Thursday, 9 January 2014

Waratah - 'lifeboats rotten, no boat drill carried out'.

The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931) (about) Previous issue Monday 20 February 1911




(From our Special Correspondent.)
London, January 20, 1911.

"The Board of Trade enquiry into the
disappearance of the Blue Anchor liner,
Waratah, has occupied eleven full days and
is not yet finished."

"The most remarkable feature
of the enquiry has been the
startling conflict of evidence as to the
Waratah's behaviour at sea during her
first round voyage, and her last outward
trip to Australia."

"It has been impossible
to reconcile the accounts given of the lost
vessel's behaviour by the various witnesses
called and with depositions read."

"One man has averred that her top-heaviness and
liability to "make a hole in the water"
were common gossip on board."

"Another testified that there was no such talk on
board; indeed, if anything was said
about her it was in praise of her as a fine
sea boat."

"One witness, a sailor, declared
that the Waratah was "the worst boat
he had ever been in and utterly unseaworthy,"

"whilst Mrs. Alexander Hay,
who was on board the Waratah when she
disappeared, had nothing but praise for
her. Mrs. Hay was a lady with a very
large experience of ocean travel."

"Another witness declared that the ship's boats
were rotten, and that no proper boat drill
was carried out."

"He was contradicted flatly by a member of the crew, who swore
that the boats were sound and strong, and
that boat drill was carried out once a
week. "

With due respect to the late Captain Ilbery I am inclined to believe the former statement.

"It is only fair to state, however, that
the balance of expert testimony has been
in the Waratah's favour, but, of course,
the disappearance of the ship has given
weight to the testimony of those who have
enunciated the view that she was not a
safe ship."

This newspaper report accurately sums up the confusion and conflicting accounts at the Inquiry. There was clearly a mood of hysteria and sensation-seeking born from the loss of the Waratah. Unfortunately, many of the negative accounts 'stuck' in the public mind. This was undoubtedly a factor contributing to the decline of the Blue Anchor Line. 

  to be continued....

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