Wednesday, 23 October 2013


Neill Chas.  Port Adelaide manager for Geo. Mills & Co., agents to owners -

"I have known Captain Ilbery intimately for twenty years, and he always spoke most highly and proudly of her (the "Waratah "). He never suggested any defect or anything remarkable as to her behaviour at sea."

"I, having had intimate association with the ship and her captain and officers, know absolutely nothing to the detriment of the ship."

In two simple statements, Captain Ilbery's confidence in the Waratah was established and Chas gave an emphatic thumbs up for the steamer. Of course the cynical among us will notice that he represented Geo. Mills & Com agents to the owners and with surviving Blue Anchor Line vessels and prospective business, perhaps some bias crept into his account.

John H. Maxwell. Fireman (16 years at sea) -

"I noticed on one occasion, when I was lying in my bunk at night, that the ship rolled heavily to port and hung there, and I lay wondering when she was going to right herself."

"I naturally expected to feel her roll back to starboard, but she seemed not to come back, but to go still further to port. If she did come back it was in a very slow manner and could scarcely be felt."

"The wind was abeam on the starboard side. It was a fairly strong wind, but not what I would call a heavy one."

"On other occasions, when there was little or no wind but with a swell on, she would act in the same kind of way. I thought at the time she acted in a rather peculiar way. I mentioned it to several of the sailors and firemen on board, and some said they were sorry they came out in the ship and would like to be out of her."

"They did not like the way the ship was behaving. I think quite a dozen were of that opinion, perhaps more. Sometimes, when going head to wind, she would take more water over her than one would expect under the circumstances; that is, in quite ordinary weather."

Fireman Maxwell emphatically cancelled out all the favourable gains from the previous account.

Frank Edward Thomas.  Shipping clerk to agents and passenger, Adelaide to Sydney -

"Had one blow during my trip to Melbourne and Sydney, but it was mostly fair weather. It took us four hours to get alongside the Port Melbourne Railway Pier on account of a perfect gale blowing broadside on, but it seemed to have no effect upon her and she certainly showed no sign of tenderness."

We could be forgiven for becoming cynical about the credibility of these highly contradictory witness accounts. However, the voyage was relatively short and one could argue that the Waratah was not adequately 'tested' between the two ports.

"I saw nothing while I was on board to correspond with the reported statement of Mr. Sawyer at Durban."

"The only thing I noticed was that on leaving Melbourne for Sydney she had a slight list to starboard, and on the next day on looking over the side I noticed she was discharging rusty-looking water. The chief engineer came along, and I asked him the cause. and he said they were pumping out a tank to rectify the list. The list, however, continued."

Rusty water being pumped out of a ballast tank raises another issue. We have to remember that this was a new ship with only a maiden voyage under her belt by the time this observation was made. It does seem strange that new ballast tanks would contain rusty water and it leads me to wonder if compromised hull plates and rivets had started to rust and affect the ballast water?

'Corrosion in Ballast Tanks is the deterioration process where the surface of a ballast tank progresses from microblistering, to electroendosmotic blistering, and finally to cracking of the tank steel itself.'
“Effective corrosion control in segregated water ballast spaces is probably the single most important feature, next to the integrity of the initial design, in determining the ship’s effective life span and structural reliability,” as said by Germanischer Lloyd's Principal surveyor.'
'Double bottoms are prone to cathodic blistering. Temperatures in this area are much lower due to the cooling of the sea. If this extremely cathodic region is placed close to an anodic source (e.g. a corroding ballast pipe), cathodic blistering may occur especially where the epoxy coating is relatively new. Mud retained in ballast water can lead to microial corrosion.'
These extracts from wikipedia refer to the process of corrosion in ballast tanks. The Lloyd's Principal surveyor stresses the point that corrosion control is directly linked with structural reliability. I have asserted from the outset of this blog that the Waratah's hull plates and rivets (to whatever degree), were compromised and thus theoretically prone to rust. This account of rusty water could substantiate my assertion, no other obvious explanations coming to mind.

Mr Thomas continued...  

"The morning after I noticed this we arrived in Sydney and the list was still on. it was only slight, and probably a casual observer would not have noticed it. . . ."

"After the "Waratah's" first voyage some remarks came to my ears (I do not know who made them), to the effect that the ship was a crank one."

"During my trip, in sitting one day with the chief engineer, the chief officer, and purser, I took advantage of my being connected with the agents, and, knowing the officers so intimately, asked them whether there was truth in it. They all agreed there was not. . . ."

"The chief officer said,

"You often hear things like this said, and a ship in certain trim or badly loaded might be expected to be crank."

"But so far as the "Waratah" was concerned they were perfectly satisfied. On account of my long and intimate connection with the line and its officers, I think that if there had been any defect in the ship or anything out of the way in regard to her behaviour at sea, I should have heard something about it. I feel certain that I should, but I never did."

Finally we return to validation of the Waratah from within the highest ranks of the crew of the Waratah.

clean bilge water - old ship

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