Edward Joseph Collins. Stevedore and passenger (travelled on other steamers) -
"I was never on a better sea-boat, and I have been on the "Kensington" of the Dominion Line, "Caronia" of the Cunard Line, "Arawa" of Shaw, Savill. & Albion Line, also the "Mokoia" of the New Zealand Line, and different other vessels, and I found the "Waratah" a better sea boat than any of them."
Here we not only have a favourable comment regarding the Waratah, and Mr Collins described her as 'superior' to other steamers. This is a far cry from the 'nay sayers'.
W. Fraser, Chapman. Senior third engineer on the Waratah (left due to wife's ill health) -
"The behaviour of the "Waratah" at sea in ordinary weather was just usual, nothing to call for remark. We had no "first class" gale, but in running the "Easting" down, the vessel did not roll or pitch more than usual."
Here again a positive statement about the Waratah, but we have to bear in mind that he "afterwards joined the "Commonwealth," another Blue Anchor ship. Bias in favour of the Blue Anchor Line might have crept into this statement.
Alexander Reader. A.B. on the Waratah (17 years experience at sea) -
"I found her a good sea boat while I was in her"
"With my experience I noticed nothing, and was not at all alarmed at anything she had done in the way or pitching, listing, rolling, or anything of that sort."
According to this seaman with 17 years experience, the Waratah was no different from other steamers of the time.
Frederick Little -
"Rolled very heavily after leaving the Heads (Melbourne)"
"It seemed she went over more than usual"
"Nothing peculiar after that"
"Was rather slow in recovering (in heavy rolling after leaving the Heads)"
Here we have acknowledgement of heavy rolling on one occasion, but an isolated occurrence.
Wm. Craig Marshall. Trimmer on the Waratah -
"My belief was that the boat was top heavy. and on that account and because I did not like the way she rolled, and because of the list, I was anxious to get out of her."
The Chief engineer wrote a letter to Mr Shanks, from Melbourne, 12 January, 1909:
"We had a lot of trouble bunkering in Sydney. Twice the coal was stopped, the captain being afraid of the ship listing, and we left Sydney with the shoots empty, which meant about 130 tons."
We know that the manner of loading coal and cargo with attention to trimming was an important issue common to most steamers of the time. No report was submitted by Captain Ilbery, describing the Waratah's performance on her maiden voyage. This is an intriguing omission. Did such a report exist, and was it withheld? The owners claimed comments were made by Captain Ilbery in conversation:
"that she was a comfortable ship, satisfactory in every way, easy in a heavy seaway, but in a light condition not so stiff as the "Geelong."
Mr Lund was able to produce letters written home by Captain Ilbery, where no mention was made of the Waratah's performance at sea during her maiden voyage. I seriously doubt there were no letters in this regard but conveniently disposed of in advance of the Inquiry.
The court expressed concerns about this lack of feedback, taking into consideration that the Waratah was a 'departure' for the Blue Anchor Line. Given that the specifications were intended to be the blue print for future Blue Anchor Line steamers, feedback of performance and stability at sea was important. The Waratah was the Blue Anchor Line's first triple (superstructure) decked steamer.
The court stated:
"It is contrary to the whole practice of shipowners and shipmasters to treat such a matter with the indifference with which Mr. Lund represented to the Court that he and Captain Ilbery treated it; and from this fact alone the Court is almost compelled to draw an inference unfavourable to the owners as regards their knowledge of the ship's behaviour on her maiden voyage, an inference which is greatly strengthened by the correspondence which passed between them and the builders after the vessel was first loaded in London, and also after she returned from her first voyage"
'Indifference' might have been the smoke screen behind which the owners hid the true facts. To make matters worse, evidence came to light that Messrs. Lund communicated with the manufacturers of the Waratah, Barclay, Curle and Co, requesting an interview as soon as possible to discuss stowage of the Waratah, suggesting that there had been initial teething problems with the cargo loading plan. Barclay Curle and Co responded that some 'modification of the stowage in the direction of lowering weight was advisable'. By this I assume lowering weight further down in the hull (ballast) rather than reduced cargo or coal volumes.
"Captain Ilbery informs us that you omitted to place on board a framed plan of stability curves, as provided for in clause 2 of specification. It is most important that this should be on board; kindly therefore send these, and a spare copy by return; such important plans should not have been omitted."
Closing comments make it very clear that stability curves were required on board, which were not as one passenger discovered in casual conversation with Captain Ilbery.