Mr. Thearie, chief surveyor ofLloyd's, stated that the Waratah wasthoroughly well constructed, and wasa strong ship. He would say that, wouldn't he? I cannot imagine a chief surveyor, representing Lloyd's, taking the witness stand and saying something to the effect; 'she was a rubbish ship, and we gave her our blessing, sending her to sea at great risk to all lives on board.' Herbert, a steward, said he left theWaratah because he disliked its rollingand terrific creaking. He called the chief engineer's attention to the movement of the promenade deck. The whole of the wooden structure moved bodily athwart the ship. Some of the bolt heads broke off the woodwork round the saloon door, and separated the ironwork to the extent of a couple of inches. (This does seem extreme)
We have read a great deal about the Waratah's rolling, but very little referring to structural inadequacies. My thoughts continually return to the fact that the Waratah 'shared' hull dimensions with the Geelong, but was expected to support an additional deck.
Further to this, the Waratah's Lloyd's classification, '100 A1 spar-deck class with freeboard', equated with a two deck, rather than three deck, vessel. If every component in the construction of the Waratah subscribed to the 'smaller' class i.e. thickness of plates and beams; wider spacing requiring thicker framing and plating etc.. there was good reason supporting Mr. Herbert's observations. A very important component of scantling dimensions depended on a simple equation: The length of the vessel was not to exceed eleven times the depth irrespective of vessel classification: 38.6 ft. x 11 = 423.5 ft. (not 465 ft.) The fact that the Waratah was 465 ft. in length implied that the builders/owners were obliged to submit plans for the approval of the Committee in respect of giving the vessel sufficient additional strength longitudinally; and all vessels having a length of thirteen depths and above (Waratah), to the the upper deck, were to have a bridge extending over the midship half length of the vessel. The plated bridge deck was not half length of the vessel. In addition to this, stringer plates had to be fitted to both upper and middle deck beams for three deck vessels, which was not the case in two deck vessels. In spar decked vessels the stringer plates were to be fitted to the main deck beams; and the stringer plates required for the spar deck beams were to be the breadth of, and may be, 1/20 inch less in thickness, and may be reduced at their ends 1/20 of an inch in thickness, before and aft of the half length amidships, and to the breadth given for the ends of the main deck stringer plate. I have no proof that there were deficiencies in the Waratah's construction as suggested above, but we have Mr. Herbert's important witness account, which to a large extent supports the supposition that the Waratah's scantlings were inadequate for her dimensions. The Inquiry transcript quotes that the 'scantlings were practically the same as those for a three-deck class'. Practically is not the same as exactly. There is an implication that the scantlings were not exactly what they should have been. Captain Ilbery 'freaked out' when the Waratah took the ground at Port Adelaide, and if the above is true, there was very good reason for his reaction. The Waratah was a diversion from the standard cargo / passenger vessels built for the Blue Anchor Line. Demountable dormitories were part of the new equation. This redefining of 'tween deck and spar deck spaces required alterations in partitions (weatherboard), which contributed to the integral strength of the Waratah. If one renovates a house and knocks out walls etc. there is always a chance that the roof will cave in as a result of the loss of important supporting walls and structural integrity. One wonders if a similar problem accompanied the new idea for altering spaces within the hull of the flagship? My thoughts continually return to the simple fact that Captain Clarke allowed the Waratah to depart on her maiden voyage with an emigrant component vastly in excess of the stipulations laid out by the Merchant Shipping Act. This suggests to me that an open door existed for transgressions - the question is this, to what extent did transgressions affect the Waratah in terms of seaworthiness?