Thursday, 26 November 2015


Arthur James Fisher.

Assistant to father (as above).

When loading was completed and the ship ready for sea, she was, in my opinion, a thoroughly well loaded ship, not overloaded, and fit for any voyage.

This is dynamite in one sentence. It has been said, ad nauseam, that the Waratah could never have been allowed to depart any port in an overloaded condition; this despite articles from the period (see previous posts) describing overloaded vessels coming to grief at sea. My comment is a simple one, if ships were not allowed to depart ports under any circumstances relating to overloading, why did Mr. Fisher junior feel obliged to mention that which could never have been allowed in the first place???? No one in Court, by this time, had raised the issue of overloading, only tenderness over and over. Why did 'junior' feel obliged to mention an issue that was 'not on the table'? I have and will continue to persist with the opinion that Waratah needed to be functionally overloaded for stability - after all a load line is just a line - it is not the truth of the flawed steamer. Most steamers of this size and era had maximum draughts less than 28 ft.., including Waratah's sister ship Geelong.

She was perfectly upright when she left Port Adelaide Wharf, and so she was when I left her at the Outer Harbour. The captain was the strictest man I ever knew for keeping his ship upright.

If this statement is true, Captain Ilbery's frustration during the first three voyages must have been unparalleled. 

I was very intimate with the officers, but never heard a word as to any peculiarity in the vessel or her behaviour at sea. If there had been anything I think I would have heard something. I have found it not uncommon to hear remarks about a ship, but never heard anything as to the "Waratah," that is, nothing detrimental. I remember reading reports as to a passenger who left at Durban being interviewed by a newspaper representative, and was surprised at the remarks he made, as I never heard a whisper from anyone on board of anything of the kind. 

I quite agree, Sawyer was proven to be exaggerating. By this time, I don't believe there was anything negative for the officers to say compared with what had gone before.

We have loaded the "Waratah" before, but I have never seen her empty; she would not be empty at Port Adelaide. I never saw any sign that the ship was tender and never heard a word from the captain or officers that she was. If a ship is tender we are usually informed, so as to be specially careful to properly adjust the heavy cargo, but there was no such suggestion in the case of the "Waratah." 

'Junior' was on a roll, and need not have gone quite this far, but the point is taken, when the Waratah was last in Port Adelaide, she had an acceptable GM.

John McDiarmid.

Licensed Pilot

Holds a master's certificate, and has had 30 years' experience at sea.

I was pilot to the "Waratah" inwards and outwards on her last voyage. Inwards. took charge of her 2 miles to the southward of the Port Adelaide Lighthouse and berthed her at the Ocean Steamers Wharf, Port Adelaide. She had the assistance of a tug which was placed right ahead all the way to assist at the bends in the river. Her draught, as recorded by me after berthing, was 25 feet 8 inches forward and 26 feet 4 inches aft. Pilotage is paid for on tonnage and not on draught. We steamed in slowly. Had no difficulty in steering the ship or otherwise.

This statement, by an expert, is interesting in that although the Waratah's draught was significantly reduced compared to that when she departed Durban, she was not difficult to handle, however....

She had a slight list to port when I boarded her, but it was very little. No remarks were made about it or anything else, except the business we had in hand. She was not down to her marks or anywhere near it when I boarded her. When going round the bends she had a tendency to list when the tug got a strain broad on the bows, caused by the action of the helm and tug combined. I would not expect this in a ship that was nearly loaded as this one was. It might be ascribed to several reasons, the principal one being that Port Adelaide being the last port and taking the heaviest cargo (flour, grain, &.),space would be left to take that cargo as low as possible. Another reason might be the starting of pumping out water prior to taking in that cargo, and a third reason might be that she was naturally a somewhat tender ship. I had had charge of the vessel before and remarked this later to the captain on the previous voyage. Do not remember what he said, but am under the impression that he agreed with me. What caused the remark was, when negotiating the turn in the cutting at Snapper Point coming up the river she rolled from side to side without any apparent cause. I knew of none.

Mr. McDiarmid gave a highly plausible explanation for the Waratah's tendency to list in this condition; she had yet to take on the heaviest cargo, and had started to pump out water, reducing GM considerably. The Waratah was 'naturally' a tender ship, if there is such an expression, but could be rendered more than adequately stable in GM terms, once Captain Ilbery had mastered the coal issue, cargo loading and ballast, including the lead concentrates.

I boarded the vessel again as pilot to take her out of the port down to the outer harbour on the afternoon of 6th July, 1909. Had the tug "Wato" in attendance to help us off the wharf down the river and alongside the Outer Harbour Wharf. I turned the vessel on her inward trip so that she was heading down stream ready for departure. When starting the tug plucked her off from the bows to get away from the wharf and then went ahead. The ship was heavy in working and slow to answer the helm, but she had no sign of tenderness, neither did she on the way down the river or in going alongside the Outer Harbour Wharf. The heaviness mentioned I attributed to her heavy draught going down the Port Adelaide River, which was 27 feet 9 inches on an even keel. I put her as close as I could to the wharf and the tug then left the bow and went amidships on the starboard side and pushed her into the wharf. I left the vessel when she was made fast to the wharf. The next afternoon I returned to take her to sea. She was then drawing 28 feet 3 inches forward and 29 feet 5 inches aft. The same tug was again in attendance and plucked her off the wharf at the stern, the ship heaving off to her cable to get her bow off. She was not then down to her marks. She was quite upright and stiff, and proceeded to sea as far as the Semaphore Anchorage without any difficulty or any sign that the ship was tender or that anything was wanting to make her a seaworthy vessel fit for the voyage. I knew the master and officers only when on board the ship, and have not heard from anybody on board since I left her. I always looked upon her as a tender ship, but not to such an extent as to make her unseaworthy. Apart from my remarks to the captain about the ship rolling I never referred to the matter again, either to him or to the officers, and they never made any remarks to me as to that or the vessel's behaviour at sea. The circumstances being peculiar, i.e., the rolling, I mentioned it to some of the other pilots at the time, and they thought as I did. 

The first important point made was 'the ship was heavy in working and slow to answer the helm, but no sign of tenderness'. By this time, Mr. McDiarmid was describing a very heavy vessel, but with improved GM. This observation was confirmed by the draught increase. The draught had further increased by the following day, when Mr. McDiarmid took the Waratah out of the outer harbour. By this time she was 'QUITE UPRIGHT AND STIFF'. Although there were concerns about the Waratah in her 'natural' state, Mr. McDiarmid, had no choice but to describe a stable Waratah when she departed Adelaide. 

It is a well-known fact that steamers loading on the Australian coast, especially in the wool season, are compelled, in order to complete their voyage with safety and stability, to keep their water ballast tanks full all the way home. This, especially if a ship is inclined to be tender, renders it all the more necessary for care in loading at the ports previous to arrival at Port Adelaide in order to leave room to put the heavy cargo of this port as low down as possible. I do not know whether that was done in this case, in fact I know nothing about the loading of the "Waratah." 

Mr. McDiarmid had made his points, confirmed his expertise, and did not venture to guess what the 'secret' combination of cargo stowage, coal distribution, and ballasting, Captain Ilbery was finally using to create a stable liner. He made the very important remark that most steamers would have had all their ballast tanks full. But Waratah was different, she was already too heavy with reduced freeboard and buoyancy. She needed air in ballast tanks and the missing link was filled very capably by 1300 tons of lead concentrates.

Port Adelaide, 1909

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