Friday, 25 October 2013


Alexander Sangster -

"She left in good ballast trim and, so far as could be seen, in perfect sea-going order."

Unfortunately no information listed about who he was or the port in question.

L. A. B. Wade -

"In June, 1909, just before the "Waratah" left Sydney for London on her last voyage, the master (Captain Ilbery) dined with me at my house. He said, referring to the vessel, "You should be on her now.  We know how to stow her; she's as steady as a rock."

"He went on to explain that the steadiness of the vessel largely depended on the stowage, and that they now had the necessary experience of her peculiarities"

A very interesting witness account.  It is suggested that there was an initial problem with 'stowage' but the problem had been corrected and Captain Ilbery's likening of the Waratah to 'solid as a rock' gives a clear picture of a captain happy with his vessel.

In one of the earlier posts we explored the hazards of loading carcasses in the number one hold. Unless trouble was taken to secure them, using skids etc.. they were prone to shifting which, in the opinion of Captain Pidgeon ('backup' master of the Waratah), would be enough to destabilize the Waratah and have water gushing through the hatches.

However, I can find no evidence that Waratah discharged carcasses at Durban.

Jonathan Owen.  Manager of Central Wharf Stevedoring Co., Ltd., Sydney. Holds master mariner's certificate -

"Seaworthy as far as I could judge in still water. I had no doubt of her stability. No list except when tipped with coal or filling up boilers."

A matter of fact, no nonsense statement addressing common sense relating to trimming rather than blaming the liner.

Basil Alfred Oslear. Shipping Clerk to Messrs. Gilchrist, Watt & Sanderson, Agents for the Waratah.  Passenger, Sydney to Adelaide -

"I noticed nothing unusual. She did not list more than any boat would. It was good weather and there was nothing to show whether she was a good or bad sea boat."

Either Mr Oslear did not lend himself to drama or was on another 'parallel' ship (and universe) to that of Claude Sawyer - same ocean crossing, same ship.

Wm. Dow. Pilot under Marine Board of Victoria. Holds a master's certificate -

"I piloted the ship from the Railway Pier at Melbourne to the pilot station outside Port Phillip Heads."

"She appeared to be staunch and in every way fit for the voyage. I saw nothing while on board to make me alter that opinion, and I had the same opinion when I left her."

"I saw no sign of a list on her while at the pier or going down the Bay, neither did she appear to be tender."

"As I had not piloted her before, and the captain was an old acquaintance, I took particular notice of the vessel, and her condition and behaviour."

"The sea conditions in the Bay, so far as I remember them, were exceptionally good, and the vessel behaved well. There was no rolling or pitching, but she went along as steadily as could be wished."

"The captain and officers spoke very cheerfully to me about the passage home, and made no complaint of any kind about the vessel or any remarks about the seagoing qualities of the ship."

This expert account is very similar to that of the Durban Port Pilot, quoted in a previous post. Neither had any misgivings about the Waratah and nothing obvious to lose or gain by expressing these opinions. The two pilots' accounts carry significant weight (in my opinion) in establishing the true facts.

Fredrik. Chas Saunders. Passenger, Adelaide to Durban -

"Had made numerous trips in mail ships and coasting vessels."

"We ran into dirty weather soon after leaving Adelaide, and then for a few days until well past Breaksea we had heavy seas and wind squalls from the south-west."

"The vessel rolled a lot during that time, but to my mind, it was nothing unusual having regard to the weather, practically midwinter in Australia."

"The rolling was not sufficient to interfere with my sleep, or cause me to put out my elbows to steady myself in my bunk as I have had to do in other vessels."

"The only matters which occurred to cause comment at the time were when the vessel (on two occasions) gave a bit of an extra roll and seemed to shake before she started to return, and one day when it was fairly calm when the vessel took two or three waves over her bows without any apparent reason."

"Mr. Richardson called my attention to this latter fact, and Mr. Ebsworth and I went to the fore end of the boat deck to see the occurrence. When I saw it I remarked that I had seen something like it before in the Indian Ocean, a wave getting up suddenly without any apparent cause or reason and Mr. Ebsworth agreed that it was not uncommon, but he thought the "Waratah" showed a fondness for "putting her nose into them."

"These matters passed from our minds at the time, and were only recalled by me in the light of what subsequently occurred."

"Both Mr. Ebsworth and myself were so confident of the safety of the vessel that we made arrangements to go back by her to Australia on her return voyage. I arranged to join the vessel at Cape Town."

"When we arrived at Durban it was difficult to obtain apartments or accommodation, and I had decided to proceed to Cape Town (i.e., in the "Waratah"), but at the last moment a friend managed to make arrangements for me, and I then went to the vessel and cleared my luggage."

This revealing witness account refers to a conversation with Mr Ebsworth, which in essence was repeated between Mr Ebsworth and Mr Sawyer.  Instead of preoccupation with the rolling tendencies (apart from an odd 'shake'), the exchange focused on 'taking water over the bows without any apparent reasons' and 'putting her nose into the waves'. However, despite this observation neither the witness nor Mr Ebsworth (hearsay) had any reservations about continuing with the Waratah. It is sobering to read that should Mr Saunders NOT have secured accommodation at the 11th hour in Durban, he would also have been lost with the Waratah. As it was Mr Ebsworth was among the 211 souls lost on the 27 July 1909.

Pilot boat of the era

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