Closer inspection of the shipwreck found off the Transkei coast last year has revealed that it is a merchant cargo ship torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1942.

The discovery dashes the hopes of marine explorers who believed the wreck was the SS Waratah passenger liner, which disappeared without trace 91 years ago.

The shipwreck, which marine explorer Emlyn Brown was convinced was the Waratah, first showed itself to him as a ghostly image on a side-scan sonar last year. He had been searching for the Waratah for 18 years.

The area where the wreck was found, in 117m of water off the coast between the Xora and the Bashee rivers, was more or less where he believed the Waratah should be. And the side-scan sonar showed the dimensions of the wreck to be exactly right.

Brown, with the financial backing of sponsors in Britain and the United States, employed the services of Delta Oceanographic, an American firm with specialised submersibles designed for exploration and deep-sea research. The company shipped in a Delta sub from California to dive down to the shipwreck and film it.

The perfect film footage delivered by the sub showed an old ship which Brown subsequently identified as the Nailsea Meadow, a merchant cargo steam ship.

Brown was both delighted and devastated by his find. His calculations suggested the wreck should be the Waratah.

"I thought the whole saga (searching for the Waratah) was over. It's incredible. But I'm not giving in to the sceptics and critics. My project (to find the Waratah) continues with the full support of the scientific team and my financiers in the US and the UK."

Brown plans to return to the drawing board in his search for the Waratah. He will try to recalculate the liner's bearings and co-ordinates, relying on two visual sightings of the ship as she sank.

"I know she is there. She could be within a mile from where we searched - she is definitely in that vicinity." - Sapa