Saturday, 17 February 2018

5400 ihp

Waratah's twin quadruple expansion engines were under powered for her size. I have put together a few examples (from many) of twin engine (screw) steamers of the era:

SS Waratah, built 1908

gross tonnage      9339
length                  465 ft.
beam                   59.45 ft.
power                  5 400 ihp
speed                   13 to 13.5 knots

SS Omrah, built 1899

gross tonnage     8130 
length                 490.5 ft. 
beam                   57 ft.
power                  9 000 ihp
speed                   17 knots

SS Wiltshire, built 1912 

gross tonnage      10 390
length                   526.5 ft.
beam                    61.4 ft.
power                   13 000 ihp
speed                    14 knots

SS Hororata, built 1914

gross tonnage       9461
length                   511 ft.
beam                    64.3 ft.
power                   8 493 ihp
speed                    14 knots

RMS Morea, built 1908

gross tonnage       10890
length                    540 ft.
beam                     61.2 ft.
power                    13 000 ihp
speed                     16 knots

SS Indarra, built 1912

gross tonnage        9735
length                    450 ft.
beam                     60 ft.
power                    8 132 ihp
speed                     16 knots

SS Assaye, built 1899

gross tonnage        7396
length                    450 ft.
beam                     54.25 ft.
power                    6 500 ihp
speed                     16 knots

SS Devanha, built 1905

gross tonnage         8092
length                     470 ft.
beam                       56 ft.
power                     8 000 ihp
speed                      15.5 knots

To put this important issue into perspective, let's take a closer look at the famous RMS Baltic:

Tonnage:23,876 GT
Length:729 ft (222.7 m)
Beam:75.6 ft (23.1 m)
Propulsion:Two four-cylinder quadruple expansion engines powering two propellers.
Speed:16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph)
Capacity:2,875 people

At the time of launch Baltic was the largest steamer afloat (until 1905). On her maiden voyage, she completed the distance between Liverpool and New York (2871 n miles) in 7 days and 13 hours, which matched her registered speed of 16 knots. Despite the excellent crossing time, Baltic was proven to be under powered, her twin quadruple expansion engines being the same capacity as her smaller siblings, Celtic, Cedric and Adriatic. Power output was 14 000 ihp, but for her size, should have been 16 000 ihp. Modifications were made at a later stage to improve the output. It is important to note that being under powered did not affect speed under normal conditions. However, in heavy seas, an under powered steamer would have had difficulty maintaining speed / heading = unsafe. Manoeuvrability would also have been compromised. 

If one uses the Baltic as a frame of reference the Waratah should at the very least have had a power output of 6 226 ihp, not 5 400 ihp.

This casts an intriguing light on circumstances off the Wild Coast, 27 July. The falling barometer and physical signs presaging the approach of a cold front storm of 'exceptional violence' would have alerted Captain Ilbery to potential problems. Waratah was heavily laden and under powered. A decision might have been taken to come about irrespective of whether there was a fire on board or not. Captain Bruce remarked that Waratah was smoking fiercely, which might very well have been due to a fire, but also a sign (excessive, dark smoke from funnel) that the engines of the Waratah were being 'pressed' to outrun the approaching storm. It was mentioned at the Inquiry that 15 additional tons of coal were consumed daily on the final voyage, partly due to 'pressing' under powered engines. 

There might not have been a fire at all !

Mr Grigg summed up Waratah's limitations to perfection:

The Waratah, he said; lurched very badly, 
and in an unusual way, and would breast 
the waves in a wriggling, zigzag manner, 
giving the passengers some misgivings
concerning her.

Friday, 16 February 2018


"Referring to the cable message stating thatthe Waratah took 300 tons of coal on herbridge deck at Durban, the managing agentsat Sydney, Messrs. Gilchrist, Watt, and Sanderson, are of opinion that there is some mistake. They write:-"There is absolutely nospace on this steamer's bridge deck where shecould put coal. There is, however, a compartment under the bridge deck, which isknown as the bridge space, which has frequently been used as a bunker hold. As amatter of fact, she had coal in this compartment on departure from here." 
300 tons of coal on the spar deck, departing Durban for the last time, will always haunt the legend of Waratah.
An Airbus 380 weighs about 300 tons. No wonder there is a general air of hysteria about this coal component stowed on a deck which was not advised by the builders.


The Coburg Leader, Friday 11 March, 1910. 
When news came of a vessel being seen on fire which subsequently blew up and foundered there was a wild outburst of incredulity in Melbourne and experts proceeded to point out the impossibilities of the case. Then floating bodies were seen, but the maritime experts  would have none of that and put them down as 

Thursday, 15 February 2018


The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 29 December, 1911.
The new P and O branch liner Ballarat, nowon her maiden voyage to Australia has done some goodsteaming. She left London on November l8, two dayslate, and reached Adelaide travelling via the Cape,two days ahead of her schedule time. She thus madeup four days on her journey- a good performance. The  Ballarat is the first of two new vessels specially designed for the trade via the Cape and was launchedat Greenock last September. She offers many ad-vantages not hitherto obtainable at the same low fare  Like her forthcoming sister ship- Bendigo - the Ballarat  is of 11 000 tons gross register. Her dimensions are:-    
Length 515ft; breadth 62ft 6in; and depth, 42ft. 
The new liner, which is classed 100 A1 at Lloyd's, is finelyequipped in respect of passenger accommodation, andthere is a commodious and well-appointed dining-room,    together with smoking room. The main and after holdsand 'tween decks are insulated for carrying meat andfruit, and an extensive equipment of gear is providedfor rapid loading and discharge. The vessel is  supplied with triple-expansion engines. She is due  at Sydney next week.
After purchasing five ships, 30 000 tons (Commonwealth; Geelong; Narrung; Wilcannia; Wakool) from what was left of the Blue Anchor Line, the P&O Line continued the emigrant service to Australia from England via the South African coast - the P&O Branch Line.
The Ballarat was the first steamer built exclusively for the P&O Branch Line and this trade. There are a number of interesting points worth noting:
1. The Ballarat kept the Blue Anchor Line funnel for the first three years, which could be interpreted as respect for the pioneering Blue Anchor Line, or continuity of the emigrant model started by the Lunds. The Blue Anchor Line flag was flown from the forward mast and the P&O Line flag from the main mast. 
What is even more interesting relates back to the common belief that the Lunds were forced to sell the Blue Anchor Line to P&O due to falling trade and sailor superstition after the Waratah disaster. If this was truly the case, Sir Thomas Sutherland, P&O Line, would have distanced himself from the Blue Anchor Line rather than perpetuating the signature blue anchor on the Branch Line steamers. Makes one wonder....Was a deal done to mitigate culpability and damage at the Inquiry, late 1910?  
2. The Ballarat was 50 ft. longer than the Waratah, and a beam of 62 ft. 6 in. (marginally broader). 
3. The Ballarat only had two superstructure decks, spanning a greater length of LBP, which suggests that the Waratah's reputation had negatively impacted on the construction of this new ship.
4. The Ballarat had a depth of 42 ft. and a draught of 31 ft. 8 in.. This leaves a freeboard of 10.25 ft. This far more healthy freeboard, compared with the Waratah's 8 ft., further suggests that the P&O Line did not wish history to repeat itself.
5. The Ballarat was fitted with triple expansion steam engines, which was a step back in progress from the Waratah's quadruple expansion engines. The latter had proven less efficient and produced significant vibration.
6. Note the size of the Ballarat's funnel, significantly smaller than the Waratah's. There is no doubt that a large, high funnel contributed to top heaviness and enhanced the wind-catchment factor.
7. Interesting that refrigerated cargo, notably carcasses, were evenly stowed throughout, including aft in Ballarat rather than exclusively forward; Waratah - better longitudinal stability?
My feeling is that by the time the Ballarat was launched, lessons had been learned from the ill-fated Waratah.

The following is an extract from clydesite, which eloquently describes the SS Ballarat in more detail:


built by Caird & Company Greenock,
Yard No 318 
Engines by Shipbuilder

Port of Registry: Greenock
Propulsion: Two four cylinder quadruple expansion steam engines, 9000ihp, twin screw, 16.5 knots 
Launched: Saturday, 23/09/1911
Built: 1911
Ship Type: Passenger Liner
Ship's Role: UK/Australia emigrant service via the Cape of Good Hope (Branch Line)
Tonnage: 11120 gross; 7055 net; 13881 dwt
Length: 500ft 2in
Breadth: 62ft 9in
Draught: 31ft 8in
Owner History:
Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company
Status: Torpedoed & Sunk - 25/04/1917

23/09/1911: Launched by Mrs F C Allen, wife of the manager of the P&O Branch Line. When P&O bought Lund’s Blue Anchor Line’s emigrant service via the Cape in 1910, they immediately ordered five new ships, of which BALLARAT was the first, with improved accommodation aimed at a higher quality of emigrant. P&O took over the service complete, renaming it the Branch Line (hence the Australian “B” names used for their new tonnage), and running it separately from their other ships because Australian regulations required all white crews. 
01/11/1911: Registered. She began life with a Blue Anchor Line funnel, changing to P&O black in 1914. Her maiden voyage via the Cape set a London/Adelaide record of 37½ days. 
1914: When war came served initially as an Indian transport. 
08/1915: Carrying Australian troops. 
25/04/1917: Torpedoed by the German submarine UB.32, 24 miles SxW from Wolf Rock. She was sailing as HM AMBULANCE TRANSPORT A70 on a voyage from Melbourne to London with Australian troops and a cargo of copper, antimony ore, bullion and general cargo. Despite 50 lookouts on each side and HMTBD PHOENIX as escort the torpedo was not spotted, the starboard screw was smashed and the engine room flooded. Taken in tow by a destroyer and HM Drifter MIDGE, she sank in 44 fathoms of water 8½ miles off the Lizard the following day. All 1,752 on board were saved. 
12/1917: P&O Chairman Lord Inchcape negotiated £420,000 compensation for a ship that cost £176,109! 

The following from 'Dictionary of Disasters at Sea During the Age of Steam' (C. Hocking): 

The troopship BALLARAT, taken over from the P. & O. company, was approaching the entrance to the Channel on April 25th, 1917, when she was torpedoed by a German submarine. Including troops, who were all reinforcements from Victoria for the 2nd and 4th Australian Brigades, there were some 1,750 persons on board at the time. The day being Anzac Day the men were parading for a memorial service on board when, at 2.5 p.m., the torpedo struck the ship. One propeller was smashed, a 6 in. gun destroyed, the main steam pipe fractured and the after watertight bulkhead blown in. The BALLARAT at once began to settle in the water but admirable discipline was maintained and the men, who had been exercised at boat drill repeatedly by the colonel of the Victorian Scottish who was in command of the draft, went to their places in splendid order. There was no loss of life, all the troops and crew being taken off by their own boats or by escorting destroyers. The captain of the BALLARAT, Cdr. G. W. Cockman, R.N.R., D.S.O., received the congratulations of the Admiralty on this splendid feat, and the Australian troops were congratulated by King George V.


The Advertiser (Adelaide) Monday 3 May, 1909.

During the last passage of the Grantalato Adelaide Mr. Sundercombe gave the sub-joined information to a representative of"The Advertiser" with regard to his re-cently patented invention for the transmis-sion of flashlight Morse code messages. Mr.Sundercombe's patent eclipse signal appara-tus makes it possible for ships to communi-cate with each other or with shore signalstations over very long distances.
"I was for a considerable time previousto settling down to the Australian coasttrade two years ago in this ship," said Mr.Sundercombe, "engaged in the trade be-tween New York, China, and Japan, wherethe opportunity to signal both to hisMajesty's warships and to vessels of themercantile marine frequently occur. As Iconsidered it my duty to be able to under-stand the messages, I applied myself to thestudy, and soon became proficient in thesystem. I also formed the idea to try toimprove the style of apparatus then in use.I considered it most essential to make thisclass of lamp show a much brighter light.
All seamen know that a ship's lights areusually seen from a distance of a few milesas a mere bunch of lights. A signal lightbeing no more powerful than the rest ofthe ship's ordinary navigation and decklights, would to an observer far off blinkaway quite undecipherably. In my eclipselamp I have converted an ordinarypowered light, by a system of magnificationand reflection, into by far the brightestof a vessel's lights. My 'Eclipse' apparatusas installed on the Grantala has been dis-tinctly read with the naked eye for dis-tances up to 17 miles. A message sent withthe same apparatus by the officer on watchof the steamer Riverina to the Rottnestsignal station (Western Australia) over adistance of eight miles was also read by thelookout man at Arthur's Head station, 12miles beyond. In this case the light wasread over a 20-mile range. But what I con-sider of the greatest importance with re-gard to the arrangement of my apparatusis that the lights, notwithstanding its bril-liancy, does not in any way interfere withthe safe navigation of the ship by blindingor dazzling the eyesight of the officer andlookout man on watch during signallingoperations. A seaman is taught from hisboyhood to 'douse' or 'blind' any and alllights forward of the navigation bridge thatare in any way likely to prove detrimentalto the maintenance of a strict lookout. Itis unfortunate to notice that the signallight most universally used on board alarge number of modern steamers is indirect opposition to this requirement. Thoselamps consist of a more naked light, whoserays are allowed to flash all round thehorizon indiscriminately. They are mountedon a staff on the navigation bridge withina few feet of the officer responsible for thesafety of the ship. It is recognised by themanagement of the" Adelaide SteamshipCompany, who, like the Union SteamshipCompany, and other large Australian steam-ship lines which cater with regard to detailfor the preservation of their property, thatthis is a very undesirable class of lamp tohave on their ships. I am gratified to knowthat the lamp has proved itself safe in thisdirection.
"When sending our messages we employthe Morse telegraph code, consisting oflong and short flashes of light, and in theconstruction of my lamp I have found itnecessary to employ a pair of lateral move-ment crescent-shape aluminium shutters.These are, in my opinion, the only efficientmeans of making the short flashes instan-taneously and 0f the same penetratingpower as the longer exposed long flash.Light depending on the make and break ofan electrical current, without shutters, failsto do this. 
Note the date of this report; 3 May, 1909. Would the steamer allegedly sighted 9.51 pm, 27 July, 1909, by the steamer Guelph have had this new patent lamp?
I doubt it.
The signal, if it did occur at all, in all likelihood 'blinked away quite undecipherably', at a distance of 5 miles and in very bad weather (visibility).