Thursday, 15 October 2015

Waratah - earthquake wave.

The Mercury (Hobart) Thursday 7 October, 1909

"The absence of news of the Waratah may be owing to her having been engulfed by an earthquake wave, a danger to which the Pacific Ocean is more exposed than any other sea. About twenty years ago a well known Westminster civil engineer and scientist, Mr. R. Price Williams, was returning to England from Australia on the P. and O. Britannia, Captain Cates, on a business in which I was interested. 

On arrival in London he called upon me, and, after discussing the business in question, referred 
to the narrow escape of the ship and all hands. 
When a few days out they encountered a 
mountainous sea, so much so that he went forward 
and endeavoured to measure the height of 
the waves with an aneroid. Captain Cates was an 
interested spectator. Suddenly the captain made 
an excuse and dashed up the ladder to the bridge; then the engine-room gong was sounded. 
The ship was slowed down, and the course altered 
to right angles. He quickly saw the reason 
advancing towards them with great rapidity was 
huge wave, like a wall.  The ship entered this 
wave with a terrible smother of sea, but 
fortunately end-on and safely. Strange to say, after 
it had passed the sea became quite calm, and 
the captain rejoined him. He asked the captain 
what would have happened if the wave had caught 
the ship broadside on. He made an expressive 
movement with his hands, implying that the 
ship would have been rolled over and over,
and sunk with all hands. If such a misfortune has 
befallen the unfortunate Waratah, the only 
consolation one can offer the relatives and friends 
is that all on board would meet with a speedy and 
painless death by drowning. "

There is no doubt that a Tsunami or rogue wave has the potential to sink a vessel, if caught broadside. The million dollar question is, would Captain Ilbery have allowed his vessel to be caught broadside?

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