Friday, 1 May 2015


The Waratah was finally and officially declared missing by 15 December, 1909. The Blue Anchor Line was in serious financial trouble; ticket sales had fallen dramatically since the loss of the Waratah and insurances had risen to record levels for a ship of that size. The writing was on the wall and Lund was forced to sell the Blue Anchor Line to the P&O Line for 275 000.00 pounds, which included the Geelong; Commonwealth; Narrung; Wakool and Wilcannia.

The P&O Line up until that time focused on first-class mail; first and second class passengers via the Suez Canal to British colonies in the East. This exclusive service precluded emigrants which meant that the P&O lost out on this ever-increasing, lucrative component of intercontinental trade. To make matters more complicated the P&O made extensive use of Lascars (from the Indian sub-continent) to crew their vessels. Australia's Merchant Shipping Act regulations prohibited the employment of non-white crew on ships landing emigrants on Australian soil.

Acquiring the Blue Anchor Line was a clever move, exploiting a company in crisis after the loss of the Waratah, and gaining a Line which complimented (lucratively) the existing service. The Lunds' innovative model focused on the route via South Africa with an emphasis on emigrants for outbound voyages from England to Australia, and cargo for inbound voyages. Provision was also made for first and second class passengers on exclusive promenade and boat decks. It became a win win situation for P&O.

By the time the Inquiry into the loss of the Waratah was convened at the end of 1910, the Blue Anchor Line and five of her grandest vessels were now in the possession of the P&O Line. It does not take much imagination to appreciate that the Court were confronted with a tricky situation. If the Court came to the conclusion that the Lunds were in some way responsible for the loss of the Waratah, or that the Waratah's build quality was sub-standard, or that the Blue Anchor Line vessels were designed to maximize (overloading) cargo component for profit, there would be a knock-on effect influencing the P&O's latest acquisitions and reputation. Of course, it was all made easier by the simple fact that not a shred of evidence was found establishing what had become of the Waratah. The Inquiry could breathe a collective sigh of relief and relegated the Waratah to a storm of exceptional violence - perils of the seas.

Oh dear, how the stomach turns........    

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