Monday, 30 September 2013

Waratah - luxury.

By 1908, the Blue Anchor Line was well established covering the UK to Australia route via Southern Africa. The emphasis was emigrant passage to Australia, and on return, cargo of both foodstuffs and raw materials. The age of luxurious transport had dawned and had to be factored into the equation.

The Waratah was built with this in mind and although enthusiastically named after and compared with the waratah flower of New South Wales, she could not be considered an aesthetically beautiful steamship. Imposing yes, particularly with her black livery and coffee coloured upper works. The Waratah had a somewhat unbalanced appearance with bow shape, sharp and almost receding.  My mother remarked that there 'was something aesthetically wrong with the bow end of the Waratah'. I can't help equating this comment with her tendency to 'plough into' oncoming swells.

Her two pole masts served no purpose in terms of emergency sails, but rather as fulcrums for the cranes, and lookout posts.100 first class cabins were designed for the bridge, promenade decks and boat decks.  This afforded easy access to the promenade decks and the welcomed sea breezes in stifling conditions. Officers quarters and navigating rooms were kept separate in the fore end of the liner.

A first class entrance hall was located at the fore end of the promenade decks, and this opened into a lobby, where eight exclusive state rooms were located, six of which designed to accommodate only one passenger each, the height of indulgence. The promenade decks also incorporated an open-air lounge, which was rather ambitious considering that coal dust, especially if the spar deck bunker was loaded with coal, must have presented its own challenges. Folding doors at the rear of the smoking room on the boat deck were another access point to the open-air lounge. Yet another luxury feature was the music lounge complete with a minstrel's gallery, and a salon with panels featuring the waratah flower. The first class cabins were designed to be spacious and airy, with contemporary fittings. A first class dining room was situated at the fore end of the bridge deck. A nursery for children was provided.

In addition to the first class accommodation, there was what was known as superior (Mrs Bucket would have approved), third class accommodation between decks and aft, for 160 passengers. As mentioned before, the spar deck coal bunker could also be converted into emigrant dormitory style accommodation. This was continued below decks in the form of dormitories in the cargo holds catering for up to 700 emigrants, the style of accommodation far less exclusive and airy than above.

Mail and specie strong rooms with Chubb doors and locks provided adequate security for valuables.
Large refrigeration rooms were constructed by J&E. Hall Led, Deptford. She was also equipped with a desalination plant which could provide adequate drinking water (25 000 litres per day) for the needs of the entire ship. Equipped as such, the Waratah was a class act and attracted well heeled travellers, looking for a liner with a slow comfortable roll - which admittedly attracted allegations of instability.

The refrigeration facilities certainly improved the  storage of meat products for consumption in the fine dining room. Earlier steamers had pen facilities aft for livestock, providing fresh meat. Must have been delightful for those on the promenade deck, unless such activities were confined to the wee small hours of the night, in which case Freud may have been inclined to argue 'intrusion of dreams with screams'.

Aside from storms and perils at sea, in calm waters the Waratah must have been a delightful way to move around the globe. Comforts abounded and by all account good company, companionship, or solitude as preferred. Of course, that man Sawyer went and spoilt it all for everyone. Its' one thing to have to face one's fate on the high seas, but quite another to have the trailer broadcast in technicolour over a grapefruit at breakfast.

I make light of the happier days of the Waratah for the simple reason, until she disappeared she was in all probability a delightful place to be.....





an example of an open air lounge - 1909


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