Friday, 31 July 2015

Waratah - bridge deck.

The Advertiser (Adelaide) Wednesday 11 August 1909

Besides the 300 tons of coal stowed in the bridge deck bunkers, as already reported, the Waratah took aboard at Durban 2,000 tons of bunker coal to replace that consumed on the voyage from Australia.
And so, as early as August the month after the Waratah went missing, rumours appeared as fact in print - 300 tons of coal loaded on the 'bridge deck'.
As if the spar deck was not enough........

Thursday, 30 July 2015


LAUNCESTON, December 19.
Mr. Walker, of Flinders Island,brought to the Marine Board office to-day a piece of wreckage which wasfound on the shore of Kangaroo Islandby Mr. Harley, jun. It consisted ofthe top streak of a boat, and is of teak,with portions attached of two lowerstreaks of Baltic pine. The boat wascopper-fastened, and painted white, andhad a moulding under the top streak.There is just a portion of a name visible.It consists of the letters S.S. W., withportion of another letter, apparently anA. The wreckage was covered withbarnacles.
Most intriguing! It seems rather ironic that such wreckage was discovered on Kangaroo Island, where the Waratah was rumoured to have struck, 1908. Is it possible that sections of a boat from the Waratah drifted this far, and to this location??

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Waratah - boltheads broke off.

The Register (Adelaide) Monday 19 December, 1910
December 17. 
The evidence of witnesses was proceeded with to-day. A steward named Herbert deposed that he left the boat because he disliked the way she rolled and because of her terrific creaking. He once called the engineer's attention to a movement of her promenade deck. The whole wooden structure moved bodily athwart the ship. Boltheads actually broke off owing to the strain, whilewoodwork around the saloon door was separated from the ironwork to the extentof a couple of inches.

This is a difficult one. On the one hand it is suggested from this report that the Waratah's build quality was substandard. The build budget of 139 900 pounds was to some extent less than equivalent cargo/passenger steamers of the time. We also know that a fire broke out on the maiden voyage due to insufficient heat insulation aft of the reducing valves, engine room. 
The Waratah was fitted with twin quadruple expansion engines which were notorious for creating significant vibration, a possible contributory factor.
However, it is difficult to source accurate information about the general standard of steamers, circa 1909. For all we know, the description above might have applied to many new steamers - teething problems, if you will.


The Advertiser (Adelaide) Friday 13 January 1911
LONDON, January 12.
The enquiry concerning the loss of theLund liner Waratah was continued yesterday.
Captain Bidwell, marine superintendentfor Messrs. W. Lund & Sons, testified that after the first voyage of the Waratah Captain Ilbery and his officers eulogised the vessel and made no complaint concerning her "tenderness." He did not remember telling Mr. Lund that the Waratah was less stable than the steamer Geelong. The witness added that Captain Ilbery treated the rumors on the subject which were prevalent among the clerks in Lund & Sons' office as mere idle talk.
(This gives an indication that the teething stability issues experienced by the Waratah on her maiden voyage, were well known within the Blue Anchor Line offices, despite what Captain Bidwell said.)
Vice-Admiral Davis, who is a member of the Court of Enquiry, quoted the letter of Mr. Hodder, the chief engineer, to Mr. Shanks, superintendent engineer to Messrs. Lund & Sons, concerning the difficulties experienced in coaling the Waratah at Sydney, which had compelled the captain twice to stop coaling because he was afraid of the possible list of the vessel.
Captain Bidwell replied, "Captain Ilberytold me nothing about this."
(What could coaling problems relating to a light, unloaded Waratah in port possibly have to do with the stability of a fully loaded Waratah departing Durban?)
Captain Bidwell continued that he was unable to explain why the ballast tanks, which were full on the first voyage, were left empty on the second homeward-trip from Durban.
(Perhaps because the Waratah was deeply laden, creating sufficient ballast weight. Leaving some (not all) ballast tanks empty added to the all important buoyancy factor.)
At this stage the depositions of Mr. Latimer, tally clerk at Sydney, giving the second officer's opinion that the Waratah had a deck too many; of the Sydney pilots, informing Captain Ilbery that the vessel was tender; and of Lusakin, the steward, showing that the boatswain told him that the lifeboats were the most awful he had ever seen, were read.
(A deck too many ? - the Waratah was merely an example of progress. Many new steamers of the time were fitted with an extra superstructure deck. As for lifeboats, the tragedy is that they seem to have been redundant.)
Several witnesses from the steamer Tottenham corroborated the previous evidence regarding bodies being seen floating in the water. The third officer of the Tottenham said the captain had enjoined silence, remarking that his owners would have poor opinion of him if he had bothered to pick up and convey the bodies to the nearest port when other vessels were specially searching.
(This is arguably the darkest hour of the search for signs of the Waratah. 'Bothered to pick up and convey bodies' sticks in one's throat and was a very cruel blow delivered to a great many people who were utterly desperate to confirm the truth of what had become of their loved ones.)
Saunders, who was a stowaway on the Waratah on a previous voyage, said the behaviour of the Waratah had scared him, and he believed the vessel was bound to topple over in a squall. Other witnesses testified that the steamer was a comfortable ship.
(This does not say much for the accommodation offered to stowaways.)
Trott, who was the cook on the maiden voyage, said he thought the ship would not stand too much punishment, but be was not frightened in her.
(This is an interesting and seemingly contradictory statement. I interpret it to mean that Trott was not frightened because the Waratah, 1909, was not the only vessel which would not have 'stood too much punishment'. We forget in the modern era that steamships were vulnerable and a great many succumbed to the perils of the sea.)
Mr. Scott, counsel for Messrs. William Lund, stated that when the firm sold out to the P.& O. Company some documents were handed over and some probably were destroyed, resulting in confusion whichhad enhanced the difficulty of tracing the documents.
If ever there was a statement which cast aspersions on the integrity of the Lunds, it must surely be this. They were acutely aware, well before the Blue Anchor Line was sold to the P&O Line, that documents relating to the Waratah would be of vital importance during the Inquiry, December, 1910. It is very surprising that the Lunds were able to get away with this. How were they able to exert such influence and power to their advantage at the Inquiry???? 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Waratah - Parliament - safety of ships.

The Register (Adelaide) Thursday 28 October, 1909

Mr. Guthrie (S.A.) asked if, in view ofthe anxiety felt in Australia on account ofthe Waratah and her stability, the Government would cause an enquiry to be heldinto the stability of ships taking peopleto other parts of the world.
As tragic as the loss of the Waratah was, it is heartening that proactive steps were taken to make wireless installation on steamers of a certain size compulsory and measures taken to minimise instability - including cargo overloading!
“I know most of the time it's hard to keep in mind - from lessons learned comes better life.” 
― Conditions

If there was one seminal legacy from the Waratah tragedy, it must be the lessons learned and improvements made in the interests of both progress and the safety of those at the mercy of perils of the seas. 

final moments of the Czarina, Jan 12, 1910

Waratah - negotiations for funding search.

The Argus (Melbourne) Saturday 4 September, 1909 
In moving the adjournment of the Houseof Representatives yesterday afternoon, Mr Deakin said that it was only fair to place the House in possession of the facts relating to the proposed search for the Waratah. Messrs John Sanderson and Co had forwarded the following statement  to Sir Robert Best (Minister for Customs) -
Referring to the interviews which we havehad with you, and the cables which have passedbetween Messrs W. Lund and Sons, the owners ofthis steamer, we herewith hand you a copy of theexact cables, which have passed between us, andfrom these we understand that Messrs W. Lund andsons are at present in negotiations for a suitablesteamer to make a search for the Waratah, thatshe will be chartered for a period of about threemonths to make a thorough search, that theyheartily agree to your suggestion that the costof the search steamer should be divided equally be-tween the Commonwealth Government, subscriptions from the friends of the passengers, the underwriters, and the owners themselves. The estimated cost of the whole thing, we reckon, should not be more than £6 000. This, therefore, would require a contribution from each of these of £1 500. We understand from the cables which have passed that Messrs W. Lund and Sons are quite agreeable to find their quarter, and we take it also for granted that they have arranged with the underwriters to find theirs. We will, however, make this latter point quite clear in a cable we are sending tonight as regards the subscriptions from the passengers' friends, this is a matter which is at present in the hands of the president of the Chamber of Commerce and we understand from him that from negotiations he has had with several of the passengers' friends, there is no doubt at all that the money will be forthcoming."
'The enclosures with this communication were as follow -
Copy of cable to W. Lund and Sons,dated August 31, 1909 -
"Chamber of Commerce is urging AustralianCommonwealth arrange for steamer to search forWaratah, to be despatched from South Africa. Government will probably agree to subscribe equivalent to public and passengers' friends' subscriptions. Cabinet considers matter tomorrow morning. For their information telegraph immediately whether suitable cargo steamer at present available for time charter in South Africa, also state approximate price monthly, including coals"
Copy of reply received same date -
"Replying to your telegram soon as possible "
Copy of cable to W. Lund and Sons(September 1) -
"Government ask us to obtain firm offer timecharter, suitable searching steamer and chartererssharing salvage only to extent of their outlay.Reply by 10 am tomorrow. "
Copy of cable to W. Lund and Sons(September 2) -
"Proposal is that searching steamer should bechartered, and also coaled for period up to threemonths. On our estimate, cost would not exceed£6 000. Government idea, this should be dividedbetween Government, subscribers, owners, andunderwriters, one fourth each. What is your idea?If you agree, we immediately very probably authorise you fix charter in name of yourselves. Weguarantee Government's and subscribers' shares.Ministry here very anxious, made announcementParliament to allay public impatience Thereforetelegraph very fully what is present position ofnegotiations."
Copy of cable from W. Lund and Sons,London, September 2 -
"Heartily agree to proposal. It will be fewdays before anything can be arranged. We willsubmit terms for confirmation as soon as possible. "
Mr Deakin said that the public subscriptions could only be guaranteed by those who answered the appeal. The Commonwealth undertook to find £ for £ on the public subscriptions.
Mr. Morrow - Will the despatch of thesteamer be delayed until the subscriptions have come in'
Mr Deakin -The financial arrangements were almost completed, and the arrangements for the steamer were proceeding.

In the days which followed 27 July, and the Waratah failed to arrive at Cape Town, the Lunds made it publicly known they believed the Waratah to have suffered mechanical failure and was adrift, following prevailing currents.
Anything less than this would have implied the Waratah had foundered, opening a can of legal worms in terms of her seaworthiness, or the skills of her crew. The Lunds had no choice but to witness and participate financially in the unprecedented searches at sea for the missing Waratah.
Personally I believe they were caught between a rock and a hard place. The Lunds had no choice but to show good faith by supporting searches at sea even though they strongly suspected the Waratah had gone to a watery grave. Their responses to the alleged accounts of both the Guelph and Harlow demonstrated the degree to which they were committed to searches, their only option.
In all this time, friends and family of those on the Waratah, were subjected to protracted hope, that glimmer in dark endless nights their loved ones would be discovered and rescued.
The searches continued into 1910, but finally after the last vestiges of hope were placed in the hands of the crew of SS Wakefield, a further 3 month search covering extensive areas of the southern Indian Ocean, it became clear that no trace of a floating Waratah was ever to be found. 
The Lunds were instrumental in perpetuating this foolish hope and in the process helped steer the authorities and public away from exploring the Guelph and Harlow accounts more fully. Time was of the essence, but it was lost, never to be recovered by the opening of the Inquiry, December, 1910.
If the Lunds and authorities had acted differently, making a bold decision to assume that the Waratah had foundered, perhaps more would have been achieved and we would not have the mystery we have today.
Important update: