Weekly Press Review – 17 April 2014

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.

Weekly Press Review – 25 October 2013

South Africa has made headlines this week as one of the first countries to sign the Minamata Convention. The convention is a new global treaty aimed at phasing out mercury from a wide variety of industrial and household products.

Thus far, 92 countries have signed the treaty which could take another two years to be ratified and ultimately enter into force.

The treaty is named after the Japanese industrial town, Minamata, where thousands of people were poisoned during the 1950s and 1960s by eating fish polluted by the local chemical plant.

It is good to see South Africa leading the charge against the further pollution of our oceans.

The luxury liner, Titanic has made the news again this week over 100 years after its fatal final voyage. To once again prove that people’s fascination with the ill-fated vessel has not waned, a violin that was being played as the ship went down has sold for an unprecedented R1.42bn at a British auction over the weekend.

The violin in question was played by band leader Wallace Hartley. The band continued to play as the ship was sinking in an attempt to calm the passengers. All of the band members died and it is believed that Hartley’s body was discovered with the violin still strapped to his body.

A very sad piece of memorabilia for somebody’s collection.