Thursday, 26 November 2015


Jason. H. Gibbon 

Lloyd's Surveyor, Adelaide. 

I had no conversation with the master of the steamer about the ship as I never had any doubt in regard to her. 1 never saw her empty. Every time she came here she was from a half to two-thirds full of cargo. I have visited the "Waratah" ever since she first came to this port, and have watched both loading and discharging. I have never observed anything in regard to her to cause me any uneasiness. 

Since she has been reported as missing I have heard, mostly in conversation with engineers in other lines of steamers, who either knew the "Waratah" or engineers who had served on her, that she was a crank ship when light in Sydney, but I have no personal knowledge of that. I have never heard anything said against the "Waratah" by the master or officers employed on her. They would not be likely to talk if they knew anything.

The Lloyd's Surveyor was satisfied with the Waratah, but there again his job was on the line if he commented otherwise. Yes, 'the master or officers employed on her would not be likely to talk if they knew anything'. However, this being said, Lloyd's had a highly prestigious reputation and representing the Board of Trade, would not be in the business of turning a blind eye regarding a patently unseaworthy vessel. But there again Mr William Lund was 

...a member of the Board of Lloyd's Register and chairman of the classification committee. 

No wonder Waratah was quoted to be: 

She was to be built to Lloyd's Rules (1907-1908) for the 100 A1 spar-deck class with freeboard. The minimum freeboard when fully loaded to 30 feet 4 1/2 inches mean draught was 8 feet 1 inch. She was a larger ship than was contemplated by those rules, and her scantlings were practically the same as those for the three-deck class. 

A quagmire of intrigue and influence.

Chas. Augustus Johnson. 

Wharf Manager, Outer Harbour, Port Adelaide. In employ of State Government. 

I have known Captain Ilbery for many years, and I heard him say what a splendid ship she was. 

I was in conversation with several of the officers on both her trips, and I never heard a word about her being tender or unseaworthy or in any other way objectionable. 

The chief engineer is an intimate friend of mine, and he said it was the best job he had ever been in. He visited my house, having known him when he was third, second, and chief engineer, and I think had there been anything unusual or extraordinary about the vessel or her behaviour at sea, I should have heard something about it in a private way, but I did not. There was never any suggestion about his leaving the ship. 

Favourable comments were coming thick and fast at this point, experts having their important say. 

Alexander Inglis 

Harbour Master, Port Adelaide. 

The ship had no list when I saw her, except when touching the ground. I have heard since the accident, never before, that she was tender but have never seen anything to indicate it here, and have never heard anything on board to that effect. 

I have known Captain Ilbery for many years and was intimate with him. I know that he was proud of his ship, and never heard from him, or anyone on board, anything to complain of in regard to her stability or behaviour at sea.


Andrew Phillip Field. 

Superintendent, South Australian Stevedoring Company. 

I was very intimate with the chief officer. He never expressed any opinion or made any remark respecting any tenderness or unseaworthiness of the ship or as to anything out of the ordinary in her behaviour at sea. If there had been anything 1 think he would have mentioned it privately. 

I never heard from the captain, officers, crew, or passengers a single word that might have any bearing on any unseaworthiness of the ship. 

The Waratah WAS NOT unseaworthy.

John McArthur 

Foreman Stevedore, Adelaide. 

I have had about twenty-eight years' experience loading ships every day in the week, and I am satisfied that the "Waratah" was a well-stowed ship, not overloaded and in a thoroughly fit condition for the voyage. She touched the ground alongside the Port Adelaide Wharf at low water, which is a daily occurrence with other ships and at other wharves when they are deeply loaded, but as far as I ever knew it does them no harm. I believe it is a soft bottom. Apart from this she was perfectly upright. The captain was always very particular about this. 

Another witness, Mr. McArthur mentioned, 'not overloaded'. This issue was not on the table and did not require specific mention, unless in terms of overcompensation.... Captain Ilbery was very unhappy about the deeply loaded Waratah touching the bottom, which seems strange if it was a daily occurrence with other deeply loaded vessels. Why?? In my opinion, the concern hinged on the words, deeply loaded, and the simple fact that the Waratah could ill afford unnecessary additional forces exerted to her strained hull. If not, and if it were a daily occurrence involving a number of vessels, why should he have reacted in this way??

I do not think she was a tender ship; saw nothing to make me believe she was. I was very intimate with the officers, but never heard on board that she was a tender ship. I always heard she was a splendid sea boat. I never heard anything of her acting badly at sea, such as Mr. Claude G. Sawyer is said to have described. If she had been a ship like that I think I would have heard something about it. 

I was on the wharf when she started. She was perfectly upright then, and I know of no defect either in the ship or the stowage, and considered her perfectly seaworthy.

Important reference to being 'perfectly upright', when she departed port for the last time.

William. Arthur Wills 


My tug attended the "Waratah" to help her off the Ocean Steamers Wharf, Port Adelaide, and down the river to the Outer Harbour Wharf on her last voyage to the Cape and London. The vessel was upright, in good trim (not too much by the stern or by the head), and in good handling trim for going down the river. She was in the deep water, but I did not know the draught. There was no difficulty in removing from the wharf, towing down the river, or getting alongside the Outer Harbour Wharf. The tug also attended the steamer next day to help her away from the Outer Harbour, where she finally started on her voyage. She hauled off her bow with her own anchor, and the tug pulled her stern off. We simply pulled her off the wharf, and then she went out of the channel to sea by her own power. She was upright then and drawing over 28 feet. She had no list and appeared to be in good sea-going trim. She showed no tenderness when we pulled her broad off from the Outer Harbour Wharf, neither did she the previous day when leaving the Ocean Steamers Wharf, Port Adelaide, and going down the river. There was nothing whatever that appeared to me, as a master mariner, to in any way suggest unseaworthiness. 

A sweeping expert account, describing the Waratah in fine, stable condition, and quote, unquote, by a master mariner, 'there was nothing whatever that appeared to me, to in any way suggest unseaworthiness'!! Where were all the nay-sayers by this stage???

The majority of the nay-sayers were referring to Waratah's first three voyages, when there were definitely GM issues. 

Steam tug from the period.

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