Saturday, 19 December 2015


Mr. F. W. Lund, the ship owner, giving evidence to-day, at the official inquiry into the loss of the steamer Waratah, said the Waratah was not built as an experiment, and no alterations were either suggested or made during the construction of the vessel or after her maiden voyage. The builders did not adversely criticise the design. Captain Ilbery did not threaten to leave the ship if the boat deck was not removed. Not one of the-officers and crew threatened to leave, or did so.
The Waratah was in effect an experiment. She was a departure from standard cargo / passenger vessels built for the Blue Anchor Line. She had an additional superstructure deck and interchangeable deployment of the spar deck, depending on whether there were emigrants on board or not. This model had not been proven successful or effective in previous steamers deployed by the Blue Anchor Line.
I don't believe alterations were made during construction for the simple fact that the design was yet to prove itself at sea. (incorrect, alterations were made - broader beam and reduced length of top hamper). However, I disagree that alterations were not suggested after the maiden voyage. It is very possible that radical 'surgery' was contemplated, i.e. removing the boat deck.
I'm sure the builders had reservations about the new design, but accepted the tender and therefore the responsibility for drawing up legitimate plans and constructing a seaworthy ship. But they quickly ran into trouble when discovering that Waratah could not have coal on spar deck (permanent bunkers) for her run down to London in light condition. 
There might very well have been heated moments after the maiden voyage involving very real concerns presented by Captain Ilbery and his officers. Whether they threatened to leave if material changes were not made to the Waratah, remains in the realm of conjecture. As it was, solutions apart from alteration of the physical structure of the Waratah, were sought and found. 
On her last trip, the Waratah was not pressed to make an unusually fast voyage. Captain Ilbery reported that the Waratah, in light condition, was not as stable as the Geelong. Captain Ilbery never convinced him that the Waratah was lacking in stability, but witness said so in his letter to the builders in order to press other matters concerning settlement.
It is interesting to note that the question of the Waratah's speed came up at the Inquiry. There had to be a reason for this, and I can only assume it related to the consumption of an additional 15 tons of coal per day. On both the maiden and final voyages, the Waratah made port roughly two days ahead of schedule. However, there was the question of a great deal of dead weight (to establish an improved GM) on the final voyage, which was in all probability responsible for the increased consumption.
How could the Waratah, with her additional deck, have been as stable as the Geelong in light condition ??
Stability issues subsequent to the maiden voyage were a source of great concern and I believe Mr. Lund was not being honest. If this were the case, one wonders the extent of his dishonesty on the stand ??
Waratah was an experiment.

increased coal consumption would have produced significant, dark stack smoke - which may have contributed to what Captain Bruce of the Harlow saw.

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