Monday, 10 March 2014

Waratah - Sawyer 'saw the water below him'.

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957)  Previous issue Monday 19 December 1910

"THE LOST WARATAH. Stability Questioned. A Dramatic Incident. Passenger's Warning Dream."
LONDON, Dec. 17.

"The Board of Trade inquiry into the loss of the Waratah was continued yesterday. It was presided over by Mr. John Dickinson, metropolitan police magistrate, with whom were the following assessors: Admiral Davis (retired); Commander Lyon, of the Naval Reserve; Professor A Welch, and Mr. J. Hallet.. The Board of Trade, the owners of the vessel, her builders, and relatives of passengers, were all represented by counsel. Mr. F. N. Laing, K.C., appeared on be half of the Board of Trade." 

"Mr. Peck, director of Barclay, Curie, and Co. Limited, of Glasgow, the builders of the vessel, stated that the owners had not made any complaint respecting the behaviour of the Waratah on her first voyage. They did complain regarding ability to shift the vessel from one dock to another without ballast."

"He convinced them that her stability equalled that of the Geelong, and other of the company's vessels." 

It is very clear that the Waratah was 'two' ships, an unstable 'light' one without adequate ballast (harbour setting) and a stable one with adequate cargo and ballast (at sea).

"Admiral Davis sharply cross-examined Mr. Peek as to why there had been no investigation of Captain llbery's complaints. Captain Clarke, emigration officer, gave evidence that Captain Ilbery, of the Waratah, after her first voyage, said that she was a very satisfactory vessel. His exact words were:-

"She's a very handy ship."

It seems that Captain Ilbery's reservations regarding the maiden voyage were directly connected with the manner in which the Waratah was stowed and ballasted. If there had been a complaint I believe Captain Ilbery reviewed this in terms of the 'learning curve' regarding dead weight displacement, which is not a reflection on the vessel but rather a matter relating to cargo loading and ballasting. 

"Mr. Claude G. Sawyer, a passenger, who left the Waratah at Durban, stated that the vessel rolled heavily after leaving Adelaide. Several passengers were injured through falling on deck in consequence of the rolling. She had a jerky roll, and a slow recovery." 

"He dreamt on three separate occasions that he saw a man with a long sword, and that the Waratah was struck by a roller and disappeared. This decided him lo leave the vessel at Durban. He considered that she was top-heavy." 

"In reply to further questions, the witness said that the Waratah, had a big list to port when leaving Melbourne. When going through disturbed water she wobbled a great deal, and took a list to starboard, and remained there a very long time." 

"Once she heeled over while witness was on the boat deck until the water showed beneath him. While recovering the Waratah often made a peculiar jerk (improved righting force). Several passengers who had been thrown to the deck and injured discussed the vessel's list of 4.7 deg. with an officer, who replied:-

"The builders have seen to the roll. It is all right."

Claude Sawyer is the thorn in the side of the 'truth' about the Waratah. There can be no more powerful message delivered by a passenger believing the Waratah to be unsafe, disembarking at the next port (Durban). The Waratah disappeared after departing Durban, supplying credence to Sawyer's misgivings and dreams. This will be forever imprinted in the public mind, despite the simple fact the Waratah was not unstable when she departed Durban.

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!

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