Tuesday, 17 November 2015


One other small incident should be dealt with at this point. A witness named Trott (a cook) said, that going into Adelaide, the ship ran on to Kangaroo Island, and was not got off for six hours; and his evidence received some vague corroboration from one of the Sydney deponents (a steward named Shore). The Court has carefully examined the logbooks, and is quite satisfied the ship did not take the ground. She did stop for several hours on the early morning of December the 15th, 1908. She took a pilot aboard and anchored; and the anchor fouled. It was no doubt this small incident which led to the exaggerated report of the running ashore.

This passage is intriguing to say the least. It seems strange that both Trott and Shore confused fouling of the anchor with being grounded for 6 hours. Even if Trott and Shore were misled by the anchor problem, it is peculiar that the misconception was not corrected by other crew. 6 hours is a significant period of time, during which it would have been very obvious to the observers that the Waratah was either 'on' or 'off' Kangaroo Island. Having said this, the following extract from the Merchant Shipping Act makes it clear that the logbook was an official, legal document. 

Official Logs.

Official logs to be kept and to be evidence.

239.(1) An official log shall be kept in every ship (except ships employed exclusively in trading between ports on the coasts of Scotland) in the appropriate form for that ship approved by the Board of Trade.
(2) The Board of Trade shall approve forms of official log-books, which may be different for different classes of ships, so that each such form shall contain proper spaces for the entries required by this Act.
(3) The official log may, at the discretion of the master or owner, be kept distinct from, or united with, the ordinary ship’s log, so that in all cases the spaces in the official log-book be duly filled up.
(4) An entry required by this Act in an official log-book shall be made as soon as possible after the occurrence to which it relates, and if not made on the same day as that occurrence shall be made and dated so as to show the date of the occurrence and of the entry respecting it; and if made in respect of an occurrence happening before the arrival of the ship at her final port of discharge shall not be made more than twenty-four hours after that arrival.
(5) Every entry in the official log-book shall be signed by the master, and by the mate, or some other of the crew, and also

(6) Every entry made in an official log-book in manner provided by this Act shall be admissible in evidence.

Entries required in official log-book.

240. The master of a ship for which an official log is required shall enter or cause to be entered in the official log-book the following matters (that is to say,)

(11) Every collision with, any other ship, and the circumstances under which the same occurred

Offences in respect of official logs.

241.(1) If an official log-book is not kept in the manner required by this Act, or if an entry directed by this Act to be made therein is not made at the time and in the manner directed by this Act, the master shall for each offence be liable to the specific fine in this Act mentioned in respect thereof, or where there is no such specific fine, to a fine not exceeding five pounds.

(3) If any person wilfully destroys or mutilates or renders illegible any entry in an official log-book, or wilfully makes or procures to be made or assists in making a false or fraudulent entry in or omission from an official log-book, he shall in respect of each offence be guilty of a misdemeanor.

The M.S.A. of 1894 reveals significant points relating to the official logbook of the Waratah. It is almost laughable that the master of a vessel would be fined five pounds (not exceeding this) as above, 241. (1). This could hardly be considered a deterrent and one imagines, created a loophole for indiscretions relating to entries made in the logbook. I am not suggesting that the officers of the Waratah intentionally omitted important information regarding the Waratah, but the possibility does exist. Further to this, there is no section in this act referring specifically to vessels running aground. Collisions with other vessels had to be entered into the logbook, but running aground on Kangaroo Island did not necessarily have to be documented in the official logbook. The Waratah may very well have run aground for 6 hours and the Court could not have expected to depend on the logbook to verify this incident. If the Waratah did indeed run aground for 6 hours, being a significantly heavy vessel, hull plate damage, whether patent or latent, may have been the direct result. We know that the Waratah was inspected in dry-dock on her return to London after the maiden voyage. Surely damage would have been detected at this point? I shall return to this important point at a later juncture.  

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