Wednesday, 25 November 2015


Sarah Jane Ebsworth.

Wife of John Ebsworth, who was a passenger on the "Waratah." who had been at sea 8 years, and held a second mate's certificate.

In a letter to his wife Mr. Ebsworth said, "She is a fine sea boat." In the letter was enclosed a diary from which the following are extracts:

10/7/09. The ship pitched a little as, although there was no sea, there was a heavy swell.

11/7/09, 2 p.m. We are now off Cape Leeuwin, and are experiencing thick weather with rain and strong winds, but the ship is very steady. 

Mr. Ebsworth gave an account which was not influenced by the circumstances surrounding the loss of the Waratah. His final words; 'the ship is very steady', even in rough weather. Captain Ilbery had most certainly mastered the idiosyncrasies of his flagship. 

Frederick Tickell

Commander of Commonwealth Naval Forces of Victoria.

My son, George Hubert Alan Tickell, was a passenger on board the s.s. "Waratah" from Melbourne to London on her last voyage.

I saw the vessel leave the pier at Port Melbourne on the 1st July, 1909. I was on the pier as she left, and watched her nearly down to the lightship, a distance of over 1 mile.

During all the time I saw her, she was perfectly upright, and had no sign of a list.

I left next day by train for Adelaide to spend the last few days with my son, before he left for England by the "Waratah."

We both left Port Adelaide on the 6th July. I joined the s.s. "Pilbarra," bound for Fremantle, and my son joined the "Waratah," which was proceeding down the river to finish her loading at Largs Bay.

The "Waratah" was at the Wharf at Port Adelaide when the "Pilbarra" passed her. As soon as the "Pilbarra" passed, the "Waratah" hauled out into the stream and followed the "Pilbarra" down, at no time being at a greater distance than a half to a quarter of a mile astern.

The "Waratah" had a steam tug to assist her in getting round the bends. This tug was sometimes broad on the bow, and sometimes ahead of the "Waratah."

I watched the "Waratah" down the river to Largs Bay, with a critical or rather a professional eye. At no time did she give me the impression of a tender ship. She remained perfectly upright even when going round the bends at a time when the rudder was over, and the tug broad on the bow.

It has been said that the weather and conditions were fine during the time Commander Tickell observed Waratah from the vantage point of a vessel tracking the Waratah's course. Commander Tickell was without a doubt an expert of the time and careful to mention that he observed the Waratah 'with a critical or rather a professional eye'. He sent out an unambiguous message that although his only son had perished on the Waratah, his observations were to be taken seriously. He was satisfied with the Waratah in modified condition (much improved GM), and to be honest, he was one of the pivotal EXPERTS, of the time. Who can argue against this??? 

W. Fisher

Manager South Australia Stevedoring Company.

I was not alongside the Port Adelaide Wharf when she sailed, but was at the Outer Harbour attending to the stowage as at Port Adelaide, and left her within about an hour of her sailing. I remained there until all cargo was on board and stowed. The ship was perfectly upright, and as far as I knew in a thoroughly seaworthy condition and fit for the voyage. I knew of absolutely no defect in the ship or her stowage.

I have never seen the "Waratah" empty. Have often had experience with crank or tender ships, but have never found the "Waratah" a tender ship, on the contrary I always considered her a stiff ship.

I have known Captain Ilbery perhaps 30 years, and considered him a most capable ship master and one who took more interest in his ship and cargo than any master I ever knew. He was most particular in every respect.

I am sure that he was as satisfied as I was in regard to the stowage of the ship.

It is a very common thing with stevedores to hear remarks about peculiarities or defects in ships, but although I have been so intimate with the captain and officers of the "Waratah," I have never heard a whisper of anything of the kind in regard to that vessel, and I had not the faintest suspicion of anything. If there had been anything peculiar or out of the ordinary in regard to the ship's behaviour at sea, I am satisfied I would have heard something about it, but I never did.

Mr. Fisher may have been erring on the side of 'over-compensation', but there is no doubt in our minds there has been a significant shift for the better in witness accounts, both lay and expert. Something of great significance had happened for the final, return voyage. The Waratah, through judicious loading and ballasting had become the flagship she ought to have been from the very start. And no, the boat deck had not been lopped off to achieve this impressive goal.

But there is still the question of reduced buoyancy, the price to be paid.

SS Marama, with her prominent upper decks.

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