Saturday, 31 October 2015


The plan adopted in the following report has been first to give the usual formal description of the ship, then to set out a condensed statement of the evidence, in historical sequence. This is divided into three parts, (1) the first voyage, (2) the interval between the two voyages, and (3) the second voyage. This is followed by a discussion of all the data relating to the ship's stability, directed to the elucidation of two questions; the first whether there was any defect inherent in the design of the ship which would render her unstable under ordinary seagoing conditions, and the second whether on her last voyage instability was produced by the manner in which her cargo was distributed. After dealing with the questions of the ship's stability as constructed and as loaded, some other possible causes of her loss suggested by the evidence are, necessarily briefly, examined. Then come some remarks as to the reports of sighting dead bodies, followed by an account of the search made for the missing ship. Other matters upon which the Court feels it desirable to comment are dealt with; the questions and answers follow; the concluding remarks, and a schedule giving the names of those persons, passengers and crew, who left Durban in the ship on the 26th July, 1909, complete the report. 

And so the scene was set for a lengthy and challenging inquiry. It is interesting to note that the Court was careful to insert the words, 'under ordinary seagoing conditions'. This raises the question; is a 'violent' storm at sea considered 'ordinary seagoing conditions'? Given that the Court would come to the conclusion that the Waratah was lost in a 'storm of exceptional violence', it does seem rather ambiguous. The Waratah had proved herself prior to 27 July, 1909, in terms of 'ordinary seagoing conditions'. The challenge, it seems, is to define when a storm at sea is considered to be a part of 'ordinary seagoing conditions' and when it goes beyond that boundary, and enters the realm of perils of the sea. The tricky issue at hand, related to the many, far more modest, vessels at sea during 27 and 28 July, none of which foundered. The Waratah, alone, failed to make port.

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