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On the night of 28 July 1909, the ‘unsinkable’ steamship, Waratah, with 211 passengers and crew on board, vanished without a trace route from Durban to Cape Town. No trace of the vessel has ever been found.

Did she catch fire and sink before there was time to launch the lifeboats? Was she engulfed by a tremendous mid-ocean vortex caused by an underwater earthquake? Had she steamed head-on into a gigantic wave and been buried by thousands of tons of water? If this did occur, the Waratah may well have slid into a trough, and simply been engulfed. Perhaps the Waratah suffered engine or steering failure and, while labouring in heavy seas, a giant wave stoved in her fore hatch. Could a series of freak waves have caused the Waratah , described by many passengers as ‘top-heavy’, - due to the coal she was carrying -, to heel over and overturn in the water?

No-one knows for certain why the Waratah went down... perhaps the most curious factor of all is not that she went down, but that no evidence of the sinking was left at the water’s surface!

(Taken/adapted from Unsolved Mysteries of Southern Africa , by Rob Marsh)


Answer the following questions about the piece you have just read.

  • Use a dictionary to find the meanings of the words printed in bold/italics in the extract:
    • continuing the voyage
    • of the vessel
    • no evidence of the sinking
  • The following statements are false . Correct them:
    • The Waratah was a modern sailing ship.
    • A survivor – who described the events – was found washed up.
    • The Waratah left London for Cape Town.
  • Underline or circle the correct answer :

The Waratah mysteriously disappeared on a [(a) Tuesday; Wednesday; Thursday] [(b) morning; afternoon; evening.]

  • Answer the following questions :
    • What does this mean: ” pride of Lund’s Blue Anchor Line”?
    • What was so special about this particular steamship?
    • What is the most fascinating fact about the sinking of the Waratah ?
  • Complete these sentences, so as to make the statements true :
    • There were more than _ on board the ship.
    • Researchers have never been able to find the wreck of the ship, because _

[LO 3.1.1; 3.1.2; 3.1.3]


See what information you can find about the sinking of the Waratah.

In an issue of The Argus in 1997, it was reported that progress is being made in solving this mystery.


LO 1

LISTENING The learner will be able to listen for information and enjoyment, and respond appropriately and critically in a wide range of situations.

We know this when the learner:

1.3 identifies features of oral texts (structure, language, tone, register, etc.) that make them appropriate for different purposes and audiences;

1.6 listens actively, considering other points of view, and responds with sensitivity to ideas and suggestions;

1.7 dicusses the social, moral and cultural values, attitudes and assumptions in oral texts, and comments on what is included and excluded (e.g. “Is the moral of the story true for all circumstances? What circumstances are not covered in this story?”).

LO 2

SPEAKING The learner will be able to communicate effectively in spoken language in a wide range of situations.

We know this when the learner:

2.1 communicates experiences, ideas and information in different and fairly challenging contexts for different audiences and purposes:

2.1.1 uses language thoughtfully for interpersonal communication (e.g. praising someone’s efforts, disagreeing with someone);

2.2 uses interaction strategies to communicate effectively in group situations:

2.3 uses appropriate body language and presentation skills:

2.4 uses appropriate language for different purposes and audiences:

2.4.1 uses language with the appropriate register in less familiar situations;

2.4.2 uses grammatical structures and idioms that are appropriate for the purpose;

2.4.3 uses language carefully to express complex but common emotions such as anger, impatience, sympathy, admiration.

2.4.4 identifies and challenges discriminatory use of language.

LO 3

READING AND VIEWING The learner will be able to read and view for information and enjoyment, and to respond critically to the aesthetic, cultural and emotional values in texts.

We know this when the learner:

3.1 reads a variety of South African and international fiction and non-fiction for different purposes (e.g. peoms, book reviews, short novels, newsletters, reference books);

3.1.1 reads independently, selecting appropriate reading and comprehension strategies for the purpose;

3.1.2 skims to get the general idea;

3.1.3 scans for specific details;

3.1.5 uses previous knowledge or textual clues to determine meaning and make inferences;

3.1.6 predicts content or ending;

3.1.8 reads aloud clearly, adjusting speed according to purpose and audience;

3.3 describes and analyses emotional response to texts;

3.9 understands and responds appropriately to a range of information texts:

3.9.2 reads and carries out fairly complex instructions, and follows directions with minimum assistance;

3.10 interprets and discusses more complex visual texts (e.g. tables, charts, posters, bar graphs, maps) and can change text from one form to another (e.g. a table of data into a graph);

3.11 selects relevant reading material and applies reseach skills to find information in dictionaries, reference books and textbooks from community sources or electronic media (where available).




  • save

(b) salvage

(c) gale

(d) exhaustion

2. (own words – no ships anchored there as a ruling; Cape’s unpredictable winter weather)

3. so that it would not be driven ashore by the storm

4. her keel broke / she broke in half / broke in two


(a) hanging people

(b) stealing goods

(c) helping or aiding

6. 12


1. Depending on the source used, there could be more than one correct answer:

(a) trip

(b) ship

(c) proof

2. Learners must provide proof from the reading that the statement is false.


(a) Wednesday

(b) Evening


(a) their best / their flagship

(b) unsinkable

(c) vanished without a trace


(a) 200 (were 211 on board)

(b) it vanished without a trace / no evidence of where it went down.

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Source:  OpenStax, English home language grade 5. OpenStax CNX. Sep 22, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10991/1.2
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