Tuesday, 17 November 2015


History of the Ship during interval between her two Voyages. 

The "Waratah" arrived in the Thames from her maiden voyage on Sunday the 7th March, 1909. 

No special report, so Mr. F. W. Lund assured the Court, was made by Capt. Ilbery as to the ship's behaviour on her maiden voyage. None, he said, was looked for. Captain Ilbery remarked in conversation that she was a comfortable ship, satisfactory in every way, easy in a heavy seaway, but in a light condition not so stiff as the "Geelong." Mr. Lund produced to the Court what he said were all the letters written home by Captain Ilbery. In no one of them is the ship's behaviour at sea touched upon. Trivial matters such as a cow or a little dog being on board are mentioned, emigrants' complaints as to food and attendance are dwelt on at length, but nowhere in the correspondence is the behaviour of his fine new ship mentioned. In view of the fact that the "Waratah" was a new departure for this line, and that her specification was being used as the basis of the specification of another new ship, the Court is quite unable to understand how silence could have been preserved on such an important and interesting subject as her stability and behaviour at sea. It is contrary to the whole practice of shipowners and shipmasters to treat such a matter with the indifference with which Mr. Lund represented to the Court that he and Captain Ilbery treated it; and from this fact alone the Court is almost compelled to draw an inference unfavourable to the owners as regards their knowledge of the ship's behaviour on her maiden voyage, an inference which is greatly strengthened by the correspondence which passed between them and the builders after the vessel was first loaded in London, and also after she returned from her first voyage. The fact that after the first loading Messrs. Lund found it necessary to send details thereof to Messrs. Barclay, Curle, asking for an interview at the earliest possible moment to discuss the matter for their guidance in the future stowage of the vessel indicates that some difficulty must have been met with in the initial lading. It will be noted that Condition "A" shows Messrs. Barclay, Curle & Co. considered some modification of the stowage in the direction of lowering weight was advisable.

Mr. Lund had his back against the wall. He was not likely to have presented letters written home by Captain Ilbery, referring to the initial stability issues relating to the loading plan and ballast of the new ship. In fact, I believe, such letters were disposed of, in order to create an impression of an 'incompetent' master, who could never defend himself and took a questionable reputation with to his grave on the Waratah. Appalling! After all during December of 1908, when Waratah was in Australian waters, it came to the builders attention that adjustments of stowage and ballast needed to be made - HOW????

The Waratah was a comfortable ship in relatively light condition, but certainly not 'satisfactory in every way'. The Court had no evidence or business including Captain Ilbery's good name in; 'It is contrary to the whole practice of shipowners and shipmasters to treat such a matter with the indifference with which Mr. Lund represented to the Court that he and Captain Ilbery treated it'.

It is interesting to note that the builders recommendations after the maiden voyage included reducing overall weight, over and above ballast water and reducing cubic feet to the ton higher up in the hull. This is central to the issue of how much cargo Waratah carried on her last voyage. The under estimate of 6 250 tons was in effect a positive response to the builder's recommendation. If the true figure of 9 000 tons had been presented to the Court there might have been a draconian response to not following the advice of the builders. Talk about being caught between a rock and hard place. The Waratah needed to convey upwards of 10 000 tons - that was the whole point of her existence. But this could not happen in practice unless concentrates were added to the mix and buoyancy sacrificed. No wonder the value of the cargo was never mentioned in the Inquiry transcript.


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