Tuesday, 13 October 2015


The Inquiry quoted a gross tonnage of 9 339.07 and net tonnage 6 003.96.  The Waratah's gross tonnage was roughly 30% more than equivalent sized cargo / passenger steamships of the time (1908). It is widely quoted that the Waratah's cargo component when she departed Durban approached 9 000 tons, plus 1 300 tons of lead concentrates (ballast). My own exercise analyzing various reports on cargo details approximated this value.

Mr. J. C. Neill, Port Adelaide managerfor Messrs. George Wills & Co. (agents forthe steamer), estimated the total dead weight ofcargo on board at 9,000 tons, .....

Charles Augustus Johnson (wharf manager 
at the Outer Harbour)

"He estimated the total dead weight of
cargo on board at 9,000 tons, ...."

Mr Sawyer:

 It was a calm, fine day, with big rollers coming straight towards us. going fore and aft. Whenever a particularly big roller came the ship did not take it as she should have done, but put her nose right into it and remained there, apparently without any life in her (dead). Mr. Ebsworth was, I thought, rather upset, and said that it was the first time in the whole of his experience that he had seen a ship do this. 

Mr Ebsworth remarked:

"One of these days she'll dip her nose down too far and not come up again."

Mr. Richardson, passenger:

"I saw the second and fourth engineers examining the vertical ladder which ran from the forward well deck to the boat deck on the port side. The ladder was broken about 3 feet above the deck. The engineers told me that it had been broken by the impact of a sea."

A fracture of a ladder extending the height of the three decks suggests that the forces at play exceeded the integral superstructure strength.

Edward Dischler:

She appeared to bedead in the water, She couldnot ride head seas at all, but bumpedher nose right down into the trough ofwater, and seas broke right over her.

John Marshall Lennie, steward:

"She was what I termed a "dead" ship. When she rolled she gave me the feeling at the end of the roll that she wouldn't recover." 

Nicholas Sharp:

"The vessel appeared to be very badly balanced, and to be "dead" in the water if there was any sea on."

M MacDonald, trimmer:

"I don't think she was what is called "dead" in the water"

Captain Ilbery:

"Yes, she is a little that way, but you must remember there are many thousands of tons of dead weight to shift. When this once gets in motion, it takes some power to stop it, and, when stopped, it also takes a considerable force to start in the opposite direction."

'The captain's, or rather the chief officer's, stowage plan also was made before anything had happened to the ship. It was despatched to the owners from Durban. There is no reason to suppose that, so far as it goes, it is anything but accurate and trustworthy. The information it gives is, however, very general in character; in some cases only are sufficient details given to enable any particular parcel of cargo to be identified.'

'The stevedores' plan is a document which emanates from Sydney, appears to be completed at Adelaide, and thence returned to Sydney. There is some attempt upon it to discriminate between the various ports of loading and also between those of destination; but it seems to be a hurried production, gives no weights, or particulars, beyond the names of the various commodities, and is obviously inaccurate in places both in its colouring and in its disposition of commodities.'

'The depositions were made after the event, and are confused and contradictory. The Melbourne deposition is misleading; the principal commodities are lumped together beyond hope of disentanglement, the smaller consignments are left out altogether, and yet a total is arrived at considerably in excess of the total manifest weights. The Adelaide depositions give no indication whatever of where the cargo was stowed.'

'No cargo was shipped at that port.' (Durban) 

'On this basis the distribution of cargo leaving Durban was approximately as follows:'

Holds                                 4230 tons
Lower 'tween decks             1425  tons
Upper 'tween decks              595   tons

Total                                  6250 tons

Note that the upper 'tween decks held considerably less, with a view to maintaining GM stability. However, the overall figures, in my opinion, are grossly conservative (more like 9000 tons).

'At Durban 1,929 tons 6 cwt. of coal were taken in. There was thus on board a total of 2,378 tons 6 cwt. Mr. Lund, probably correctly, estimated her consumption whilst in Durban at between 20 and 30 tons, which would leave her with, in round figures, 2,350 tons when she sailed from that port.'

I have put together this 'collection' to make two distinct points. The term 'dead' was widely used to describe the Waratah. It did not refer to her being without propulsion, although she was under powered, but rather a characteristic of performance. I am still very firmly of the belief that the Waratah was too heavy with reduced buoyancy, hence the sluggish performance. The chaos surrounding accurate documentation of cargo specifics further enhances my belief that the Waratah was functionally overloaded, which ironically assisted in maintaining GM stability, but created a vessel very vulnerable to the elements at sea.

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