'A DURBAN PILOTS OPINION.
'However, she went out of Durban on her last trip
drawing 28 ft. 9 in., and, speaking as a practical seaman,
I say that no question of her instability entered anyone's
'I boarded the vessel five minutes before she sailed out
of the harbor to say good-bye to the captain.'
'There was no coal above the deck.'
'The coaling foreman at Durban was loud
in his complaints because he was obliged to
load his coal all down one hatchway.'
'This points to the fact that all the coal bunkers
were full, which would make the vessel
'Much has been said about the
superstructure of the vessel being top
heavy, but to the main portion of the
steamer it bore about the same
relation as a hat box would to
a railway porter's trolley.'
'The boat left Durban about 8 p.m. on July 26.
On the following night she was spoken near East
London by the liner Guelph. This was
10.30 p.m., or 26 hours after leaving Durban.'
'This means that she was about eight
hours late, and to those acquainted with
the speed of the ship, this betokens a
breakdown possibly shortly after she left
'The time she took to travel the
distance was almost exactly what would
be required with only one engine working.'
'Thus it appears to me one engine bad been
disabled for some considerable time.'
'Assuming that to be so, you must look at
the position from the point of view that
would be adopted by a prudent seaman like
Captain Ilbery. What would he do under the circumstances?'
He was off East London, the barometer was low, presaging
a storm of unusual violence. There were
two alternatives - one to make his way
back to Durban for repairs, and the other
to continue his voyage.'
'If he did the latter, naturally his instincts,
developed by long experience on
sailing vessels, would be to put as
much blue water between him and the coast
'Thus, when he was due at Port
Elizabeth it was possible for him to be 60
miles from the coast. At this time the gale
was exceptionally severe, and it raged for
upwards of three days.'
The sandbar at the mouth of the port was about 32 ft, which implies 28 ft 9 in. cleared the sandbar without mishap. According the Durban Pilot, Mr Sheppard, if there were problems on board, particularly relating to machinery.
Mr Sheppard surmises that one of the engines failed resulting in the Waratah being 8 hours behind schedule when 'sighted' by the Guelph. He adds that the engine trouble would have to have occurred shortly after leaving Durban for this to be the case. This does not correlate with the time and place the Waratah exchanged signals with the Clan MacIntyre. She would have to have been steaming normally as per specifications for two engines, for her to have been in the vicinity of Cape Hermes by 4 - 6am 27 July. The claimed 'Guelph sighting' falls short.
The analogy of the hatbox on a trolley makes the point that most of the Waratah's stability related to the weight and distribution of cargo and ballast within the hull. Under fully loaded circumstances, the superstructure (hatbox) contributed a relatively insignificant component to the stability of the Waratah. She was not top heavy.