Friday, 27 November 2015


John Rainnie 

Port Captain, Port Natal 

So far as I could see when that ship left Durban, I do not think it was top-heavy. She was not at all "tender." I observed that when the ship was leaving the wharf she had no list whatever, and when our tug commenced to pull upon it, it seemed to have no effect in the way of creating a list. We often see, if when we take hold of a tender ship with one of our heavy tugs, that she at once lists to the pull. But there was nothing of that in the case of the "Waratah." 

I have not the slightest doubt that when the vessel left the Port of Durban she was far "stiffer" than when she arrived at this port two days before. 

Mr. Rainnie described the Waratah departing Durban for the last time. There is no fraction of a doubt, that this eloquent expert opinion, described a very adequately stable Waratah.

Alexander Smith Duthie. 

Master of Government tug "Richard King" at Durban. 

We towed the "Waratah" round from "C" shed. She did not lean towards us at all. Hawsers were put right on her port quarter. We accompanied her outside the bar. She was upright at the wharf, and when we started towing her round as nearly upright as possible. Had she been tender she would probably have leaned towards us. She did not do so.

Another favourable, and to the point, statement by an expert. 

William Robert Wright. 

Manager, Cotts & Company, Durban who supplied coal to the "Waratah." 

She was late in sailing owing to a list, which was perhaps caused by too much coal on one side in the bunker. The captain insisted on Messrs. Nicoll & Company taking the list out and declined to go until that was done. She went out perfectly upright.

For a moment I thought we might have a negative comment, but no, so far there is unanimous opinion, that the Waratah was upright. 

Victor Lindsey Nicoll. 

Manager, Nicoll & Company, who supplied coal to the "Waratah." 

To same effect as Wright (above) 

I saw an instrument in the chief officer's cabin which indicated that the ship was perfectly upright. 

It's hard to believe that there could possibly exist nay-sayers doubting the GM stability of the Waratah by this late stage.

William George Miller. 

Leading mooring attendant, Durban. 

The ship looked in beautiful trim when she left the harbour. There was nothing in her appearance to indicate she was top-heavy.

We're going for a clean sweep! 

Hugh Lindsey 

Government pilot Port of Natal. 

Took "Waratah" out of port. 

The vessel did not appear to be at all tender. When we left the wharf I put the tug on her aft with a long hauling wire. I have noticed in some ships when they are tender they lie over to it whichever way the tug pulls them, but the "Waratah" just pulled off steadily.

Another expert, confirming the true facts of the Waratah's last moments before steaming into eternity. 

Frank Hayward Benson. 

Employed by Cotts & Co., who supplied coal to "Waratah." 

Passenger, Sydney to Durban. 

Leaving Adelaide we crossed the Australian Bight, and in that place we had bad cross seas, and in those cross seas the "Waratah" acted splendidly and was very steady; she rolled very little, but I noticed that she was slightly slow in recovering when pitching.

It almost a relief to read the somewhat repetitive comment 'slightly slow in recovering'. Otherwise this has been a singularly informative exercise, predominated by experts, who convinced the Court that the Waratah's tenderness issues had been resolved by the time she departed Durban, 26 July, 1909, and this confirmed, as we shall come to by the estimation that her GM was a very satisfactory 1.5 ft

The only thing that could fly in the face of such overwhelming expert opinion, is a conspiracy theory, which I believe ventures into the realm of paranoia and seeking confirmation of the visually top heavy Waratah in terms of GM. I hope by this stage that it is clear that the Waratah was either tender or stable depending on crucial loading and ballasting factors. The visual impression was consistent, but the GM fluctuated.

Captain Ilbery had mastered his flagship, and the sequence of events which were to follow, did NOT hinge on top heaviness.

But, of course, no one breathed a word about heaviness and buoyancy....

Port Natal, 1909

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