coast of South Africa.
For 79 years she rested lost, but not forgotten. Her loss was the subject of numerous books, articles and endless speculation as to he fate. Rather than write another redundant report, I've simply added newspaper accounts on her loss and testimony of a handful of witnesses.

My own involvement came in April of 1985 when my British publisher sent me to South Africa on tour to plug my then latest book, "Deep Six". I had often read of the Waratah and was most interested in her tale, but brushed off any thought of an expedition to find her since flying a NUMA crew and our equipment 8000 miles to South Africa and back was simply too damned expensive. Then, add to the fact the search area was not easily accessible by air or car.

Fortunately, after a talk I gave in Capetown on shipwrecks, I was approached by Mr. Emlyn Brown, a native South African who had spent ten years researching the lost ship. We had a drink together and formed a partnership to find the Waratah. Brown would be search director, put together and lead the expedition, while I through NUMA would fund and consult.

In the end we contracted with a marine survey firm by the name of Sistema Ltd., near Capetown. I'd like to say that Emlyn Brown did a Herculean job of overcoming obstacles of local incompetence and uncaring interest. All credit for the discovery of the wreck must go to Emlyn. The results of the survey for the Waratah come behind the newspaper accounts of the liner's loss.

The readings by the South Africans were hardly what we've come to expect during our own expeditions. Gary Kozak of Klein & Associates studied the sonar readings and found them too vague to draw solid conclusions.

There definitely is a shipwreck in the area the witnesses described, especially Joe Conquer, who watched the ship disappear on the correct date, and D. J. Roos, an airmail pilot, who spotted a large wreck on the bottom in the same position during a flight to Durban.

Records show no other iron steamer on the bottom within sixty miles, and those are accounted for.

Odds favor our find being the Waratah, but until we get an ROV down on her, we can only assume we've finally solved the enigma of her disappearance. Another expedition plus a documentary is in the making. So it should be only a question of a year or two before we actually see her up close.

hawkey01
15th January 2007, 12:01
Will/Gdynia,

have been looking around for any info. My search revealed similar but found some other information. It appears that the wreck which was found was not that of Waratah but a wartime wreck. There are pictures of this if you use Google images. In 2004 Emlyn Brown gave up the search after 22 years, of trying to find the vessel. quote " I've exhausted all the options. I now have no idea where to look".
Regards
Hawkey01

reklaw
15th January 2007, 16:34
Interestingly enough, many years back they held a competetion in the local papers while the Waratah expeditions were going on, the prize (if you guessed correctly where they found the ship) was a cruise on the Oceanos! soon to join the undersea cruise liner community herself. I dont think anybody guessed right.. especially not Emlyn Brown.

edchurcher
26th January 2007, 11:19
Doubt that Dirk Pitt will ride to the rescue! But for a similar fiction on the topic try Scend of the Sea Geoffry Jenkins 1971 a good book but not as good as A Twist of Sand....

Ngaio 62
3rd April 2007, 12:41
I must say Iwas disappointed they didn't find her.
I was hoping the wreck would give us answers about what happened to her and we could complete the story.
Now, I guess, she must remain a question mark

Martin

DH106
23rd April 2012, 18:53
I’d like to resurrect this old thread about the ill fated S.S. Waratah to ask the forum’s naval historians & experts advice on a couple of questions pertinent to the Waratah and her last voyage.

The last confirmed communication with the Waratah was on the morning of 27th July 1909, the morning after her departure from Durban bound for Cape Town. She overtook a slower vessel – the Clan MacIntyre, who called her up by Aldis lamp and a brief message was exchanged.

In these days immediately prior to wireless where the lamp was in widespread use, what were the rules / etiquette governing inter-ship communications?

If one ship came into visual contact with another, would they always communicate? Or perhaps just sometimes if it were ‘convenient’ or they were fairly close, or there was a specific reason to communicate? I note that the Clan MacIntyre / Waratah exchange essentially contained just pleasantries, but that the timeframe for an exchange was quite long as one ship was overtaking the other rather than them passing in opposite directions, so providing a good opportunity for an exchange. Would two ships passing in the opposite direction generally try & exchange signals ?


There were two unconfirmed / possible sightings of the Waratah after the Clan MacIntyre’s. I’m particularly interested in the SS Guelph sighting in which the Guelph attempted to signal a ship in the opposite direction, but the officer signaling was only apparently able to only make out the last 3 letters of the name of the other ship – those being “TAH” because of poor visibility. It seems rather strange to me that one might ‘miss’ the first part of the name in a Morse sequence, but then be able to pick up the tail end of a word, mid sequence. Is it feasible in Morse by lamp to pick words up half way through?
Having said that, the letter ‘H’ in Morse is fairly distinctive, being four straight dots, and “T” a single dash.

Any comments / insight appreciated.

yorkshiregeordie
24th April 2012, 01:44
I’d like to resurrect this old thread about the ill fated S.S. Waratah to ask the forum’s naval historians & experts advice on a couple of questions pertinent to the Waratah and her last voyage.

The last confirmed communication with the Waratah was on the morning of 27th July 1909, the morning after her departure from Durban bound for Cape Town. She overtook a slower vessel – the Clan MacIntyre, who called her up by Aldis lamp and a brief message was exchanged.

In these days immediately prior to wireless where the lamp was in widespread use, what were the rules / etiquette governing inter-ship communications?

If one ship came into visual contact with another, would they always communicate? Or perhaps just sometimes if it were ‘convenient’ or they were fairly close, or there was a specific reason to communicate? I note that the Clan MacIntyre / Waratah exchange essentially contained just pleasantries, but that the timeframe for an exchange was quite long as one ship was overtaking the other rather than them passing in opposite directions, so providing a good opportunity for an exchange. Would two ships passing in the opposite direction generally try & exchange signals ?


There were two unconfirmed / possible sightings of the Waratah after the Clan MacIntyre’s. I’m particularly interested in the SS Guelph sighting in which the Guelph attempted to signal a ship in the opposite direction, but the officer signaling was only apparently able to only make out the last 3 letters of the name of the other ship – those being “TAH” because of poor visibility. It seems rather strange to me that one might ‘miss’ the first part of the name in a Morse sequence, but then be able to pick up the tail end of a word, mid sequence. Is it feasible in Morse by lamp to pick words up half way through?
Having said that, the letter ‘H’ in Morse is fairly distinctive, being four straight dots, and “T” a single dash.

Any comments / insight appreciated.

Hello there.
As a Deck Apprentice starting in 1959 I was encouraged to call up any ship, either overtaking or meeting. This was to practice our Morse by lamp as it was needed in the Second Mates Examination. It also relieved the boredom of some watches. Some ships would answer but an odd few would not. The format was to flash the call up and receive a dash as a reply. Then send what ship? They would send the ships name and where bound. We would respond in the same way. If the respondent was keen some chat was possible but that, in my experience, was rare.
That was all there was to it.
Call ups/answers were put in the log book with time and position as a matter of course. Apart from ships in the Great Lakes I cannot think of any Merchant Ships who had VHF in 1959 but some may have had it. Some Scandinavian ships had almost worldwide voice contact with home, but only at night when the wireless communications were good.
There were also Lloyds Reporting/Hailing Stations who would call us up by lamp (eg. Europa Point on Gibraltar with the what ship - where bound question. These contacts were printed in Lloyds lists as 'Last Reported'.
In the days of Waratah this type of communication was very important as it was often the only way the owners had to know where their ship was as morse by wireless was transmitted to the nearest land station then sent by tortuous land line to the UK.
It was often the case, depending who was transmitting on the lamp, to miss letters or groups of letters, depending how far apart ships were and if there were rain squalls or the like inbetween the ships. Sometimes I struggled to read replies after squinting through the Morse Lamp sight and putting it aside as the light affected my vision for a few seconds. It was always best for one person to send and one to read. i.e. two of you.
Hope that helps.
John

DH106
24th April 2012, 08:54
Hi John
Many thanks for your input - very helpful.
Could I just clarify from your info how an exchange would start - you say one ship would "flash the call up" and the other would respond with a dash if willing to talk. Is the "call up" a special sequence ?
Thanks

Ron Stringer
24th April 2012, 09:42
Apart from ships in the Great Lakes I cannot think of any Merchant Ships who had VHF in 1959 but some may have had it.

I agree with you that VHF radiotelephones were not on every vessel in 1959 (many were still not fitted in 1969) but I went to sea in 1960 and stayed until 1966 and never sailed on a ship without VHF. But, from my experience on the bridge, chatting to the 3/O after coming off watch at various times on the 8-12, lots of ships were contacted by Aldis. However apart from the times that I wanted a test of the VHF, I never heard it used to call another ship on passage. In fact the VHF was rarely switched on once we had cleared the coast.

As the ship's R/O, I used the VHF for link calls to telephone subscribers ashore but the bridge use was limited to calling pilot vessels and port radio stations. Not by any rules or Master's orders, it just happened that way; the Aldis was nearly always used to call up passing ships at night but the mates just did not consider calling by VHF (maybe because they were aware that many ships did not have the set switched on at sea - see above).

The sole exceptions were a couple of occasions when we passed another ship of the same company. Then either I would use MF Morse, or the mate on watch would use the Aldis, to arrange a VHF contact so that the two Masters could chat.

Today I get the impression that VHF is used on all sorts of occasions and for purposes where it maybe ought not to be, whereas in the past it was more or less ignored.

yorkshiregeordie
25th April 2012, 00:38
Hi John
Many thanks for your input - very helpful.
Could I just clarify from your info how an exchange would start - you say one ship would "flash the call up" and the other would respond with a dash if willing to talk. Is the "call up" a special sequence ?
Thanks
I'm not totally sure as my memory is a bit rusty but I think I sent AR .- .-. to call up and they answered with a T - to acknowledge that they had seen us and which I believe meant 'Transmit' or 'Ready to receive'. Then the conversation would commence.
I tried to clarify this by Google but couldn't find confirmation.
As in a quiz, that is my gut recollection which is probably right.
Cheers
John

jg grant
25th April 2012, 10:13
many years ago I read an account of some one who was having a bath on the Waratah between ports and did not like the way the water slopped to one side then the other so he got off in Capetown? Durban? and became the only survivor . I suspect it was one of those fabrications in tabloids in the UK like Reveille or Tit bits just to sell newspapers. Ronnie

DH106
25th April 2012, 10:23
That story is apparently true, the man's name was Claude Sawyer. He says he started having nightmares about the destruction of the Waratah whilst enroute from Australia to Durban, and noticed issues concerning her seakeeping behaviour - like the water in his bath as you say. He got off at Durban and obviously survived, but there is some debate as to his credibility - whether he actually got off for the above reasons as all his testimony obviously came forth after the sinking.

bbc_indy
7th June 2012, 11:46
We're looking at running a feature story on P&O celebrating 175 years and would like to include the story of Waratah - can anyone help with details from the last search for the ship etc? Thank you.

DH106
7th June 2012, 12:25
Hi bbc_indy

You're the BBC presumably?

To the best of my knowledge all the searches in recent years have been organised & run by Emlyn Brown of Cape Town, South Africa. I believe the last search was in 2004, after which Emlyn professed he was giving up the search as (he says) "I've exhausted all the options. I now have no idea where to look". PM me for Emlyn's email & you can get the details from him direct.

bbc_indy
7th June 2012, 12:29
Thank you for replying. Yes, I work for BBC News Online - would be very grateful for Emlyn Brown's e-mail.
Best wishes. Indy

Barrie Youde
7th June 2012, 13:16
#9

My own recollection of the call-up procedure was that the calling-up sign was AA.

Thus Dit-dah, dit-dah (pause) dit-dah, dit-dah (pause), continuously until the receiving ship would answer T (Dah). ("Success!", thinks the sender.)

The sending ship would then send the break-sign BT (Dah-dit-dit-dit, dah) and then follow immediately with the signal. The break sign was used only to open the conversation.

At the end of the conversation, the terminating party would send AR (Dit-dah, dit-dah-dit).

Standards of signalling (as with hand-writing) varied enormously.

Barrie Youde
7th June 2012, 13:51
#7

As to whether the letters TAH could be read when other letters were missed, the answer must be, yes they could, particularly if they were sent by a clear hand using a good light.

Other letters might be missed for any number of reasons, but properly sent morse-by-lamp was instantly legible to a practised reader.

The signal for "Your lamp is not trained properly, please repeat" (or words to that effect) was W (dit-dah-dah).

DH106
7th June 2012, 14:42
Thanks for you input Barry - good info.

DH106
7th June 2012, 14:47
bbc_indy - check your PMs :-)

Barrie Youde
7th June 2012, 16:12
I'd go further and suggest that if the letters TAH were read in circumstances where the sending ship was (or might have been) sending her name, and the Waratah was known to be in the vicinity, then the probability is that the sending ship was indeed the Waratah.

Why would this be probable? Other reasons are that (by all accounts) the receiving-ship was a Union Castle ship (and therefore probably operated at a high standard) and Waratah herself appears also to have been operated at a high standard. All of which is merely circumstantial comment, but it does create a fairly high standard of probability.

Robert Hilton
7th June 2012, 17:40
#9

My own recollection of the call-up procedure was that the calling-up sign was AA.

Thus Dit-dah, dit-dah (pause) dit-dah, dit-dah (pause), continuously until the receiving ship would answer T (Dah). ("Success!", thinks the sender.)

The sending ship would then send the break-sign BT (Dah-dit-dit-dit, dah) and then follow immediately with the signal. The break sign was used only to open the conversation.

At the end of the conversation, the terminating party would send AR (Dit-dah, dit-dah-dit).

Standards of signalling (as with hand-writing) varied enormously.

This information is spot on as I remember it.

Barrie Youde
7th June 2012, 18:27
Many thanks, Robert.

A further recollection is that there were at least four kinds of morse lamp.

The most basic was an all-round light set on top of a post, usually three-inch by three-inch timber erected vertically on the monkey island. The light was cylindrical, about the size of a small syrup-tin. For practical purposes, this was virtually useless other than at close quarters.

Next came a portable Aldis-lamp in which there was a powerful light and a balanced mechanism, the effect of which worked rather like the dip-switch in a car. The art was in holding the lamp-steady in order that the main-beam could be directed towards the receiver, while dipped-beam remained directed away from the receiver. On a rolling bridge-wing, this could be difficult.

Next best was a larger lamp (still portable) on which the shutter was a tube which either encased or revealed the lamp-bulb (as the case may be) and did not require quite such precise aim as the Aldis, partly also because the lamp itself was usually more powerful.

Most effective of all was a much larger lamp secured at some fixed point, with a very powerful light and a shutter mechanism akin to venetian blind. I cannot recall the trade-names of the last two types of lamp, but they were both very good.

DH106
7th June 2012, 21:00
I'd go further and suggest that if the letters TAH were read in circumstances where the sending ship was (or might have been) sending her name, and the Waratah was known to be in the vicinity, then the probability is that the sending ship was indeed the Waratah.

Why would this be probable? Other reasons are that (by all accounts) the receiving-ship was a Union Castle ship (and therefore probably operated at a high standard) and Waratah herself appears also to have been operated at a high standard. All of which is merely circumstantial comment, but it does create a fairly high standard of probability.

Thanks for the insight Barrie.
The problem with this potential sighting is the timing - if this was in fact the Waratah then it creates quite a dilemma in the mystery's time-line as it would indicate that she had become well behind schedule at this point and so must have slowed down considerably for some reason. However, she was apparently not re-overtaken by the Clan MacIntyre who she passed earlier in the day. The weather was worsening, but had not reached the hurricane force that it would the next day.

Barrie Youde
7th June 2012, 21:41
Hi, DH,

Many thanks. I can't add anything to the chronology, unfortunately, as I'm completely new to this incident. But if she was in difficulty (which seems quite clearly to have been the case), at least some delay (i.e. reduction in speed) would surely have been natural?

Is it known at what point in the chronology her troubles began?

Barrie Youde
8th June 2012, 07:31
Hi, DH,

Is there any factual evidence that Waratah was not already behind schedule at the time when Guelph saw the letters "TAH"? Could her troubles have started only after she passed Clan MacIntyre but before Guelph saw her?

Have sent you a PM.

Best

BY

Barrie Youde
11th October 2012, 16:11
This is a very long shot, but does anybody know the kind of signal lamp being used at the time of the exchanges mentioned here? As mentioned above, an all-round morse-light was virtually useless, save at close quarters.

Am looking for information as to when (i.e. the earliest date when) proper signalling lamps were developed and came into common usage. Any information would be much appreciated.