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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Lost ship SS Waratah

This is the book everyone's waiting for, at least I am the one that's looking forward to read it. Here's the story from a blurb of the publisher:
In 1909, the SS Waratah embarked on her second voyage, from Sydney to England via South Africa. Filled up with families anticipating a new life on the other side of the world, what started out as a journey full of hope ended abruptly when the ship vanished between Durban and Cape Town. Ironically, the ship was due to be fitted with pioneering radio equipment when she reached England, but to this day nothing has been heard of the ship or her human cargo. Believing her to be drifting, the horrified authorities ordered a search vessel to comb the seas but in three months they found nothing. A second longer search was commissioned but still no trace was found. The mystery has spawned many conspiracy theories and even a million-dollar search mission by author Clive Cussler. A popular theory suggests the searches themselves were at fault, but here the humorous and fascinating diaries, maps, and log books of Walter Smith, a key figure on board both search missions, proves their thoroughness and describes the wide ground they covered, the dangers they faced and bizarre things they stumbled across, and the day-to-day experiences of the crew.
I think it is plausible to say that to this day, nearly 100 years later, we still don't know what was really happened to SS Waratah. What I was interested in the case is that one of the persistent theories was that Waratah encountered a freaque wave. Though there's no clearly substantiation, the area where Waratah lost, where the well known Agulhas current and the western boundary current of the Southwest Indian Ocean area became known as the area for freaque waves. While Waratah may not be as famous as Titanic, but she was the first one in 20th century that was lost with no survivors. Others in the second half of the 20th century including SS Edmund Fitzgerald, 1975 in Lake Superior, MV Derbyshire, 1980 in Western Pacific, offshore platform Ocean Ranger, 1982 in North Atlantic, and fishing boat Andrea gail, 1995 in North Atlantic, amoung others. As Gordon Lightfoot's famous song on SS Edmund Fitzgerald that says: "Superior, they say, never gives up her dead." That clearly applies to the vast ocean also.

The publisher also has this to say about the author of the book:
P. J. Smith, the great-niece of Walter Smith, transcribed his diaries and researched the wider story of the Waratah to compile this unique history.
which makes the book even more a "must read". I communicated with Penny briefly and she just nicely informed me that the book has been published. Please note that Penny, P. J. Smith, is the author of the book. The book has a written endorsement by Clive Cussler. According to Penny, the bottom line of the above cover that says "Foreword by Clive Cussler" is not quite right. Some advertiser even (e.g. amazon.ca) mistakenly listed Clive Cussler as co author. For the people like me who does not know who Cussler is, it does not matter.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello.

Very interesting article, as in fact, I am one who did not know about this ship.

I'd like to point out some clarifications that might make it an easier read. Originally it reads:

"Though there's no clearly substantiation, the area where Waratah lost, where the well known Agulhas current and the western boundary current of the Southwest Indian Ocean area became known as the area for freaque waves. While Waratah may not be as famous as Titanic, but she was the first one in 20th century that was lost with no survivors. Others in the second half of the 20th century including SS Edmund Fitzferald, 1975 in Lake Superior, MV Derbyshire, 1980 in Western Pacific, offshore platform Ocean Ranger, 1982 in North Atlantic, and fishing boat Andrea gail, 1995 in North Atlantic, amoung others."

And I think it might be better this way:

Though there's no clear substantiation, the area where Waratah was lost, the well known Agulhas current and the western boundary current of the Southwest Indian Ocean, became known as the area for freaque waves. While Waratah may not be as famous as Titanic, she was the first one in 20th century that was lost with no survivors. Others in the second half of the 20th century include SS Edmund Fitzferald, 1975 in Lake Superior, MV Derbyshire, 1980 in Western Pacific, offshore platform Ocean Ranger, 1982 in North Atlantic, and fishing boat Andrea gail, 1995 in North Atlantic.

I hope that can be of some help.


Alex from México.

FreaqueWaves said...

Thank you Alex, for the helpful comments. In reading your comments I noticed a typo in my original post which I have since corrected. But I can't edit the comments. The Lake Superior disaster was SS Edmund "Fitzgerald" not Fitzferald. I used two fingers to do the typing and still making mistakes.

Anonymous said...

I think that the ocean is much more fascinating than land or for that matter Mars, Uranus, Pluto, and maybe even the faraway galaxies.

If the Ocean were to write a book, I would say that it would certainly get to No.2 on the all time bestseller list after the Bible. And to imagine that history is tops as far as books go.

I would love to learn more about the secrets of the ocean, but then I am a landlubber and will always remain so cos' I have a pathological fear about animals swimming under me and occasionally bumping into me even if it just a shiny little anchovy.

Anonymous said...

I've read a great deal about this ship though I have not read this book yet. I think it's very interesting that Mr Sawyer had his recurring nightmare about the ship sinking and had the sense to leave it in Durban and make other arrangements to get home, in his telegram to his wife he said he thought the ship 'top heave'. I can't wait to read the book, it's a tragic story and shouldn't be forgotten, matbe it wasn't carrying as many people at the Titanic, none the less families were lost and even worse their extended families never knew what happened them. Irene