The Advertiser (Adelaide) Friday 13 January 1911 THE WARATAH.
MORE EXPERT EVIDENCE!
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 a 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????