Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Waratah - Mr. Warner comments on boat drill.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 22 April, 1910
Sir,'- Reading over the evidence given before the steamer Waratah inquiry board, oneis inclined to think that a person's life isworth considerably less at sea than on land.One or two of the witnesses swore that firedrill was never once practised, and that thelifeboats were never even removed from theirchocks, much less swung through the davits.I recently voyaged to the old land and backby a well-known line, and during the triphome fire drill was practised on two occasions,but the lifeboats were never touched, exceptfor a coat of paint given them just beforereaching Plymouth. Coming back, some ofthe boats were overhauled and lowered intothe water while standing off Port Adelaide,and I, among a number of other passengers,was greatly interested in this manoeuvre, themajority of us never having seen the contentsof the boats before.
As there are numerous laws enacted by different authorities for the protection of individuals in every country on earth, I think that laws relating to sea travelling should be specially strict and rigidly enforced. As thereare policemen ashore, why not the sameafloat? Again, there should be a list of instructions drawn up and handed to every passenger embarking on a vessel, and these instructions should cover lifeboat drill, manipulation of lifebelts, compass-reading and navigating, occupancy of boats according tonumerical division of passengers, and othervaluable information, which the average voyager is over willing to learn.
I am, etc.,
April 19. A. E. WARNER
This important letter to the press highlights significant shortcomings in sea travel safety, circa 1909. There is a tendency to look at the case of the Waratah in isolation without taking into consideration that many shipowners and their employees were not as diligent as they could have been with regard to boat and fire drills. If lifeboats were neglected, it was not a matter peculiar to the Waratah or the Blue Anchor Line in general.

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