Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Waratah - 'commanded by one of the most experienced sea captains afloat'.

 Press, Volume LXV, Issue 13507, 21 August 1909, Page 8


"More than three weeks have passed since the Waratah left Durban for the run to Capetown, her next port of call on the homeward voyage, and except for the boat that sighted her when she was one day out, she has not since been seen or heard of."

"With all the experience we have had in the last few years of vessels breaking down in mid-ocean, and drifting about for weeks—from the Waikato and Perthshire to the Bawea, to take only three of the most famous cases —it is too soon to give up hope that the Waratah may yet reach harbour."

"She is practically a new vessel — this is only her second homeward trip— she is a fine sea boat, thoroughly well built and well-found, fitted with powerful engines and twin screws, divided into seven watertight compartments, and she is commanded by one of the most experienced sea captains afloat."

"Captain Ilbery's career is, indeed, a striking one, if only for its uneventfulness. He has been for over fifty years with his present employers, for the last thirty-six years as commander, a position he has held in no fewer than thirteen successive new steamers."

"With one exception he has made more trips to and from Australia than any commander afloat, and in the whole of his long career he has never had an accident worth mentioning. Bad seamanship may therefore be eliminated from the possible causes of disaster to the Waratah."

"Nautical experts, among the grounds for hope, point out that if she bad been wrecked something would have been found by this time; it seems reasonable to assume, as they argue, that a big vessel like the Waratah does not disappear without leaving some wreckage."

"The idea that she has collided with another vessel is dismissed for the reason that vessels bound to Cape Town keep away from the coast, to pick up the current, while those bound from Cape Town eastwards keep close to the coast."

"If the vessel had caught fire it is believed that at least one or two of the boats would have reached land or would have been picked up."

"So by a process of elimination the men who know the trade and the coast arrive at the conclusion that the Waratah's engines must have broken down that in the heavy weather she experienced on leaving Durban she lost her rudder, and they believe that she will yet make her appearance."

"The Waikato drifted for more than fourteen weeks, and was picked up safe and sound at last. With that incident in our minds there is no reason why we should give up hope for the Waratah's safety."

It is clear from this commentary that experienced seamen could not believe that a steamer such as the Waratah could founder without a trace. This set the tone for the mystery and speculation which is yet to be resolved.

to be continued...

the rudder of the SS Republic

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