Saturday, 30 May 2015


Daily Herald (Adelaide) Wednesday 16 March, 1910

Mr. Sawyer had, however, a rude awakening ina most curious and, for him, a luckydream was intensified by appearing to him three different times dream was intensified by an apparition appearing to him three different times during the night that he saw it, and Mr. Sawyer actually sat up in bed and sawit each time. All this happened on theWednesday before Durban was reached.During that Wednesday night there appeared to Mr. Sawyer a man standing atthe head of his cabin, with a longstraight sword in his left hand, with hisleft foot forward, holding up a ragsaturated with blood with his right hand.The sword was between Mr. Sawyer andthe rag, as if to keep him off. Therewere large drops of blood dropping fromthe rag to the floor. Next morning atbreakfast Mr. Sawyer related his experience to his next door neighbor, a ladypassenger, also to an ex-naval officer. Onarriving at Durban (Sunday, July 25) MrSawyer went to Donald Curra's offices onthe Monday morning to book a passageby the next boat. He related his dreamto Mr. Hadfield. On the followingWednesday (July 28) another extraordinary dream, out it only appeared once tohim. Mr. Sawyer relates how he sawthe Waratah in a big sea.  She partiallytook it, then pitched over t0 her starboard bow and disappeared.  Subsequently calling at the agent's office to select his berth Mr. Hadfield remarked to Mr. Sawyer that he was most fortunate.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Waratah - land search.

Chronicle (Adelaide) Saturday 6 November, 1909
Field cornets have examined the whole coast from Cape Town to Port Natal for wreckage. 

Before 1 July 1902 the Transkeian Territories were divided into the Chief Magistracies of Transkei, Tembuland, Pondoland and Griqualand East. However in terms of Proclamation No 112 of 1902 they were amalgamated and placed under one Executive Head, the Chief Magistrate of the Transkeian Territories, resident at Umtata.
Two years later the Better Administration of Justice Act (No 35 of 1904) abolished the judicial functions previously exercised by the Chief Magistrate, and on 1 July 1904 Proclamation No 180 of 1904 brought the administration of the Transkei directly under the control of the Secretary to the Department of Native Affairs. However the Chief Magistrate for the Transkeian Territories remained at Umtata, while an additional Assistant Chief Magistrate, for the Territories of Griqualand East and Eastern Pondoland, was stationed at Kokstad. In 1906 the jurisdiction of the Courts of Chief Magistrate and Assistant Chief Magistrate was restored in cases of divorce and separation.
In July 1907 the Colonial Government rationalized many of its administrative functions, and on 1 July 1908 the Department's Accounting Branch was transferred to the Treasury. The office of Assistant Chief Magistrate for the Territories of Griqualand East and Eastern Pondoland was also discontinued from the same date. 

Field cornets were deployed to search for wreckage along the Wild Coast. It is important to note that the Transkei (Wild Coast) was a territory in transition during 1909. The magisterial centres were Umtata (100km / 62 miles from Port St Johns) and Kokstad (281 km / 175 miles from Port St Johns). To further complicate matters the coastline around Port St Johns is rugged and difficult to access / comb. Under the existing system of local government it must have been very challenging deploying field cornets to make a thorough search of the coast line surrounding Port St Johns. To make matters even worse, there was a general belief that the Waratah must have foundered at a position further south, either off East London or to the southwest, suggesting that there was less emphasis on the search further northeast. I don't believe the coastal search of the Transkei was comprehensive and certainly not by present day standards.


Clarence and Richmond Examiner (NSW) Saturday 25 February, 1911
LONDON, Thursday.
On announcing the decision of the Waratahinquiry on February 23, Mr. Dickinson said the only evidence the Court had was indirect and conflicting.
(This is a significant statement. 'Indirect' reflects the sad fact that there was no physical evidence relating to the disappearance of the Waratah. However, conflicting evidence behoves the Court to cross-examine and establish where the truth lies. In my opinion, the Court failed in this regard.) 
Owing to the absence of wreckage,the Court was of opinion that theWaratah had capsized during a galeof exceptional violence. It was thefirst, great storm she had encountered.
(It was all to easy to relegate the Waratah to the storm of 28, July. Whether it was the first great storm the steamer encountered is debatable. Many vessels, including older, far less sophisticated tramp steamers, endured the storm without mishap.) 
The Court dismissed the theory that the loss of the vessel was due to an explosion in bunker coal.
(On the one hand it stands to reason, because no sounds of explosion were heard either at the Cape Hermes Lighthouse, or by the crew of the Harlow. But does this exclude without a doubt the possibility of bunker explosions - NO)
The Waratah was properly suppliedwith boats and life-saving appliances.
The crew was considerably in excessof the Board of Trade requirements,though, early opportunity might be taken to consider whether those requirements were sufficient in the case of large passenger ships.
(How can a Court come to the conclusion that there was sufficient crew, and in the same breath question the adequacy in the case of large ships. The crew was either sufficient or it was not!) 
The Court suggested that a committee be appointed to decide the minimumstability requirements of differenttypes of vessels, including stabilitycurves. 
(This beggars belief. Steamers circa 1909 crucially depended on stability (curves) requirements for seaworthiness. The fact that this was not 'legislated' and left to the discretion of builders and masters, might explain to some degree why so many mishaps at sea did occur.)
Rules for storage of cargo should be framed by builders, as a guidance to ship owners. 
Discussing Mr. Lund's assurance that CaptainIlbery made no report in regard to the maiden voyage of the Waratah, the Court was unable to understand Captain Ilbery's silence concerning the stability of' the vessel. The action was contrary to the whole practice of ship owners and ship masters to treat this matter with the indifference with which Mr. Lund and Captain Ilbery had treated it. The inference was unfavourable to owners and was greatly strengthened by the correspondence with the builders. 
(I feel quite angry on Captain Ilbery's behalf. The builders made changes to the loading plan and ballast in December of 1908 as a direct result of the problems during the maiden voyage. There was only one way that the builders could have processed this information: Captain Ilbery MUST have communicated the problems back to London and changes made before embarking on the return inbound voyage. There is something extremely unsavory about the way the Lunds presented facts and cast a shadow over the memory of JE Ilbery - who could never defend himself. Scapegoat comes to mind.) 
Apparently a difficulty arose during the initial loading of the vessel. The presumption was that the Waratah was tender when she started on her maiden voyage. The Court considered that neither Mr. Lund's account, nor that of Mr. Noel Peck, director of Messrs. Barclay and Curle builders of the Waratah, in regard to the interview on April 23, complete, and added that we can only leave the matter there.
(It is quite appalling that the Court left important matters such as this, 'there'. In my opinion they failed in their duty. The purpose of a Court is to get to the bottom of matters.)  
The Court sharply commented upon Mr. Lund's use of the word "Bluff," regarding his letters to the builders. The evidence showed that there was a difficulty in regard to the tenderness of the Waratah; which was not surmounted, on the outward and homeward voyages. 
(The issue of tenderness was dealt with before the homeward voyage. Mr. Lund got away with a lot at the hearing. Smoke, mirrors and confusing testimony pushed the Court in the direction of 'perils of the seas'.)
The Court pointed out that the tenderness in the upright position did not necessarily involve instability at the large angle of heel.
(True enough.) 
An explanation of the large amount of adverse comment on the Waratah lay in the undoubted tenderness of the vessel during her first voyage and while she was loading. When in such condition it was quite observable that lists could be produced by moderate wind pressures.
(Which of course had absolutely nothing to do with the Waratah's condition when she departed Durban, 26 July.)
The Court, regarded the contradictory statements concerning the rolling of the Waratah as fairly accurate evidence of truthful people about phenomena which they did not understand. 
(To some extent true, but in many respects, patronizing.)
The Court discredited the theory that bodies were seen from the Tottenham off the coast of South Africa about ten days after the Waratah sailed from Durban.
(They would, wouldn't they? The Court convened one and a half years after the event and frankly, I have the impression, that they wanted the whole debacle and hysteria to simply go away. What was done was done, what was lost, was lost.)

Wednesday, 27 May 2015


Barrier Miner, Thursday 2 Febraury, 1911
London, Wednesday.
At the inquiry into the loss of theWaratah yesterday, counsel for therelatives of the lost passengers andcrew stated that the evidence regarding the vessel's stability was obtainedfrom prepared data, not from actualexperience. The log showed troublewith the vessel on the first voyage.It was singular that Captain Ilberyhad not communicated the ship's behavior to the owners, who certainlyheard it from someone else.
Of course he communicated the ship's behaviour. The owners did not wish to admit this salient fact! They needed to preserve Waratah's reputation by implying that her master did not report any problems!
Feedback after the maiden outbound voyage was submitted to the builders, December 1908. 
Note the date - December 1908. Waratah was in Australian waters and feedback submitted to the builders could only have been derived from some form of report sent back to London by Captain Ilbery himself. The owners would not have acted on hearsay!
Based on this technical feedback, adjustments were recommended and implemented in terms of cargo plan and the filling of ballast tank 8. 
Practical solutions for a top heavy steamer.
It was apparent that it was desired tomake a quick trip, and that CaptainIlbery placed the coal on the spardeck trusting not to encounter astorm.
This is outrageous. No experienced captain would set out on a voyage half way round the world hoping not to encounter a storm. Further, 'it was desired to make a quick trip' implies pressure from the owners to achieve passage records and make an impression. It would be neither here nor there to Captain Ilbery to 'make a quick trip'. But in terms of advertising the flagship and Blue Anchor Line in general, speedy voyages were another matter to the owners. Captain Ilbery would also not have been in the autonomous position to decide unilaterally on coal consumption - which, naturally, would have been increased by a 'quick trip'.
Counsel for the builders stated that theevidence as to instability was largelyby depositions. The board of inquiryhad no opportunity to cross-examinethese witnesses. The vessel  was builtby a firm enjoying the confidence ofthe ship owning classes and handed tothe Waratah's owners perfectly safe,if properly loaded and handled.
Stability was THE crucial issue at stake at the Inquiry and it is bizarre that there was 'no opportunity to cross-examine these witnesses'. No wonder the Inquiry was considered a white wash in many circles.
The evidence of experienced counsel,the owners argue; shows that it islikelier that the Waratah, was lost ina storm, rather than from a breakdown.
The inquiry was concluded to-day, Counsel for the owners asked the board to say that the loss was not dueto want of stability, and was no faultof the owners. 
The owners did everything within their influence to steer the court away from any form of liability - placing the Waratah in a storm of 'exceptional violence'. The Inquiry had no choice but to 'obey' - they had no evidence to the contrary.

Counsel for the Board of Tradethought it was a sound view that thebuilders' responsibility ended in constructing the vessel from the owners' plan.

You cannot be serious. The builders were still mandated and responsible for the construction of a sound, seaworthy vessel, despite the owners specification demands.

There was much conflicting evidencerelative to the correspondence betweenCaptain Ilbery and the owners and thecondition of the lifeboats.

Judgment will be given on February 15.

Monday, 25 May 2015


Cairns Post, Wednesday 1 February, 1911
Captain Ilbery had watched the building of thevessel, and the witness (Lund, junior)was unable to account for his absence from the important heeling experiments. 
Mr. Steel, naval architect, gave evidencethat he was satisfied as to the stabilityof the Waratah.
It remains as big a mystery, as the loss of the Waratah itself, why Captain Ilbery was not present at the heeling experiment. He had been involved with the project from design, through construction to completion. He was to be master of the Waratah and needed to know what he was dealing with in terms of the Waratah's metacentric height, righting angles etc... all integral to the overall stability and steadiness of the vessel.  
We know that stability curves were not available on board when the Waratah departed London on her maiden voyage, 5 November, 1908, and there were stability issues which could have been avoided if Captain Ilbery had been adequately prepared. It seems almost bizarre that a master of his caliber took charge of a new steamer under those circumstances. 
Perhaps having been intimately involved with design and construction, Captain Ilbery thought he knew all he ought to know about the Waratah. Clearly he would have been given the results of the heeling experiment and that generally the Waratah was seaworthy and ready for service and that he would have the stability curves on board for departure. 
All I can think is that the delivery of the Waratah had been delayed (resulting in demurrage penalties), suggesting that she was rushed into service without adequate time for thorough preparation. It is in some respects fortunate for the owners that the Waratah did not disappear on her maiden voyage. If it had been the case, there was more than enough reason to blame stability issues. However, by the second voyage, the Waratah was stable in terms of metacentric height.
It still does not answer the question why Captain Ilbery was not present for the heeling experiment and the phrasing is significant in itself - the owner 'was unable to account for his absence'. This excludes an innocuous reason such as ill health or an emergency of some sort. Lund would have been able to account for that. NO, this suggests a deeper problem and I cannot help wondering if Captain Ilbery was not satisfied with the end product and did not wish to participate in heeling tests which would reveal the extent of Waratah's limitations.

Waratah - businessmen to provide funds for search.

The Bathurst Times (NSW) Wednesday 1 September, 1909 
Melbourne, Tuesday.      
A deputation of business men fromthe Stock Exchange, Chamber of  Commerce, Chamber of Manufacturers,and Incorporated Institute of Accountants, waited on the Minister forCustoms this afternoon, and urgedthat the Federal Government take steps to have two steamers sent out specially to search for the Waratah; the vessels to search down South.
The speaker for the deputation said  the Government had given £5000 towards the Shackleton expedition, andclaimed that this was a far more important matter. It was intimatedthat if the question of costs stood in  the way, money would be found among  business men. The Minister promised to bring the matter before the Cabinet to-morrow.