Monday, 13 January 2014


"Steady as a Rock."

"Mr. A. L. B. Wade, a passenger on the
Waratah on her maiden voyage from Cape
Town to Sydney, said there was nothing
suspicious about her."

"On occasions she suddenly rolled and lurched without
apparent reason, and then slowly recovered."

"Captain Ilbery told him that this was probably
due to the way in which she was
stowed, and that it was necessary to have
experience of a new vessel in order to
ascertain the best way of stowing her."

"Some time afterwards, when Captain
Ilbery dined with him at his own house, he

"You should be on her now, we
know how to stow her, and she is as steady
"as a rock."

The Waratah may very well have been somewhat unstable on her first voyage due to the explanation given by Captain Ilbery and he acknowledged a 'learning curve' to establish the best method for stowage. If there was going to be a problem relating to stability it should, according to these accounts, have occurred on the Waratah's maiden voyage. However, although rough seas were encountered on the maiden voyage, the seas may not have been as unforgiving as those off the Wild Coast 27 July.

Captain Ilbery however, was very confident in the stability of the Waratah on her second voyage and we must remember that the Waratah was designed for ocean conditions, whatever they might be. It seems unlikely that the Blue Anchor Line would invest, at great cost, in a steamship of questionable reliability. It seems unlikely that a flagship such as the Waratah was not suitable for gale conditions (which we know to be frequent in the winter months) off the South African coast - a route she was destined to follow on a routine basis.

No, I believe that we should give Captain Ilbery the respect he earned as an experienced master and accept his word that the Waratah was a stable vessel for her final voyage. Don't forget that Waratah was under insured which confirms that the owners were not expecting her to turn turtle in a major storm. 


Mole said...

From the Court of Inquiry: THE MAIDEN VOYAGE: No special report, as Mr. F. M. Lund assured the Court, was made by Captain Ilbery as to her behaviour on her maiden voyage. In view of the fact that the Waratah was a new departure for this line, and that her specification was being used as the basis of the specification of another new ship, the Court was quite unable to understand how silence could have been preserved on such an important and interesting subject as her stability and behaviour at sea. Mr. Lund endeavoured to explain away his strong letters by saying that at the time he wrote them his firm and the builders were in conflict over a question of demurrage, the vessel having been delivered after the contract date. He said that his complaints about the ship were mere “bluff” intended to facilitate the forcing of a settlement of the monetary claim.


Thank you Mole for a very enlightening comment. My personal feeling is that the Waratah experienced 'teething' problems on her maiden voyage relating directly to the method of cargo stowage. Even though no report came to light at the hearing (either not written or suppressed due to the mysterious nature of the Waratah's loss), Captain Ilbery was verbal and candid about the 'learning curve' and very clear about the stability of the ship once this had been sorted out. Unfortunately the 'bluff' technique used by the Lunds only served to fuel suspicion regarding the safety of the Waratah's design. This undoubtedly contributed to the 'hysteria' gaining moment at the Inquiry. It is well documented that the demurrage issue was the focal point of conflict between the builders and the Lunds. Thank you very much for raising these important points Mole. Andrew