The "Waratah" was delivered by the builders to the owners on the 23rd October, 1908. Captain Ilbery brought her round from the Clyde to London. Before she left she was swung and her compasses adjusted by Mr. A. W. Baird, of Messrs. Kelvin & James White, Limited, of Glasgow. They certified that the compasses were in perfect order, and they gave tables of deviation to the master.
Mr. F. W. Lund was on board during this trip. He said that so far as he could recollect the water ballast tanks were full, and that about 3,000 tons of coal were on board. Mr. Shanks, the superintending engineer, who also made the trip, said she had 2,900 tons of coal on board, some in those permanent bunkers situated below the spar deck and the rest stowed partly in the spar deck bunker and partly in No. 3 hold, with some in the 'tween decks. He afterwards corrected this by saying there was no coal in the spar deck bunker, as the builders stopped it being placed there, considering it unsafe that it should be so placed in this special condition for the voyage round to London. The weather was fairly good until the ship got to the English Channel, but it blew very hard when she was off Dungeness. There the ship was delayed an hour and a half waiting for a pilot. Mr. Lund said that she behaved very well indeed, and that when manoeuvring off Dungeness in that gale of wind the remark of those on the bridge was how easy she was to handle. She rolled very little and had only a very slight list when broadside on to the gale. Mr. Shanks corroborated Mr. Lund as to the good behaviour of the ship, and said that nothing occurred which could have given rise to the statement attributed to Mr. Hemy (the third officer) by Mr. John Latimer, who made a deposition at Sydney, that "we got caught in some heavy weather in the Channel coming round from the builder's yard to London and she gave me a scare, because I thought she was going over on her broadside."
I think it is important to explore the statement; 'as the builders stopped it (coal) being placed there (spar deck bunkers), considering it unsafe that it should be so placed in this special condition for the voyage round to London.' This is a clear acknowledgement by the builders that there were reservations about Waratah's GM, particularly when she did not carry sufficient cargo, to offset the shift upwards of centre of gravity caused by coal on the spar deck. However, the spar deck bunkers were included on the plans as such, implying that they were supposed to be used as such but under certain conditions, namely when the Waratah was fully loaded, coaled and ballasted. The statement does remind us that coal on the spar deck had a significant impact on the GM of the Waratah and was the source of controversy when Waratah departed Durban for the last time.
Mr. Shanks and Mr. Lund were biased witnesses when it came to reporting how the Waratah handled, both being stake holders in the Blue Anchor Line. However, hearsay regarding what Mr. Hemy said (sadly lost his life), had no bearing in a court of law, but under such circumstances might very well have been true.
There is no doubt in my mind that at this early juncture it had become obvious that Waratah would require very careful cargo stowage and ballasting. The fact that she departed London on her maiden voyage without stability curves smacks of the highest level of risk taking - it's not as though they were not warned. Cramming 689 emigrants on board was almost the cherry on top. Can you imagine the outcry if Waratah had gone down during this maiden voyage??
|note Mr Hemy's signature top right hand corner.|