Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Waratah - laid up for alterations.

Barrier Miner (Broken Hill) Monday 19 December, 1910.

[Reuter's Message.]
London, Saturday. 
The Board of Trade inquiry into theWaratah was continued to-day.
Admiral Davis sharply cross-examinedMr. Peck, a member of the firm whichbuilt the Waratah, as to why no investigations of Captain -Ilbery's complaintshad been made.
Mr. Thearie, chief surveyor ofLloyd's, stated that the Waratah wasthoroughly well constructed, and wasa strong ship.
The voice which contradicted Mr.Bennett, when the latter was givingevidence yesterday belonged to Mrs.Gibbs, mother of a passenger (actually apprentice / crew) on the Waratah. Her husband afterwards said that he understood Mr. Bennett to say 'that the Waratah was going to be laid up for two months for alterations.' Mr. Bennett repeated that Mr. Gibbs was mistaken.
I believe that Mrs Gibbs had heard correctly and Mr Bennett denied the obvious. There is no doubt that the maiden voyage was problematic and upsetting to some passengers. Waratah was inherently flawed and although stability could be achieved at the expense of buoyancy, alterations sounds to me like a feasible solution at the time. 
Herbert, a steward, said he left theWaratah because he disliked its rollingand terrific creaking (probably not uncommon in a new ship of that time). He called the chief engineer's attention to the movement of the promenade deck. The whole of the wooden structure moved bodily athwart the ship. Some of the bolt heads broke off the woodwork round the saloon door, and separated the ironwork to the extent of a couple of inches. (This does seem extreme)
The Waratah was fitted with twin quadruple expansion steam engines. These four cylinder engines were notorious for causing excessive vibration which may have contributed to the above incidents. Also build quality comes under the spot light!
Mr. Thearie testified that the Waratah was thoroughly well constructed. This is a tricky one. Taking into consideration the Waratah's size and specifications, a construction budget of 139 900 pounds was, well.... a budget price. We know that a fire broke out December, 1908, adjacent to reducing valves due to poor heat insulation. This is not 'thorough'. Construction shortcuts could have been taken by the builders. 
But importantly, what were the standards of the day, by which ship construction was judged? By our present-day standards, probably poor. The question is, what was the quality of the Waratah's construction compared with other steamers?
Whatever the answer is to this question, I believe factors such as these contributed to the 'large steamer' disappearing within minutes off Port St Johns.

Quality of materials and construction have a come a long way since 1908.  

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