Australia’s Titanic – The Loss of the SS Waratah


SS Waratah

The SS Waratah was a 500-foot long cargo liner steamship that operated between Europe and Australia in the early 1900s.  The Waratah was built by Barclay Curle & Co in Whiteinch, Glasgow (Scotland) and destined to be the flagship of the Blue Anchor Line.  The ship was designed to serve as a passenger and cargo liner to Australia, and was launched on 12 September 1908.

The Waratah left Durban on 26 July with 211 passengers and crew.  On 27 July she passed the steamer Clan McIntyre.  Later that day, the weather deteriorated quickly.  That evening the Union-Castle Liner Guelph, heading north to Durban from the Cape of Good Hope, passed a ship and exchanged signals by lamp, but because of the bad weather and poor visibility was able to identify only the last three letters of her name as “T-A-H.”

The same evening, a ship called the Harlow saw a large steamer coming up astern of her, working hard in the heavy seas and making a great deal of smoke, enough to make her captain wonder if the steamer was on fire.  When darkness fell, the crew of the Harlow could see the steamer’s running lights approaching, but still 10–12 miles behind them, when there were suddenly two bright flashes from the vicinity of the steamer and the lights vanished.

The Waratah was expected to reach Cape Town on 29 July 1909, but never reached its destination.  No trace of the ship has been found.

On 13 August 1909 the steamship Insizwa reported a sighting of bodies off the Bashow River.  The captain of the Tottenham also allegedly saw bodies in the water, more than two weeks after the Waratah disappeared.  In 1977 a wreck of Waratah was located off the mouth of the Xora River.

Source: Wikipedia


  1. The only thing the Titanic and the Waratah have in common is that both ships were lost at sea. As mysteries go, it’s a total bust: a ship without a radio, considered top heavy by many, sailed into a big storm and was never heard from again. What makes it interesting today is the whole attempt to find it even a century later, and try to market it as Australia’s Titanic.

    The article is in error at the end. The Waratah was not found in 1977, or afterwards, despite an 18 year search by Emlyn Brown. As the cited Wikipedia article goes on to say, the wreck by the Xora River was found to be a ship sunk by U-Boats in World War II. As the article correctly states a paragraph earlier, no trace has been found.

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