THE luxury ocean liner SS Waratah has been described as the Titanic of the South; however, while the wreck of the Titanic has been located and extensively surveyed, the fate of the Waratah is still as much of a mystery today as it was almost 100 years ago.
The dominant public perception, fuelled by the findings of an official Court of Inquiry, which sat in London, is that she sank in a storm off South Africa’s notorious Wild Coast. However, what is far less well known is that several ships spent months searching for her in the southern Atlantic and southern Indian oceans. Why did this happen? Why was the contrary view that she had broken down and drifted south downplayed by the Inquiry, to such an extent that this still influences public opinion today?
These issues are explored in a recent book on one of the most compelling mysteries of the sea. It begins with an account of the author’s growing preoccupation with the Waratah, leading to fresh discoveries about the liner and her cargo. Following this, he explores what might have happened to the British-registered ship and her complement of 211 souls if, as many people believed at the time, she had not foundered on the eastern seaboard, but had broken down and drifted, incommunicado, into the wastes of the southern oceans.
By David Willers
The Highveld Press, Cape Town and Johannesburg
300 pages plus covers
R164,00 (inclusive of VAT)