Friday, 13 November 2015


SS Mokoia

Robert Girling 


Been master of foreign going ships. 

I piloted the ship from Adelaide to Melbourne 

I thought she was a beautiful ship to handle, but drawing about 26 feet aft and about 21 feet 6 inches forward, she was very tender indeed. There was a strong south-west wind at the time. I did not mention it to the captain or officers, but I did to two other pilots. I thought it was on account of her being light and a strong breeze on the broadside when going round the bend of the river at Snapper Point. She had, of course, discharged her Adelaide cargo by this time. It was only at that place that I noticed her being rather tender. As she came head to wind, she righted and kept so . . . . . I never heard anyone on board express an opinion as to the sea-going qualities of the ship. 

The first of the expert accounts. Mr. Girling makes the important point that the Waratah was light, due to having discharged cargo. The interesting thing is, Captain Ilbery did not fill ballast tanks to compensate. As we know, filling ballast tanks 5 and 8 would have made all the difference. It suggests, even though the Waratah was significantly tender at this point, it was still not to a degree to be of concern and as Mr. Girling stated, 'I thought she was a beautiful ship to handle'. The Waratah, in this condition, was likely to have displayed top heaviness going round Schnapper - sorry, Snapper Point.

A. 21. 

Samuel Trott 

Cook on "Waratah." 

Been at sea for four years previously (in the ships of the British India Company). 

There was nothing about the ship to frighten me. I left the ship because she was laid up, but allowed my son (a pantry boy) to make the second voyage. 

Mr. Trott made a very important statement. He did not believe the Waratah was fundamentally unstable, even though his son perished in her. If there was anyone with a potential grudge against the ship, it should have been this, brave man.

Edward Joseph Collins. 


Passenger London to Sydney. 

Had been passenger on other large steamers. 

I was never on a better sea-boat, and I have been on the "Kensington" of the Dominion Line, "Caronia" of the Cunard Line, "Arawa" of Shaw, Savill. & Albion Line, also the "Mokoia" of the New Zealand Line, and different other vessels, and I found the "Waratah" a better sea boat than any of them. 

Clearly Mr. Collins was in no way concerned about the Waratah in relatively tender condition, reinforcing that her behaviour at sea gave no cause for alarm. On the contrary Mr. Collins considered the Waratah a fine steamer. If you take a look at the images of the vessels quoted, it becomes apparent that these were all steamers of considerable dimensions, and perhaps Mr. Collins was giving important information in terms of the relative tenderness of this class of large, passenger steamers.

Wm. Fraser, Chapman. 

Senior third engineer on "Waratah." 

Left on account of wife's health. 

Afterwards joined the "Commonwealth," another Blue Anchor ship. 

The behaviour of the "Waratah" at sea in ordinary weather was just usual, nothing to call for remark. We had no "first class" gale, but in running the "Easting" down, the vessel did not roll or pitch more than usual. 

Again, positive commentary. However, Mr. Chapman did join another Blue Anchor Line vessel, and his statement might have been influenced by bias to some degree.

Alexander Reader 

A.B. on "Waratah" 

Seventeen years' experience at sea. 

I found her a good sea boat while I was in her. 

With my experience I noticed nothing, and was not at all alarmed at anything she had done in the way or pitching, listing, rolling, or anything of that sort.

A fine recommendation to end off the witness accounts from the maiden voyage, outbound. Mr. Reader had very considerable experience on ships over a period of 17 years. My overall impression of the witness accounts is that although some were concerned about the Waratah's rolling pattern due to relative tenderness, there were no reports of anyone fearing for their lives on the passage out from London to Australia. The Waratah made good time, despite a fire on board lasting 4 days, and arrived safe and sound at her final port, three days ahead of schedule.

SS Kensington

Caronia - note her considerable dimensions.


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