Sometime ago I was contacted by a gentleman who claimed that he and his team had been searching for the wreck of the Waratah for the past five years, if I recall correctly. He was very interested in the Harlow theory because he had in his possession a tile and section of copper piping, which appeared to have sustained some form of explosive damage. More interestingly, he claimed that the tile had been sent to England for analysis the results of which allegedly confirmed that it originated from the SS Waratah.
I was naturally intrigued and excited by this possibility and agreed to meet the gentleman's partner/financier (and wife) in Cape Town to view the tile. It turned out to be an informative and pleasant meeting, during which time I was presented with a tile (see image below) which exhibits marked encrustations/concretions on the reverse side, suggesting that it had spent a great deal of time on the seabed. Further than that I am not in a position to verify that the tile did in fact come from Waratah.
However, the meeting proved fruitful in that there was every intention to continue exploring the Wild Coast above and below Cape Hermes. I am not at liberty to say exactly where the tile and pipe were retrieved, suffice to say that if genuine, Waratah did not founder beyond the Continental Shelf and certainly not southwest of the Xora.
The team, allegedly, has used magnetometry and side-scan sonar analysis of sections of the Wild Coast but have been confronted with the limitations of separating iron in bedrock from that of wrecks. From what I understand the data was sent to the US for analysis but I have not been privy to results of these investigations.
I contacted the team financier recently to ask how the search was progressing and if anything of note had emerged from data analysis. The response I received was saddening - other ventures and projects had relegated the search for Waratah to the bottom shelf. I,as am sure many readers, am disappointed that one would come so close and yet lose interest in a project of this magnitude.
From what I understand the team was issued with a permit to investigate the waters below the surface of the protected reserve off Cape Hermes, but whether this has expired or been disregarded, I do not know. The financier, whom I met, expressed great interest in the Joe Conquer witness account, but assured me that extensive analysis of that region of sea had come up with no undiscovered wrecks.
The team may or may not continue their search for the Waratah and the tantalisingly smooth texture of the beautifully intact outer surface of the tile may or may not originate from the Waratah, but if it does one thing is certain - she is accessible to discovery somewhere between Poenskop and Coffee Bay. The tile and pipe were not associated with a wreck lying nearby which highly suggests that the items were washed down the coast by the powerful Agulhas Current and periodic up-wellings which carry items closer to shore and chance of discovery (notably the one off the Xora).
My hope is that those with the financial means do not give up on the quest to find the final resting place of SS Waratah. Those who believe that the wreck lies inaccessibly in the abyss off the Continental Shelf should take hope that she is not there and is probably cossetted in a blanket of silt. I am an optimist who believes in the veracity of the tile and the reality that one day, in the not too distant future, Waratah will regain centre stage and reveal her secrets to the world.