An image that would make anyone’s blood run cold, let alone those within the maritime industry, is the sight of the bow of a vessel protruding from the water as it slowly sinks beneath the waves. That is the image that covered the front page of many newspapers around the world today as a ferry carrying 462 people sank off the coast of South Korea.
At this point there is little detail as to the cause of the accident. The focus now is on the search and rescue operation to try to determine the fate of the almost 300 people, mostly high school students, that are still missing. There are at least 87 vessels and 18 aircraft involved in the rescue operation and navy divers are now searching for survivors inside the ship’s wreckage.
For the families of those on board there is nothing to do but wait.
In another search operation, the search for the missing Malaysian airliner continues in the Indian Ocean off Australia, and in a strange coincidence, the story of a vessel that went missing in that same ocean area in 1909 has made the news this week.
The story of the SAS Waratah shares quite a few similarities with the missing airliner. Both went missing in the same body of water, both had a similar number of passengers on board and in both cases a large number of vessels, from various countries and at great expense, worked together to join the search.
The SAS Waratah went missing on July 17, 1909 with 211 people on board. She was the most modern passenger ship of her time and was even more stringently built than the later Titanic. She simply vanished and her story made headlines around the world. After 13 months the search for the missing vessel was called off and she was never recovered, neither was any flotsam.
There is a very real chance that, with the help of modern technology, one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries could simultaneously solve one of the greatest maritime mysteries. Stranger things have happened.