Friday, 6 November 2015


Clause 5 of the specification contained the following provisions: "Vessel to be able to stand and shift without any ballast, and to be designed, if possible, to go to sea with permanent coal and water ballast only." 

Considerable confusion was introduced into the discussion of this clause, and the correspondence upon it by a loose use of the phrase "in a light condition," or of the word "light." Sometimes it was used as referring to the first limb of the foregoing provision, i.e., "vessel to be able to stand and shift without any ballast," and sometimes as referring to the second condition, i.e., going "to sea with permanent coal and water ballast only." Mr. F. W. Lund unhappily introduced a further complication by using the expression as meaning "with water ballast but without coal"; and Mr. Barrie in his evidence referred to "a" light condition, which meant vessel empty, except that 300 tons of fresh water, stores, and crew were on board.

How did Mr. F. Lund intend the Waratah to go to sea without coal? Being towed? 

To avoid continual repetition, the court, throughout this report, will speak of the ship when without coal or water ballast as "in the extreme light condition," and when with permanent coal and water ballast as "light." If occasion arises to deal with other light conditions, they will be set out in detail. 

It seems that the owners desired the ship to be capable of going to sea light. But they were also desirous of having provided a space on the spar deck which could be used as a bunker, or for the provision of temporary accommodation when conveying emigrants or troops, or for any other purpose to which it might be desired to put it. As a matter of fact the space is included in all the plans as a permanent bunker, and it is to be understood that in this report it is always so included, unless the contrary is stated. Having the additional bunker space in mind, the builders were of opinion that they could not guarantee the ship should go to sea with water ballast and permanent coal only, that is if they were to fulfil all the other conditions as to deadweight capacity, dimensions, and general accommodation; and they would not accept the paragraph providing for the ship going to sea light without the insertion of the words "if possible." Correspondence which passed in August, 1907, shows that the question of sending the ship to sea light was then under discussion, and there are indications in other letters that the matter had received attention at a still earlier date. The genesis of this condition will be dealt with at a later stage of the report.

It is nothing short of bizarre that the Court indulged this quibbling regarding the Waratah, in 'light' condition. The Waratah departed Durban on her final voyage in only one condition: fully loaded and coaled. Whether the Waratah had a tendency to be unstable in 'light' condition had nothing to do with her stability status when fully loaded. Steamers of the era were a number of ships in one, depending on factors such as cargo component / stowage plan; coal component and ballasting. Stability varied on a sliding scale dependent on these factors.

Koombana, Port Hedland. Now THIS was a top heavy vessel, with reduced draught to clear sandbars at the entrances of many West Australian ports. Without her 900 tons of ballast water, she was unstable, which had bearing on her disappearance in a cyclone, 1912.


Johan Björklund said...

The Waratah had been reported to be - in general - a below average stable ship. When properly loaded, yes, she was likely pretty stable. But still, the ship was built upon a platform of another ship that had one deck less. And if you take a step back and look at her - she does look like she has one deck too much - compared to Geelong or other ships of the time.

Concidering this, along with the current and opposing winds, it is all but too likely that the Waratah foundred due to a rough (or semi-rough) wave thay hit a ship with a very marginal stability.

andrew van rensburg said...

Hi Johan. I take your point, and if the Harlow account was false, there is every possibility the Waratah succumbed to the storm of 28 July. My belief, which has not changed, is that the Waratah had to be very significantly and deeply loaded to maintain GM stability, and yes, this because the hull was marginally larger than the Geelong's, on which it was based. A very heavy steamer would have experienced its own set of problems in a 'storm of exceptional violence'. Andrew