Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Waratah - Mr. Merry's report refuted.

The Advertiser (Adelaide) Friday 10 December, 1909.

THE MISSING WARATAH.
To the Editor.
Sir- I was much interested and amusedat "An ex-Steward's Story," which appeared in your issue of November 26, andI have been awaiting the appearance ofthe opinions of old experienced saltsagainst the allegations set forth by Mr.Merry, a mason, at Cowell, who workedhis passage out in the Waratah as steeragesteward. Seemingly, however they havedeemed Mr. Merry s statements too ridiculous. It seems strange that so long as aship keeps afloat she is considered a goodseaboat, but the moment an accident occurs, we hear numerous tales of her sluggish movements in heavy seas and of herunseaworthiness generally, of course in-variably from those who know next to nothing about sea life. One thing is certain, the Waratah would never have beenallowed to pass out of the dockyard(Royal Albert) into the Thames with adangerous list either to port or starboard,and at sea the commander would (in theevent of any heavy list) consult with thechief engineer, who would then transmithis orders to the second engineer, whowould certainly see personally (even aftergiving his orders to the head stoker) thatthe coal in the bunkers or bunker alley-ways, was consumed and kept trimmed toavoid such list. Take any steamer likethe Waratah and place say 3,000 to 4,000tons of deadweight cargo in the orlop deckand lower hold. Put her in a high, con-fused sea and if one were, to stand rightaft and watch the movements of the vessel, one would be astonished at the "give -and-take" motion, and would be further astonished at the corkscrew fashion in which she rights herself. I have witnessed this many times in the Indian Ocean during the monsoon, also in the Bay of Bengal and China Sea, not to forget the dreaded Bay of Biscay. It is a ridiculous statement that the purser called the chief fireman to his office to ascertain what bunker he was taking coal from. As the listwas positively outside the purser's department I can only conclude that he was "pulling the chief fireman's leg." On the vessel's arrival at Port Adelaide on her maiden voyage I (knowing one of the officers, who was an old shipmate in my apprentice days) went aboard, and I had the pleasure of meeting the purser, who did not give me the impression of being a man to commit any breach of dignity. The officerswhom I conversed with spoke very highlyof the vessel in every way. and I thoughtmyself that I would risk any sea with herbeneath me. Mr. Merry states that he hadto swab up overflow water from a bath every day. What on earth was the bath doing half full of water all day long? If the Waratah was the highest vessel out of the water in the Royal Albert dock, London, it was because she was the only one there.
What about the Atlantic Transport lineand the British India and New ZealandShipping Companies' lines? Surely theyhave not, like the P. & O. Company, departed from the Royal Albert dock. Mr.Merry thought the weight in the shipbadly adjusted. This is all "bunkum" forthe stevedores in London are world-famedin the stowage of all cargoes, and togetherwith the officers, they would see that theship was stowed properly. I have sailed asnavigation officer, and owing to a defect ineyesight put in a few years as purser; so Iam familiar with the game and can play it.The Waratah incident is one to be deplored,but if, as it is feared, she has found a resting-place at the bottom of the deep, my contention is (and always was) that she struck a derelict wreck - the sailor's greatest foe - and went straight under, the current running down the African coast carrying the wreckage out of the usual liners' course. She may, of course, have had an accident with her boilers, but this theory is not readily accepted by seafaring men.
- I am,
SHELLBACK.
For every negative commentary there was a positive one. Interesting to have two so closely linked in the press.

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