Friday, 9 October 2015


The Mercury, Tuesday 19 April, 1910
Captain Frederick Tickell, whose sonwas a passenger on the Waratah on herlast voyage, states that he saw the vessel leave Port Melbourne on July 1, 1909.She was perfectly upright, and had nosign of a list. He saw the Waratah proceeding astern of the Pilbarra, on whichhe was a passenger from Port Adelaide,down river to Largs Bay on July 6. Hewatched her with a professional eye, andat no time did she give him the impression of a tender ship. She remained perfectly upright oven when going roundthe bends, and at a time when the rudderwas over, and the tug which was assistingher was broad on the bow.
Captain Tickell's account remains one of the most important eye witness testimonies from the time. This was a man who had lost his only son with the Waratah. If there was going to be a witness, experienced seaman, with a grudge against the flagship, surely it should have been he? 
Captain Tickell commented on a vessel, ready for sea, which was completely stable from a metacentric height point of view. If Captain Tickell resented the loss of his son on a ship which had acquired a reputation of top heaviness, he did not allow this to cloud his judgment and account.
Of all the myriad accounts, this one probably gives the clearest and most accurate account of the Waratah, which did not go to sea top heavy and 'light' during her final voyage.

Largs Bay


Johan Björklund said...

This is one mans account on what he saw from a ship leaving a calm sea close to a port. Just because the Waratah did not have a list just then does not mean she wasn't a tender ship.

With so many witnesses describing her strange sea behaviour, we must assume that she was less steady than most ships of her time which in turn might very well have played a role in her sinking.

This does not however mean that the Harlow account is not accurate. She might still have experienced a fire that in combination with a storm might have rendered her inoperable close to the shores of Port St Johns.

stanley robinson said...

When waratah left Adelaide the seas were dead flat and it was a fine day with only light airs from the east to north east. If there had have been any sea on or strong winds the Waratah would have certainly shown she was still a tender ship.

andrew van rensburg said...

Thank you for the comments. From a statistical point of view almost equal numbers of observers claimed Waratah was either 'top heavy' or perfectly normal for a vessel of that type and time. Where does the truth lie? If we are to accept that Waratah departed Durban with an acceptable draught (28 odd feet) then we have to accept the very same source which claims she had a GM of 1.5, which is acceptable (not top heavy). If we throw all of it out we still come back to a description of a 'dead ship' with a tendency not to ride oncoming swells. That certainly is not the description of a light' vessel.

Johan Björklund said...

Was it normal for ships of the time that about half of their crew and passengers reported then unstable? I don't think so, I think that for stable ships, most (a lot more than half) people experinced them as such.

margaret johnston said...

You refer to the Waratah being a "Dead Ship" yet she still managed to get from Port A to B. I thought a "Dead ship" condition meant, the main propulsion plant, boilers and generators are not in operation due to the absence of power. What do you mean by the Waratah being a dead ship? Are you referring to the Waratah cutting through the waves? Because when I see films of war ships cutting through the waves does that mean they are "Dead ships" as well?

andrew van rensburg said...

Thank you for all the comments. Clearly I don't have all the answers, just an opinion. I have attempted to put some of the above into perspective in my post today:

It's great to see such interest still in the Waratah. It would be great if that interest translated into an active, participatory interest in a search for the wreck. Emlyn needs all the support he can get.