Monday, 14 December 2015


At the conclusion of the case for the Board of Trade the questions set out were put for the Court's consideration, counsel addressed the Court, which subsequently gave judgment and delivered answers to the questions. 



(1) What number of compasses had the vessel, were they in good order and sufficient for the safe navigation of the vessel, and when and by whom were they last adjusted? 

(2) When the vessel left Durban on the 26th July, 1909. 

(a) was she supplied with proper and sufficient boats and life-saving appliances, and were they in good order and ready for use? 

(b) was she adequately manned? 

(c) was the cargo properly stowed and secured from shifting, and were the weights so distributed as to make the vessel easy in a seaway? 

(d) as laden had the vessel sufficient stability and was she in proper trim for the voyage she was about to undertake? Was she in a good and seaworthy condition? 

(3) What was the cost of the vessel to her owners? What were the insurances effected upon and in connection with the ship? 

(4) Was the s.s. "Waratah" seen or spoken by any other vessel or vessels after having been spoken by the s.s. "Clan Macintyre" in or about latitude 31º 36' S., longitude 29º 58' E. on or about the 27th July, 1909? 

(5) What is the cause of the vessel not having been heard of since she was last spoken? 


(1) The vessel had three Lord Kelvin compasses; one on top of the chart-room, one on the bridge, and one in the wheelhouse aft. So far as the Court can learn they were in good order. They were sufficient for the safe navigation of the vessel. They were last adjusted on the 23rd October, 1908, by Mr. A. W. Baird, of Messrs. Kelvin & James White, Ltd., of Glasgow. 

(2) When the vessel left Durban on the 26th July, 1909. 

(a) she was supplied with proper and sufficient boats and life-saving appliances, in good order and ready for use; 

(b) she was manned considerably in excess of Board of Trade requirements, which for foreign going steamships over 5,500 tons gross or over 420 feet in length only demanded one master, two mates, and not less than ten efficient deck hands, whereas she had a master, four mates, 15 able seamen, each of whom produced satisfactory proof of his qualification to be so rated, one ordinary seaman, one carpenter's mate, two apprentices, and three petty officers, a total of 27. 

In the opinion of the Court, however, an early opportunity might be taken of reconsidering whether those requirements are sufficient in the case of large ships carrying passengers. 

There is no reason whatever to suppose that the casualty which happened to the "Waratah" was in any way due to insufficiency of crew; 


(c) upon the evidence, the Court is of opinion that the cargo was properly stowed, and the statement of the stevedores responsible for the stowage is that the cargo was properly secured. The weights were so distributed as to make the vessel easy in a seaway;

Confirmed by Port Captain and tugboat master. 

(d) on the basis of the calculations made by the expert witnesses, with the results of which the Court is in general agreement, she had sufficient stability as laden. She was in proper trim for the voyage she was about to undertake. She was in good condition as regards structure, and, so far as the evidence goes, in a seaworthy condition, but there was not sufficient evidence before the Court to show that all proper precautions, such as battening hatches, securing ports, coaling doors, &. had been taken. 

She was stable, but the Court declined to explore the degree to which she was laden, based on appalling records detailing cargo specifics and weights. It is purely speculative assuming that the Waratah 'was in good condition'. Only a psychic could establish this accurately, and Sawyer had left the ship, for good. Taking 'proper precautions' goes without saying.

(3) The cost of the ship to her owners was £139,900, the builders' contract price; extras, £390; refrigerating machinery, £7,475; plate, linen, crockery, &., £3,739; incidental and travelling expenses, wages, and supervising during building, £2,352; in round figures, £154,000. 

The insurances were:

On hull and machinery             £135,000, 

On disbursements                   £15,000. 

(4) So far as the Court as been able to ascertain, the "Waratah," after having been spoken by the "Clan Macintyre," was not seen or spoken by any other vessel. 


(5) The cause of the "Waratah" not having been heard of after being sighted by the "Clan Macintyre" on the 27th July, 1909, was her loss during the gale of the 28th July. The precise manner of her loss cannot be determined upon the evidence available.

The Waratah certainly went under the radar within those 24 hours. 

The Court has already expressed itself as inclining to the view that the vessel capsized, but the particular chain of circumstances leading up to this is a matter of mere conjecture.

A Court of Law could have come to no other conclusion. 


Concluding remarks. 

The Court, in conclusion, desires to express its regret for the loss of life which occurred, and its sympathy with the relatives and friends of those lost. It has been a peculiarly trying lot to wait from week to week and from month to month in the hope that something would be heard of missing friends, but the Court trusts that this very full Inquiry will have the effect of setting at rest the minds of those concerned. There is no reasonable doubt but that, whatever the cause of the casualty, all the passengers and company of the "Waratah" met their deaths at sea soon after she left Durban. The Court regards it as the kindest course to emphasize this view in the strongest manner. 



The Inquiry was an ordeal in itself; lengthy, confusing, painful, conflicting, and at the end of it all - NOTHING.

Board of Trade Offices, East India Dock Road, London

“Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.” 
― André Malraux

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