Thursday, 31 October 2013

VALIDITY OF WITNESS ACCOUNTS.

"At the outset of the case it was agreed by counsel for the parties that any matters tending to throw light on the circumstances of the ship's loss should be placed before the Court, although, according to the strict rules of evidence, they might not be admissible. The Court approved the adoption of this course, but has had to consider what effect should be given to such "hearsay" evidence. While desirous that the natural anxiety of the public, and particularly of the friends and relatives of those lost in the ship, should, so far as possible, be set at rest by a complete examination of every scrap of information available, the Court had to remember its functions as a legal tribunal upon which it was incumbent to observe the law of evidence. The rule which, in the peculiar circumstances of the case, it laid down for its own guidance was, that, while any findings of fact must be based upon strictly legal evidence, yet it would consider those findings in the light of the more or less irregular evidence allowed to be introduced, and see how far its conclusions were thereby fortified or invalidated. In the absence of direct evidence it is satisfactory to the Court to find that the inferences it has drawn from the legal evidence would not require any modification had the "hearsay" to which it has listened been evidence upon which it could have acted."

The Inquiry was confronted with one insurmountable obstacle in the establishment of culpability regarding the loss of the Waratah: The Waratah had disappeared without a trace. There had been no wireless on board and absolutely no hard evidence as to where she had gone down, and why.

However, despite this significant limitation every attempt was made to hear opinions, both expert and casual observer. Hearsay and impressions dominated the witness stand. As we saw in the previous post, there was a 64% to 36% split re witness opinion in favour of the Waratah's stability and safety. To what degree this split opinion ratio was influenced by:

the 'hysteria' of the moment;
gossip fueling opinion;
'moment of glory under the spotlight' syndrome;
inexperience at sea;
fear of the unknown,
grudges;
loyalty to the Blue Anchor Line;
defence of the steamship 'club',
fears about job security;
concerns about victim payouts etc;
bribery and corruption

.....we shall never know for certain.

The court at the end of the day had the unenviable task of sifting through the fluctuating witness testimonies and confusing, technical variables relating to the Waratah's metacentre and stability. Judge Dickinson cautiously commented:

"A careful investigation by such a committee, including, as it would necessarily do, examination of stability curves of many vessels in all trades, might show the feasibility of recommending minimum curves for different types of vessel for general adoption. If so, rules for the stowage of cargo for a particular ship could be formulated by the builder for the guidance of the shipowner, with greater precision than is now possible."

"The Court is fully aware of the complexity of the subject, and of the difficulties of making rules sufficiently elastic to meet the requirements of varying types of ships and of diverse trades, and, being so aware, refrains from making any more definite recommendation."

The court had in fact hedged their bets and opted for a path of 'reasonable doubt', acknowledging the 'complexity of the subject' and 'difficulties making rules sufficiently elastic to meet requirements'. It did not come to the conclusion that the Waratah, by design, was a flawed steamer. We also know that expert witnesses at the Port of Durban reported that she left upright and in fine, stable condition, fully loaded and well ballasted. This condition was further corroborated by the senior crew of the Clan MacIntyre. After all was said and done, the Inquiry was left with little choice but to declare the Waratah lost in the severe storm of the 27 / 28 July, 1909.

'An act of God'

But damage was done, and the Blue Anchor Line witnessed a progressive fall in ticket sales eventually resulting in liquidation despite the ratio split in favour of the Waratah's perceived safety emerging from the witness accounts.

My own opinion:

The Waratah was an inherently top heavy vessel whose GM could be manipulated and improved at the expense of being too heavy, with reduced buoyancy. I also believe Waratah sustained latent hull plate and rivet damage which compounded the disaster and caused her to founder fast. I believe Captain Bruce's account that there was indeed a coal fire and Captain Ilbery was forced to return to Durban. I can only imagine that in the chaos and with difficulties mobilising lifeboats Waratah struck the St John Reef and foundered a mere 0.5 nautical miles off shore in 36 m of water.


“Endings to be useful must be inconclusive.”
― Samuel R. Delany

but,

“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles


update:

http://waratahrevisited.blogspot.co.za/2016/06/is-there-alternative-to-poenskop.html





Wednesday, 30 October 2013

WILL GO QUICKLY IF SHE GOES - WITNESS ACCOUNTS TALLY.

Finally we come to the end of the witness accounts from the Inquiry into the loss of the Waratah. In addition to these accounts, there are two further anecdotes of interest:

George W. Hodder, chief engineer on the Waratah, was warned against sailing on the Waratah by his father, Captain George L.G.A. Hodder.

According to the story handed down by the Hodders, Captain George Hodder, after observing the Waratah in port, remarked to his son:

"She would turn turtle in rough weather and will go quickly if she goes"

George junior was seen off by his wife wearing a green dress. In shipping circles of the time, this was not the 'done thing'.

George Hodder was lost with the Waratah, never to see his unborn child.

Admiral Davis commented on the Waratah's tendency to 'dive' into oncoming swell, taking on a significant volume of water over the bow, which allegedly 'ran off' very slowly. The Admiral also commented that he had been on many vessels and had never known a steamer to recover so slowly.

In my opinion this tendency was a result of being heavily laden with reduced freeboard and buoyancy, +/- heavy in the bow.

I have tallied the Inquiry witness accounts into three groups:

1)  those in favour of the Waratah in terms of stability and expectations of a steamship of that era (56%)

2)  those against the Waratah in terms of perceptions that she was 'faulty' and 'unstable' (36%)

3)  those who noted her performance peculiarities, but believed the Waratah to be stable overall (8%)

The results have been assimilated into a pie chart which at a glance reveals that the majority of witnesses believed that the Waratah was stable and safe.



Tuesday, 29 October 2013

SARAH JANE EBSWORTH AND FREDERICK TICKELL.

Sarah Jane Ebsworth.  Wife of John Ebsworth, who was a passenger on the Waratah (had been at sea 8 years, and held a second mate's certificate) -

In a letter to his wife Mr. Ebsworth said,

"She is a fine sea boat."

In the letter was enclosed a diary from which the following are extracts:

"10/7/09. The ship pitched a little as, although there was no sea, there was a heavy swell."

"11/7/09, 2 p.m. We are now off Cape Leeuwin, and are experiencing thick weather with rain and strong winds, but the ship is very steady."

Captain Ilbery had conquered the reduced GM conundrum.

After all the discussions on board about the peculiar performance of the Waratah's bow and rolling tendencies, we have two extracts from Mr Ebworth's diary with no reference to peculiarities. Again, these are unbiased extracts from a diary before the fact.

Frederick Tickell. Commander of Commonwealth Naval Forces of Victoria -

"My son, George Hubert Alan Tickell, was a passenger on board the  "Waratah" from Melbourne to London on her last voyage."

"I saw the vessel leave the pier at Port Melbourne on the 1st July, 1909. I was on the pier as she left, and watched her nearly down to the lightship, a distance of over 1 mile."

"During all the time I saw her, she was perfectly upright, and had no sign of a list."

"I left next day by train for Adelaide to spend the last few days with my son, before he left for England by the "Waratah."

"We both left Port Adelaide on the 6th July. I joined the "Pilbarra," bound for Fremantle, and my son joined the "Waratah," which was proceeding down the river to finish her loading at Largs Bay."

"The "Waratah" was at the Wharf at Port Adelaide when the "Pilbarra" passed her. As soon as the "Pilbarra" passed, the "Waratah" hauled out into the stream and followed the "Pilbarra" down, at no time being at a greater distance than a half to a quarter of a mile astern."

"The "Waratah" had a steam tug to assist her in getting round the bends. This tug was sometimes broad on the bow, and sometimes ahead of the "Waratah."

"I watched the "Waratah" down the river to Largs Bay, with a critical or rather a professional eye. At no time did she give me the impression of a tender ship. She remained perfectly upright even when going round the bends at a time when the rudder was over, and the tug broad on the bow"

An extraordinary account from a bereaved father.  He could have been bitter about his son's loss and critical of the vessel and crew responsible, but instead he appears to have taken his witness testimony seriously and gave a detailed description of a stable, normal steamship.

I am inclined to believe witness testimony such as this.



emigrants boarding a steamer 
My book 'Waratah Revisited' will be available by 12 December, via Amazon. I explore the human aspect of the tragedy and take a closer look at the Inquiry into the loss of the Waratah. Revelations abound. Don't miss it!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

CAPTAIN ILBERY RESPONDS TO SAMUEL RICHARDSON'S CONCERNS AND MRS. CAWOOD'S FALL.

Samuel Richardson. Chief mechanical engineer of the Geelong Harbour Trust, Victoria -

"While off the Leeuwin we had some bad weather. There was a heavy sea running with a strong wind. The vessel did not roll to any great angle, but she rolled slowly. It was a slow majestic roll with a distinct pause at the extremity of the roll."

"She was pitching, but I did not notice anything abnormal about the pitching."

"The sluggish character of the rolling of the vessel continued after we left the vicinity of the Leeuwin, but in the moderate seas the rolling was not so pronounced."

"When we encountered the heavy swells in the Indian Ocean. the vessel began to both roll and pitch to a greater extent."

"The rolling and pitching were worse than when she was in the heavy weather off the Leeuwin. I accounted for that in my own mind by the fact that she was getting lighter owing to the consumption of coal on the voyage, and that the wave length of the swell was greater than it was off the Leeuwin."

This is an informed and plausible explanation for the Waratah's enhanced rolling and pitching tendencies. Wave length would also have had an impact on a heavily laden vessel - increased forces on hull.

"The rolling had the same character as before, that is, a slow roll with a distinct pause before recovery, and the pitching was of a similar character with the same pause and slow recovery especially from the forward dip. She rose more quickly aft."

Waratah departed Adelaide with a draught 28 ft. 3 in. forward and 29 ft. 5 in. aft. It is strange that 'she rose more quickly aft' unless working down of coal favoured forward bunkers which, to some extent, might explain why Waratah had a tendency to plough through oncoming swells, rather than rising over them. Although too heavy which would have contributed to the latter pattern, this scenario also suggests that Waratah was not adequately trimmed midway through her voyage from Adelaide to Durban. 

"I was in the habit of walking with Captain Ilbery on the boat deck. One morning I was there with him before breakfast, during the time the boat was rolling and pitching heavily, and I said to him, "I don't like the behaviour of this ship of yours any too well, Captain. She recovers too slowly for me."

"He replied,

"Yes, she is a little that way, but you must remember there are many thousands of tons of dead weight to shift. When this once gets in motion, it takes some power to stop it, and, when stopped, it also takes a considerable force to start in the opposite direction."

Captain Ilbery's alleged explanation is important in that it makes reference to laws of physics rather than some design flaw of the Waratah, suggesting that ships of this size would be expected to roll and pitch in this way and more importantly was very heavy, perhaps too heavy for her specifications.

"From my observation of the vessel's previous behaviour and of its behaviour at that time I was then of opinion that she was tender, but not dangerously so under normal circumstances."

Again, acknowledgement that 'light' did not necessarily equate with unstable.

"On another occasion, Captain Ilbery told me that the ship had behaved extremely well on her outward voyage in the Forties where you might expect much worse weather than this."

"One morning during fine weather, while there was a heavy swell, I was on the boat deck. Once when the ship pitched heavily, she took a heavy sea over the port bow, and was an unusually long time in recovering. I felt a distinct trembling through the boat as she was coming up. This might have been caused by the racing of the engines as the propellers came near the surface."

"I could not see anything to account for the shipping of a sea at the time."

Waratah had a relatively low freeboard of about 8 ft. which would account for 'shipping sea' in fair weather. 

"After breakfast I told Mr. Saunders what I had seen. He said,

" Did she? I must speak to Ebsworth about this."

"Mr. Ebsworth was a fellow passenger who had previously been a ship's officer. Later in the day Mr. Saunders told me that he had mentioned the matter to Mr. Ebsworth and that they had both watched the vessel and had seen the same thing repeated twice."

"Neither myself nor Mr. Saunders nor Mr. Ebsworth was alarmed by this."

"I said to them,

"One of these days she'll dip her nose down too far and not come up again."

"This was only said in a jocular manner. I did not seriously think there was any risk of the vessel doing that, and if it had not been for the disappearance of the vessel, I should probably never have again thought about the occurrence."

This description fits in with a heavy steamer, relatively heavier in the bow. A relatively low freeboard of 8 ft. would also equate with a relatively reduced buoyancy factor.

Claude Sawyer however, reported that this was of grave concern.  Another example of witness testimony relying on hearsay and varying interpretation of the same observed event.

"Another day, I think it was after the events mentioned, I was reading in the music room. I felt a distinct shock through the vessel. After a minute or two I went down on to the forward well deck to see what had happened. I saw the second and fourth engineers examining the vertical ladder which ran from the forward well deck to the boat deck on the port side. The ladder was broken about 3 feet above the deck. The engineers told me that it had been broken by the impact of a sea."

On the surface of it, a ladder breaking due to the impact of the sea does strike one as abnormal and significant. It was not unheard of that rigid superstructural components sustained damage due to the various forces (see previous post) at play involving a large floating object at sea such as the Waratah.

This incident also points to structural integrity of the Waratah which in terms of scantlings, which equated with the smaller three deck class, Waratah being larger than contemplated by those rules. It might also have been caused by the longer wave lengths referred to by Mr. Richardson.

Trains of swell waves can arrive from more than one direction. Experienced officers of the watch on the bridge of a ship can often report swells from two or even three directions, of differing periods and amplitudes. (http://weather.mailasail.com/Franks-Weather/How-Waves-And-Swell-Form)

Such an occurrence as described above could also contribute to an increase in forces applied to a vessel at sea.

"I know of more than one instance when passengers fell owing to the peculiar rolling of the vessel, which I have described before."

"Once I was walking on the promenade deck with Mrs. Cawood, Miss Lascelles, and the ship's surgeon, when the surgeon and one of the ladies fell into the scuppers, and I with difficulty prevented the other lady from falling also. The fall was caused by a further roll after the pause I have described, probably by the vessel being struck with another sea before she had recovered."

In later posts I discuss the fact that by this voyage the GM had been improved to a substantial 1.9 ft. which would increase the righting force and produce a 'jerk'. This, naturally, would be compounded by 'being struck with another sea' before recovering.

"The angle to which the vessel rolled at that time was not in my opinion alarming, but it was the peculiar manner of the roll that caused the fall."

"Mrs. Cawood some days afterwards fell and injured her back severely, and had to be carried ashore."

"I am certain that the vessel never reached anything like an angle of 45 degrees at any time I was on her. I don't think the angle was ever half that much."

Another instance of the 45 degree angle of list being questioned, and rightly so...

"There was no permanent list on the vessel. There would be a slight list varying from side to side with the direction of the wind and as the coal was used from the bunkers."

Logic prevails.

This is also a very important, subtle statement of common sense and logic. It is impossible coal could be consumed on a steamer of that era in a perfectly balanced way, without resulting in temporary fluctuations in the balance of ballast, of which coal was one of the factors.  Further to that as the witness stated, burning off coal on a long sea voyage would make the vessel 'lighter' as well.


The witness accounts so far are too extreme one way or the other (like the list) for me to be able to draw a conclusion that she was a design flawed liner waiting for an accident to happen. Hysteria of the day - loss of a great ship with all hands - no explanation - one of the great unsolved mysteries - a moment in court to express an opinion fueled by drama and expectation - all of which contributed to the mixed bag of witness accounts.

waves breaking over the bow of a ship - scary to the uninitiated.
My book 'Waratah Revisited' will be available by 12 December, via Amazon. I explore the human aspect of the tragedy and take a closer look at the Inquiry into the loss of the Waratah. Revelations abound. Don't miss it!

Friday, 25 October 2013

Anecdote Saturday - SS Arctic

Launched in 1852, the Arctic was the largest and grandest paddle steamer of the Collins Line. 1854 she sank after colliding with the SS Vesta in fog off Newfoundland. In the confusion, the captain of the Arctic decided it would be in their best interests to steam towards land. The Vesta had sustained bow damage, but the bulkhead was intact. Her captain decided to proceed cautiously but when they reached port learned that the Arctic had not made it.

A total of 400 souls were lost, including 92 officers and all women and children. There were stories of cowardice (crew taking over life boats) fuelled by the fact that no women and children survived. The manager of the Collins Line, Edward Knight Collins lost his wife, only daughter and youngest son in the tragedy. There were also stories of bravery, including young Stewart Holland, who stood on the sinking deck right up until she went under, firing the distress cannon. The ship's captain James C. Luce managed to survive by holding onto one of the paddlewheel boxes.  His son, however, was lost with the ship. 30 people managed to stay afloat on a piece of the deck, but only 2 survived the elements,and were rescued the following morning. One passenger even constructed his own life raft and was picked up the following day.

A notable passenger lost with the Arctic was archaeologist Frederick Catherwood. He was a pioneer in the field and toured Egypt with the Robert Hay expedition. Some of his drawings are included in the Hay collection of the British Museum. He travelled to the Levant and made some drawings of Jerusalem and joined John Lloyd Stephens on an expedition to the Maya ruins of Central America. His drawings of the Mayan architecture and monuments are still held in high regard.

Another extraordinary story of survival involved that of James Smith, founder of the Smith and Wellstood Ltd Ironfounders. He pulled himself onto a raft but started to deteriorate due to exposure.  He saw a basket used for storing plates and managed to hoist it onto the makeshift raft. He survived by squeezing himself into the basket for protection. He was rescued by the barque Cumbria. The last living survivor (by clinging to wreckage) , Thomas Baker, 16 at the time died in 1911 aged 73.

With the loss of her sister ship the SS Pacific in 1856, the Collins Line's reputation was tarnished and spelled the end of an era dominated by their (and those of the United States Merchant Marine line) fast and luxurious ships. By the end of the Crimean War, a new enterprise had emerged called the Cunard Line (English), which eventually dominated the trans Atlantic trade by the end of the decade.





My book 'Waratah Revisited' will be available by 12 December, via Amazon. I explore the human aspect of the tragedy and take a closer look at the Inquiry into the loss of the Waratah. Revelations abound. Don't miss it!

SANGSTER; WADE; OWEN (WHARF MANAGER); OSLEAR; DOW; SAUNDERS; RICHARDSON; EBSWORTH.

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



Wednesday, 23 October 2013

GW AMBROSE - LETTER 18 MAY, 1909.

Ernest Vivian Lewis.  A.B. on Waratah -

"I do not remember any very bad weather while I was on board of her. I have had experience in different kinds of ships, sailing and steam. I never saw anything to lead me to suppose that the ship was not all that she ought to be."

"During the voyage from London to Adelaide we remarked in the forecastle that she was a fine sea-going ship."

"I never heard anything on board the "Waratah" to suggest that the ship was in any way faulty. I went all over her myself; if she was here to-day I would not hesitate to ship in her again."

Witness account swinging back in favour of a sound steamship.

G. W. Ambrose. Quartermaster of the Waratah -

Wrote from Cape Town to his mother, under date 18th May, 1909:

"We have had a fine passage out as far as this; we haven't had a drop of water on deck yet. She is a splendid sea-boat."

Here we have a very important piece of information. Mr Ambrose was lost with the Waratah. His letter pre-dates the Inquiry investigation and is therefore free of its influences and general Waratah 'mania' of the time.

He simply states that the Waratah was a 'splendid sea-boat'.

Ernest Crossley.  Marine inventor -

"Knew the chief officer of the" Waratah." Had known him for some years, and when he came into port visited him regularly."

"I lunched with the chief officer at Melbourne somewhere between the 28th June and the 1st July, 1909. I asked him if he was satisfied with his new ship. He said he was very dissatisfied."

"He said she did not behave as she should do. He said she had a peculiar way of getting on one side, on the port side or the starboard side, without righting herself immediately."

"He gave a description as falling. it fell more than rolled, and got hit back again. That was his way of expressing the motion of the steamer."

"He told me the engineers were dissatisfied as well. He mentioned the second and third, but just generally speaking the whole lot."

"They were going to have trouble, I think, in London. The chief officer said the majority of the officers intended, the lot of them, to leave the ship and complain about it."

"He said he was thoroughly dissatisfied with the ship, and if he could not leave her without leaving the Company, he would leave the Company. So that satisfied me he was highly dissatisfied."

In later posts I explore the facts that prior to departure on Waratah's final home bound voyage, she was tender with a reduced GM, which would have created this rolling pattern - similar to 'top heavy destroyers of the time. But the GM was considerably improved by the time Waratah departed Durban for the last time - an entirely different vessel due to ballasting and improved stowage plan.

J. H. Veitch.  Shipping Inspector New South Wales (Sydney) -

"I saw the ship daily for ten days discharging and loading cargo. There was nothing in the alteration of trim to suggest instability."

This casts an alternative viewpoint on allegations that the Waratah listed while loading coal.






RUSTY BALLAST WATER.

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



Tuesday, 22 October 2013

LIST NOT DUE TO UNEVEN DISTRIBUTION OF COAL.

Harold Skarratt Thomas.  Seaman on the Waratah -

"On three occasions during my voyage on the Waratah her behaviour attracted my notice."

"The first occasions was when we were in the Bay of Biscay. The sea was choppy. The vessel rolled considerably, and did not appear to recover herself quickly at any time."

"The second occasion was on the voyage across the Indian Ocean during very fine weather. The water was smooth with scarcely a ripple, but there was a heavy swell which came from the south."

"One morning during that time I was having my bath. I had the bath full almost to overflowing, and had been lying full length in it for some time. The motion of the vessel had not been remarkable, when suddenly I was rolled on to the side of the bath."

"At first I was amused at the water flowing over the side of the bath, but a second or two later, it seemed to me that the vessel would never stop. When the roll did cease, the vessel appeared to remain on her side for some time."

"I am unable to say how long, but it seemed to me longer than should have been the case."

"When the vessel recovered herself, I was surprised to find that the water in the bath did not cover my body. I have a very distinct recollection of the incident, because I was startled by it at the time. The bath steward a few minutes later made some remark to me about the rolling of the vessel."

"The third occasion on which I noticed the behaviour of the vessel was one evening soon after we had cleared the Port Phillip Heads on route to Sydney. The wind was blowing hard, and the sea appeared rough."

"I had retired early that evening, and had been asleep. I cannot say how long I had been asleep, when I was awakened by being rolled forcibly against the side of my bunk. and I had to grip the railing hard in order to avoid being thrown completely out of bed."

"On the whole I do not think I had on that voyage much opportunity of judging the behaviour of the vessel, because we had such a smooth passage."

"On the three occasions, however, which I have mentioned, the behaviour of the vessel was sufficient to attract my attention, though it is only since the supposed loss of the vessel that I have really considered the matter."

"The vessel rolled considerably at times, and certainly seemed to me to be "dead" in the water. I mean by "dead" that when rolling she did not recover herself quickly."

Again we have witness testimony going into detail about the rolling and listing of the Waratah. But for the first time a very important addition to these comments:

"though it is only since the supposed loss of the vessel that I have really considered the matter".

This is the crux of the case. Witnesses who voyaged on the Waratah experienced rolling and listing with characteristics peculiar to a steamship of this size and configuration, circa 1909. But in the context of the Waratah disappearing, presumed foundered, many of these witnesses focused on the issues of listing and rolling as something 'abnormal' and 'probable cause' for the loss of the Waratah.
However, Mr Thomas draws our attention to the fact that many of these witnesses, if it were not for the circumstances of the Waratah loss, might have simply taken the rolling and listing 'peculiarities' for granted.

M. Macdonald. Trimmer on the Waratah -

"At times the Waratah had a considerable list on. It was more noticeable at some times than at others. The list was nearly always to leeward (wind pressure). As a trimmer on the coal, I know that the list was not due to the uneven distribution of the coal, because the coal was worked down evenly on both sides."

"When there was any sort of a sea on at all, the vessel had a big roll. It was bigger than what I had experienced on other ships."

"At the end of each roll she seemed to stop for a little while before she commenced the return roll. The roll was different from what I had experienced on other vessels. I had not felt on any other vessel the same pause at the end of a roll."

A similar rolling pattern was observed in Navy 'top heavy' vessels. But these vessels did not turn turtle in bad weather. There was so much more to the issue than impressions and observations.

"The vessel did not pitch as much as she rolled. She recovered quickly from a pitch."

"I don't think she was what is called "dead" in the water"

And so the witness testimonies rolled on referring constantly to the listing and rolling 'peculiarities' of the Waratah, and in this case the subjective impression that her performance at sea was 'different to other vessels'.

Walter Dewey. General servant on  the Waratah (no sea experience) -

"My quarters were in the No. 5 upper 'tween decks. After we had left Cape Town there were a couple of days during which there was a heavy swell on the sea and the vessel rolled very much, so much so that the port holes in our quarters had to be kept closed. One had been left open, and a lot of water came in and flooded one of the bunks. This water came in owing to the heavy rolling of the vessel."

"I noticed the rolling particularly because, as a steward, I had to carry soup and other things about to the tables. When the vessel rolled she always paused for a little time before she commenced the return roll, and I had to wait and be ready for that pause every time or else I would have been thrown off my balance. I can't say definitely how long that pause was, but it seemed to be a considerable time."

"She used to roll over steadily and then hang for a time at the extremity of the roll before she commenced to return. She did this whether the roll was to port or starboard."

"I did not take much notice of the pitching of the vessel and did not notice anything to draw attention to. My attention was devoted to the rolling because that interfered more with me in my work."

A further and umpteenth reference to the contentious rolling of the Waratah and holding for a length of time in the list, before recovering.


sailor posing - not a far cry from those called to the witness stand for their 'five minutes of fame'



Monday, 21 October 2013

DISCHARGED BULLION FROM THE SS HUNTER INTO THE WARATAH.

Pearson Baker.  Seaman on the Waratah, worked in the stokehold - 

"Had nothing against the ship and she only rolled when there was a bit of a blow."

Mr Baker puts the Waratah's rolling into the context of normality - ie responding to wind.

Herbert Duncan Mason.  Passenger (an engineer holding a first class certificate, 33 years at sea.) -

"Nothing to prove the ship seaworthy or not coming out because smooth all the time." 

"The only time there was a bit of a breeze, coming out of Melbourne, she heeled over very heavily. She did not recover herself properly, was not quick enough."

"In my opinion, if she got in a heavy seaway and did not recover herself which I do not think she would, she would get another one on top of her and I believe she went over." 

"The mate and I were old friends, and I said to him, 

"Owen, if I were you I would get out of this ship; she will be making a big hole in the water some of these days." 

He said: 

"I'm afraid she will," and he told me himself that when discharging cargo in Adelaide they had to be very careful in getting them out. She would go over as easily as possible either one way or the other."

In this instance we have an opinion from an engineer with a first class certificate.  He made the point that the Waratah's tendency to hold in a list and recover slowly would make her vulnerable to rolling over in heavy seas.

This is a very loaded statement and one that can neither be proved nor disproved.  All we do know, is that the Waratah safely negotiated rough seas before the 26 July, 1909.  Whether the Wild Coast was a step too far as regards rough seas, will have to remain in the realm of speculation, bearing in the GM of Waratah had improved dramatically by the time she was lost off the Wild Coast.

Making a 'big hole in the sea' is rather an insensitive way of describing the loss of a 500 ft steamer and all passengers and crew.

Reginald Thomas Richards. Passenger - 

"Noticed nothing peculiar, but no rough weather. A first class seagoing ship."

And just as quickly the witness accounts returned to describing the Waratah as a first class vessel.

William Duncan.  Chief officer SS Hunter, which discharged bullion into the Waratah at Sydney -

"She had a big list over on to the wharf, but that might have been due to the way they were discharging cargo."

"She struck me as being tender"

This had nothing to do with her performance at sea.

Thomas John Burrin. 

"Between Gabo and Sydney was awakened by the list which had become very pronounced and she righted herself list only lasted a few minutes." 

"Behaviour of ship gave no cause to fear for her safety"

Edward Dischler  A.B. on the Waratah  (been on 14 ocean going vessels) - 

"The ship when rolling went over on one side and did not seem to be able to recover herself, but stayed there quite an appreciable time." 

"She appeared to be dead in the water and to have difficulty in keeping on an even keel." 

"The unsteadiest boat I ever made a voyage in, and was absolutely unseaworthy in my opinion"

An experienced sailor with a very definite and negative opinion of the Waratah.

W. H. Baker.  Surgeon on the Waratah - 

"I did not consider at any time the list was a serious feature about the vessel. She rolled more to leeward than to windward." 

"When she got to the end of the roll to leeward, she seemed to hang over a moment of time and then appeared slowly to recover herself. The momentary stoppage at the end of the roll was very noticeable."

However, the surgeon did not equate these tendencies with compromised safety.








Saturday, 19 October 2013

Anecdote Saturday - SS President

Launched in 1840, the SS President was regarded as the largest and most luxurious paddle steamer (and sail) of the time. She was designed for the trans Atlantic route and turned out to be the slowest ever paddle steamer, averaging 8.4 knots.

She was also regarded top heavy with an extra third deck, requiring cargo overloading to compensate for her heavy roll. The owners, British and American Steam Navigation Company, placed emphasis on her accommodations approximating that of a hotel rather than the utilitarian passenger ships of the Cunard Line etc.

Designed by Macgregor Laird, the saloon measured 80 ft by 34 ft, and was laid out in a Tudor Gothic style. In addition to opulent staterooms, she had a picture gallery with ten oil paintings of Christopher Columbus. The President could carry 110 passengers and another 44 in the Servant's cabins.

She was significantly underpowered further hampered by the fact that she could not employ feathered paddles (far more efficient and better power output) due to patent laws of the time. Although her wooden hull was subdivided into watertight compartments, after just two round trips, she required a refit due to a weakened and twisted wooden hull.

11 March 1841, bound for Liverpool, the President ran into a storm off the Nantucket Shoals and Georges Bank. She was spotted the following day labouring in the gale, weighed down by an extensive cargo manifest. She carried 136 passengers and crew. The President was never seen again.

Even Queen Victoria took an interest in the loss of this grand steamer and requested that a special messenger be sent to her if word on the mystery was received. Lost among the passengers were the Rev. George Grimston Cookman, and the Irish comic Tyrone Power. George Grimston Cookman was an eloquent Wesleyan Methodist clergyman, who served two terms as Chaplain to the US Senate in Washington.  His family were well know in politics for political reform, emancipation and spiritual revival.

The 'death watch' for the missing ship continued for months after her loss. No trace was ever found, the British and American Steam Navigation Company folded after this loss, which reminds us of the Waratah and the Blue Anchor Line.





My book 'Waratah Revisited' will be available by 12 December, via Amazon. I explore the human aspect of the tragedy and take a closer look at the Inquiry into the loss of the Waratah. Revelations abound. Don't miss it!

Friday, 18 October 2013

'A COFFIN FOR SOMEBODY'.

Nicholas Sharp. Seaman on the Waratah (13 years seagoing experience) - 

"She was all right in fine weather and smooth water, but as soon as you got the wind a little on the beam she would hang over that way and she seemed to be top-heavy. She was very crank. I did not think she was safe, and shammed sick to get clear of her." 

"The chief officer, when engaging me, said, 'If you can get anything else, take it, because this ship will be a coffin for somebody.' "

"Going round the Ushant Light, the vessel had the wind and sea on her beam, and she there commenced to roll very noticeably. She appeared to hang and shake at the end of the roll, before recovering herself and commencing the return roll." 

"The roll to leeward was more pronounced than the roll to windward. She would sometimes roll to leeward, stop, and then continue the roll further, and then recover." 

"The vessel appeared to be very badly balanced, and to be "dead" in the water if there was any sea on."

If this witness statement is taken in isolation, a very bleak picture of the Waratah is painted suggesting that she was 'an accident waiting to happen'. I doubt whether the Chief Officer on the Waratah would have advised his seamen to 'abandon ship' at the first opportunity, and referring to her as a 'coffin'. Also the mention of the word 'shamming' alerts me to be cautious with this witness statement.

'Dead in the water' could also refer to the fact that Waratah's engines were relatively under powered for her size, which would have become noticeable in heavy weather.   

Alfred Philip.  Carpenter's mate on the Waratah (9 years Royal Navy experience) - 

"As regards seaworthiness, she was all right. As regards stability, she was a bit top-heavy. She rolled very heavily. There was a big roll crossing the Bight, and I thought she was never going to come back two or three times."

Here we have a concise statement expressing (unemotionally) concerns about the Waratah being able to right herself.

Samuel Lyons . Steward on the Waratah -

"One day she gave a very heavy lurch, and stopped there, over to the starboard side. The boatswain said, "By God, I wouldn't like to be on this ship in a storm; she would go to the bottom."

"She was very top-heavy; she never seemed to right herself"

Frederick Carl Pinel. Steward on the Waratah (no experience at sea) - 

"The ship was right enough. Never heard anyone on board run her down. The carpenter was my intended brother-in-law, and he never complained of the ship."

It's almost bizarre the contrasting content of these statements. 

W. Stephen Powell.  Steward on the Waratah (no experience at sea) -

"Seemed a steady enough boat, but it was good weather all the way out. Heard the sailors say she was top heavy."

Well, at least the Waratah's rolling and hanging in a list did not alarm this novice sailor. 

Alan  Melville.  Clerk who tallied grain from Ennerdale into the Waratah at Sydney - 

"I said to Mr. Owen (the chief officer) in the presence of Mr. Morgan (third officer), "Well, how do you like your new ship, Mr. Owen?" He replied, "Splendid." I said, "What's she like in a seaway?" He replied, "I was never in a better." Mr. Morgan then said, "She's like a rocking chair."

Here we have a statement referring to the Chief Officer, this time extolling the virtues of the Waratah. This to my mind confirms that the claims made by Nicholas Sharp were compromised.

Brightmer John Shore.  Steward on the Waratah -

"Always had a list and would change her list as often as three or four times in the course of an hour or an hour and half and rolled heavily."

At this stage we have many witness accounts referring to the Waratah rolling heavily and holding in the list. Whether this in any way negatively impacted on her safety at sea still remains 'up in the air'.





Thursday, 17 October 2013

CAPTAIN ILBERY'S LETTERS DISPOSED OF??

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 timeNo 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.





stability curves

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

PROFESSOR BRAGG; SEDGWICK; TWEEDIE; BURRIN.

William H. Bragg. Passenger and Fellow of Royal Society and Cavendish Professor of physics at the University of Leeds (fourth voyage) -

"I was very alarmed"

Oh, dear, here we go...

"Thought she was unstable for small displacements, but stable for larger ones."

This statement makes complete sense. Waratah was inherently tender and required significant dead weight displacement to correct and improve the GM.

"My impression was that metacentre was just slightly below centre of gravity when she was upright, and then as she heeled over on either side she came to a position of equilibrium."

This referred to the maiden voyage when the Waratah's GM was low, if not slightly negative. This state of affairs was directly related to Waratah's dead weight displacement (relatively low) and stowage plan which needed corrections.

"Judging by the camber the list was four or five degrees"

Perhaps Sawyer was misquoted and instead of 45 degrees he was referring to 4 or 5 degrees.  He was after all an engineer and the image in a previous post of a vessel listing at 45 degrees is clearly not a seaworthy option.

"The list would last for several days in one direction"

Thus confirming equilibrium in that position.

"One morning she came upright, then went over, and stopped down on the other side."

"The vessel got more upright getting towards Durban. After leaving Cape Town the list developed again."

"I was surprised to find how little she rolled, but that fitted in with her being in neutral equilibrium."

"Thought she was a remarkably steady and comfortable boat"

Well, that's a relief.  Back to stability and comfort, which negate the listing peculiarities, and more importantly use of the word 'steady' which does not imply dangerous.

"Often talked to the captain about the stability of ships, but never put a direct question about this ship and asked for stability curves, but was told they were not on board."

Stability curves should have been on board for the maiden voyage.

"Spoke to the chief engineer who said she was safe as a church, that if necessary the tanks would be filled, and she would then be as stiff as a board."

Again this refers back to the logical displacement argument. With ballast tanks filled Waratah would have had the all-important increase in dead weight lowest down, significantly improving GM, but at the expense of the buoyancy factor?

Alfred Montague Sedgwick.  Passenger (30 voyages) -

"Appeared to be top heavy and cumbersome, heavy above water"

"Rolled a good deal, but no jerk. Seemed to go right over as far as the roll would carry her, then seemed to be dead and did not come back."

There would not have been a 'jerk' at this stage with a low GM and reduced righting force. The 'jerk' was a manifestation of a vastly improved GM, final voyage.

"Seemed to hesitate a second or two before she came back in a sort of dead still"

A good number of witnesses to date have given the same story that she held in a list before returning to an upright position. Some expressed opinions that this was peculiar and 'unstable' while others simply found it amusing, the Waratah comfortable, and no reflection on her stability and safety. Let's not forget safe Naval vessels displayed a similar pattern. 

David Tweedie. Passenger (about 16 voyages and personal friend of the Messrs. Lund) -

"Never in a better ship and never had a better voyage"

Oh dear, the friendship bias creeping in?

"Less rolling than I have seen in other ships"

"No jerk or hang in the roll"

"The chief engineer was very pleased with her, and likewise the captain"

"She seemed to go through the water like a duck"

At least not a sitting duck...

"Never pitched heavily at any time"

"Quite incorrect to say she had a permanent list to one side or the other, or that she had a heavy list for some days."

No, I think his loyalty to the Lunds may have clouded his statement.  Nice, and in favour of the Waratah's stability, but to be taken with a pinch of the proverbial.

Thomas John Burrin. Pantryman on the Waratah (11 years at sea) -

"Rolled in the same way as any other vessel would roll in a high sea; nothing unusual about her behaviour; carried herself well in the sea. Did not dive. At times listed, but would right herself and be on an even keel for a week or so"

'Did not dive' was an important observation on the maiden voyage - tender but significant buoyancy - compared with the final voyage when Waratah had a tendency to put her nose into oncoming swells = improved GM at the expense of buoyancy.