Monday, 25 May 2015


Cairns Post, Wednesday 1 February, 1911
Captain Ilbery had watched the building of thevessel, and the witness (Lund, junior)was unable to account for his absence from the important heeling experiments. 
Mr. Steel, naval architect, gave evidencethat he was satisfied as to the stabilityof the Waratah.
It remains as big a mystery, as the loss of the Waratah itself, why Captain Ilbery was not present at the heeling experiment. He had been involved with the project from design, through construction to completion. He was to be master of the Waratah and needed to know what he was dealing with in terms of the Waratah's metacentric height, righting angles etc... all integral to the overall stability and steadiness of the vessel.  
We know that stability curves were not available on board when the Waratah departed London on her maiden voyage, 5 November, 1908, and there were stability issues which could have been avoided if Captain Ilbery had been adequately prepared. It seems almost bizarre that a master of his caliber took charge of a new steamer under those circumstances. 
Perhaps having been intimately involved with design and construction, Captain Ilbery thought he knew all he ought to know about the Waratah. Clearly he would have been given the results of the heeling experiment and that generally the Waratah was seaworthy and ready for service and that he would have the stability curves on board for departure. 
All I can think is that the delivery of the Waratah had been delayed (resulting in demurrage penalties), suggesting that she was rushed into service without adequate time for thorough preparation. It is in some respects fortunate for the owners that the Waratah did not disappear on her maiden voyage. If it had been the case, there was more than enough reason to blame stability issues. However, by the second voyage, the Waratah was stable in terms of metacentric height.
It still does not answer the question why Captain Ilbery was not present for the heeling experiment and the phrasing is significant in itself - the owner 'was unable to account for his absence'. This excludes an innocuous reason such as ill health or an emergency of some sort. Lund would have been able to account for that. NO, this suggests a deeper problem and I cannot help wondering if Captain Ilbery was not satisfied with the end product and did not wish to participate in heeling tests which would reveal the extent of Waratah's limitations.

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