The Waratah Mystery

One man’s efforts to solve a century-old mystery

A new book documents the fourteen expeditions launched in an effort to find the wreck of the Waratah which disappeared off the Transkei coast in July 1909.

The author, Emlyn Brown, has made solving one of the greatest maritime mysteries part of his life’s work and is responsible for several of the searches for the wreck which are recorded in his book.

The story he has to tell is as intriguing as the mystery itself. Over the past four decades, he has talked to the relatives of those who disappeared with the ship, scoured archives around the world and uncovered stories which sometimes answer questions and often raise more questions.

He discovered an avocado pear tree in Durban which was planted by Claude Sawyer who had travelled on the Waratah from Australia, carrying three pips which he planned to plant in Cape Town. On the voyage he noticed the ship was listing from one side to the other, this and three frightening dreams convinced him to disembark in Durban – a decision which saved his life.

The link between Turners Shipping and the Waratah is also featured in the book. Our company was started by David Turner, who with his wife and five children, was among those lost at sea.

Models of the Waratah take pride of place in the offices of Turners Shipping in tribute to the founder of the Company who perished when the ship sank in 1909.

As technology has advanced, the search for the ship has employed more sophisticated equipment, and in his book Emlyn Brown shares his passion and determination, as well as the excitement and disappointments he has encountered in this life-long mission.