Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Waratah - Mr. Warner comments on boat drill.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 22 April, 1910
Sir,'- Reading over the evidence given before the steamer Waratah inquiry board, oneis inclined to think that a person's life isworth considerably less at sea than on land.One or two of the witnesses swore that firedrill was never once practised, and that thelifeboats were never even removed from theirchocks, much less swung through the davits.I recently voyaged to the old land and backby a well-known line, and during the triphome fire drill was practised on two occasions,but the lifeboats were never touched, exceptfor a coat of paint given them just beforereaching Plymouth. Coming back, some ofthe boats were overhauled and lowered intothe water while standing off Port Adelaide,and I, among a number of other passengers,was greatly interested in this manoeuvre, themajority of us never having seen the contentsof the boats before.
As there are numerous laws enacted by different authorities for the protection of individuals in every country on earth, I think that laws relating to sea travelling should be specially strict and rigidly enforced. As thereare policemen ashore, why not the sameafloat? Again, there should be a list of instructions drawn up and handed to every passenger embarking on a vessel, and these instructions should cover lifeboat drill, manipulation of lifebelts, compass-reading and navigating, occupancy of boats according tonumerical division of passengers, and othervaluable information, which the average voyager is over willing to learn.
I am, etc.,
April 19. A. E. WARNER
This important letter to the press highlights significant shortcomings in sea travel safety, circa 1909. There is a tendency to look at the case of the Waratah in isolation without taking into consideration that many shipowners and their employees were not as diligent as they could have been with regard to boat and fire drills. If lifeboats were neglected, it was not a matter peculiar to the Waratah or the Blue Anchor Line in general.

Waratah - Mr. Rider, Clan MacIntyre.

The Mercury, Monday 21 March, 1910
Mr. Rider, who was second officer ofthe steamer Clan Macintyre, whichspoke the missing steamer Waratahafter she left Durban for Capetown,was a passenger by the RMS Ionic,which left Hobart on Saturday, in continuation of his voyage from Londonto Wellington. In conversation with arepresentative of "The Mercury" Mr.Rider said the Clan Macintyre, whichwas a vessel of 4,807 tons, left Durbanearlier in the day than the Waratah,and was bound for London. 
At 5 o'clock the next morning the Waratahpassed the Clan Macintyre. (interesting how the times vary with different accounts) The chief and fourth officers were on the bridge ofthe latter vessel at the time Signalswere exchanged between the steamerswith the aid of the Morse lamp. TheWaratah was then all right. Theweather was fine and the sea smooth.
Mr. Rider is a further witness who claimed that the Waratah was 'all right'. It does seem plausible that able seaman Lamont's account from the Clan Mac of a Waratah listing and pitching like a yacht, is to be taken with a pinch of salt. A visibly 'all right' Waratah may not have manifested at that time with outward signs of a fire on board. In all probability the crew had the problem 'in hand'. It was only much later in the day that the crew of the Harlow witnessed a steamer 'smoking fiercely'. 
The same night it came on to blow fromthe westward, and tremendous seagot up. The Clan Macintyre, whichhad been steaming at the rate of 11 to11 1/2 knots an hour was unable to makeany headway against the gale. In fact,she was driven back 33 miles in the24 hours. The gale then moderated,and the Clan Macintyre was able tomake headway again. Nothing wasseen of the Waratah during the gale.Mr. Rider said the sea was wall-like inits formation, and tremendously high.If anything went wrong in the engineroom of the Waratah she would nothave had "a look in ".
The simple fact as reported is this; 'nothing was seen of the Waratah during the gale.' If something had 'gone wrong' in the engine room of the Waratah it is very likely the Clan Mac would have overhauled her - unless the Waratah had moved beyond of the general outer track, further out to sea. It seems very unlikely that the Waratah signaled the Guelph which was following the inner track up the coast, closer to shore. There is a very real possibility that the Waratah foundered further out to sea, overwhelmed by the conditions at sea, but it seems more probable that Captain Ilbery elected to come about and retrace his course back to Durban so that the fire on board could be comprehensively dealt with. After all, there was no other potentially large steamers which could have been astern of the Harlow by 8 pm 27 July, off Cape Hermes.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015


Northern Territory Times and Gazette, 15 July, 1910
Lund's Steamship Company havewisely settled by compensation theclaims put in by various relatives ofpassengers lost in the ill-fated steamerWaratah. These claims were a resultof the evidence adduced at the officialinquiry going to show that the Waratah was not in a seaworthy conditionwhen she started on her last voyage.

What an odd report. The official inquiry only convened some 5 months later. Nothing was 'adduced' by July, 1910. However, the report implies that a certain degree of culpability was acknowledged by the Lunds, if indeed the claims were paid out on this basis. If so, why was the issue not raised at the Inquiry?

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Waratah - Wakefield claim dispute.

Examiner (Launceston) Saturday 17 September, 1910
The Lord Mayor to-day presided at ameeting of the Waratah second searchcommittee. He said that the committee had paid £2500 to the owners of thes.s. Wakefield in London and £3000 tothe owners' local representatives. Therewas £2070 in the bank to the credit ofthe fund, which was about £833 lessthan the amount claimed by the owners to be still due to them. 
The committee, however, disputed some of theitems on the owners' statement of claim.It was decided that the committeeshould offer the owners £2076 as fullsettlement of their claim. Failing theacceptance of that offer, a sub-committee was formed for the purpose of goingthoroughly into the claims made, withthe assistance of the Crown Solicitor.

Despite the fact that the Wakefield's task was to find the missing Waratah, a legion of hope resting on her captain's shoulders, it was still a business enterprise and the owners of the Wakefield demanded 'full payment'. The reality, however, was by this time any hope of finding the Waratah adrift, with survivors, was extremely remote.


Waratah - could there have been Australian gold on the Waratah?

The principal export from Australia to the United Kingdom, 1909, included gold bullion - 1 914 079 pounds sterling; Silver bullion - 43 842 pounds sterling. The average annual export of gold fell from 
8 396 113 pounds sterling 1902 -1906, 
4 036 214 pounds sterling in 1909.

In 1909, the total amount of gold produced by Australia and Tasmania equated with 2 957 789 fine ounces (roughly 101 tons), valued at 12 563 889 pounds sterling.
 The following chart shows that the price of gold did not fluctuate between 1903 (the boom in Australia) and 1909. One can hardly call 1909 a 'slump' year.


The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 6 September, 1909. 

The committee appointed by the LondonChamber of Commerce to inquire into thenecessity of increasing the reserve of gold inthe Bank of England, and to whose recommendations we have already made reference in this column, was one of great weight and influence.
In 1907, gold-rich colonies such as South Africa and Australia had no choice but to contribute gold to the Bank of England, caught up in heavy American borrowing. This trend continued through to and including 1909.

(1909) Gold is largely shipped from Australia 'under option', that is, it may be carried in a vessel to the terminal port of its voyage, or it may be diverted at some intermediate port according to the business requirements of the consignee. In this way Australian gold shipped to order of London bankers may be diverted. In fact, the large consignments of gold made to India and to South Africa, have not been made in satisfaction of claims of those countries on Australia, but in satisfaction of English claims, and have merely been consigned to the countries named by order of the London bankers, whose clients (the British Government) required large sums of gold in the countries named.

This extract illustrates that the commonwealth colonies such as Australia and South Africa were in effect minions of Great Britain. London banks acting on behalf of government had the power to dispose of colonial gold assets as they saw fit.

The average gold assets held in Australian banks, for the quarter ended 30 June, 1909:
26 302 843 pounds sterling (211 tons) - a combination of coins and bullion bars. 
Compare this figure with the amount held in banks during the gold boom year of 1903: 
20 021 609 pounds sterling (roughly 24% less).
It seems contradictory that there were considerably larger gold reserves in Australian banks in 1909 compared with 1903, which after all was the 'boom' year for gold production and export. This paradox suggests that not all gold was exported and Australian banks were accumulating reserves. The question is this: how much were they allowed to sell for export profit and how much was sent to banks in London? 
Although the general export of gold had slowed by 1909, in June another discovery of rich gold deposits was reported from the rocky terrains of the Tanami Desert, about 200 miles from Hall's Creek in Western Australia and 450 miles southeast of Wyndham.
A new gold rich deposit discovered in 1909. Not a bad year at all.
Australia, being commodity-producing member of the commonwealth was not in a position to decide how much gold was for export and profit in 1909. The above data illustrates very clearly that gold reserves in Australian banks increased between 1903 and 1909, but that the London banks were in a spot of bother with the Americans and needed significant amounts of gold from Australia - a sort of colonial loan. No wonder colonies wanted independence!!
The Waratah need not have been transporting 'export' gold. She could very well have been transporting gold, relocating from Australian banks to London banks for the above reasons. There was more than enough of it to account for 105 tons on the Waratah's fatal voyage - and oh yes, enough left over for vessels such as the Kildonan Castle.
Remember the case of the Republic which was secretly transporting gold !,+1909&source=bl&ots=xv2NYV1N78&sig=ozVPXqfpWsA-OTohe4ixHVtGgb0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAmoVChMIkuXy68uXyAIVhpeACh0RWwHg#v=onepage&q=gold%20bullion%20reserves%20in%20australia%2C%201909&f=false


The Argus (Melbourne) Saturday 5 March, 1910.
SYDNEY, Friday. - Captain Millington,of the Lund steamer Narrung, which isnow in Sydney, was seen to day in reference to the cable as to the wreckage on theSouth African coast found at Mossel Bay.
Captain Millington said that no significance could be attached to the fact that acushion stamped "W" had been found. Thefurniture of ships belonging to the Lund line was not marked with the initials ofthe steamer. The cushion was nottherefore portion of the furnishings ofthe Waratah. It might, of course, havebeen the property of a passenger on themissing steamship, but Captain Millingtondid not care to express any opinion as tothe wreckage washed ashore.
By this time, I doubt whether the press could have found any employees of the Blue Anchor Line willing to admit to or acknowledge wreckage from the lost Waratah. The Lunds had closed ranks.

SS Narrung

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Waratah - cargo, passengers and Captain Ilbery.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 4 August, 1909.
The Waratah sailed from Sydney on June 26,from Melbourne on July 1, and from Adelaideon July 7, for London, via South African ports.She made a quick passage across the IndianOcean, and reached Durban on Sunday weeklast - a day in advance of schedule time. Thevoyage was resumed on the following day forCapetown, 809 miles distant, and as she steams at an average speed of between 13 and 14 knots she should have covered the distancein 2½ days. She is therefore nearly a week overdue on a comparatively short trip.    
The passengers who joined the Waratah at Sydney for Capetown and London were:
Mrs. J. E. Mullon, Mr. J. M. S. Hunter,Mr. S. G. Sawyer, Mr. E. A. Murphy,Mr. J. C. Ritchie, Mr. Henderson.Mr. and Mrs. B. A. Oslear, Mr. A. Wright,Mr. Govett, Mrs. A. Wright,    Miss Lascelles, Mr. Wm. Hocking,  Lieutenant Colonel Browne, Mr. Wm. Cumming,  Miss Lees and maid, Mr. and Mrs. C. Swain,Mrs. Crawford, Mr. and Mrs. H. Flood,Mrs. and Miss Moore, Mrs. Harwood,  Mrs and Miss Hay, Mr. F. Norris,    Mr. Saunders, Mr. G. Morris,Mr. Ebsworth, Mrs. Harvey,Mr. Richardson, Miss Miller,  Mr. and Mrs. Taylor and 2 childrenMr. Harvey, Mr. and Mrs. Bowden,Mr. S. Pearce, Mr. L. Schauman,    Mrs. Allen and 2 children, Miss D. Schauman,    Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Cousens and infant,Mr. R. Keys,Mrs. C. Murphy,Mr. D. R. Boyce, Mr. Barklemore.  
Commander Ilbery, of the Waratah, is thecommodore, of the Blue Anchor fleet, and is one of the most popular and trusted master mariners engaged in the Australian trade. His personal friends number hundreds in all the ports of the Commonwealth, and he enjoys the complete confidence of his owners. Captain H. C. Kent, writing in reference to Commander Ilbery, says:-"The Waratah is commanded byone who has (with one exception) made moretrips to Australia from the old country thanany commander. He certainly possesses therecord of having been half a century in oneemploy, and commanded 13 of their steam-ships, one after the other, in addition toone sailing ship in the China trade. The firstwas the Dalcomyn, of 2600 tons, and the lastis the Waratah. He is a splendid specimenof the 'ancient mariner' class, and thoroughlyenjoys a yarn about the old sailing ship days,but can tell no tales of shipwreck or disaster,as his has been a career (with one slightexception) of smooth sailing throughout. Hepoints with pride to the long list of steam-ships he has commanded, and claims to be theoldest sea captain afloat.
"After he had been eight years in the shipMikado the Lund line built a ship called theSerapis, and Captain Ilbery sailed her untilthe steamer Dalcomyn was launched. Then hetook charge of her in the Sydney trade. Thiswas the beginning of the Blue Anchor line,and Captain Ilbery took each following steameras she came off the stocks: The Yeoman,Hubbock, Riverina, Culgoa, Woolloomooloo,Warrigal, Warrnambool, Narrung, Common-wealth, Geelong, and Waratah. When one considers that this popular skipper has commanded each one of these vessels between the years 1880 and 1909, and that he has been at sea since the year 1857, and never had anaccident worthy of the name, we must allow that his career as a seaman is unique.
"Fifty-two years at sea and 36 years incommand without disaster is a record to beproud of, and one cannot speak or write ofCaptain Ilbery without feeling that he hasevery right to be looked upon as a marinerwho has done well in upholding the dignityof the British flag, and left his mark on theannals of notable British mariners.
"The position in which the Waratah waslast known to be is one fraught with manydangers, particularly one of collision with asunken wreck, in which case all a mariner'sskill would not save the good ship from disaster. One could point to long lists of shipsthat have disappeared, no one knows where.Then, on the other hand, we must rememberthat a very small fracture in the engine roomwill throw even a Leviathan helpless uponthe waves. Many ships have been found againafter being lost, and all hope most sincerelythat the Waratah will be one of them."
The Waratah, only recently built at acost of £135,000 to the order of W. Lund andSons for the Australian trade, is by far thefinest of the Blue Anchor fleet, and was greatlyadmired when she arrived here on her maidenvoyage. She is a vessel of 9339 tons, and hermachinery consists of two sets of quadrupleexpansion engines. The Waratah was built atthe yards of Barclay, Curle, and Co., Ltd., atGlasgow, the principal dimensions of the greatliner being:- Length, 465 feet; beam, 59 foot2 inches: and depth, 35 feet 1 inch.
In her lower holds she carried 1500 tons ofdeadweight, consisting of 1000 tons of lead concentrates, 300 tons of lead, and 200 tons oftimber, all consigned to London. Other largelines of cargo shipped here included 700 blswool, 600 tons oats, 100 tons flour, 129 bls furskins, 48 pkgs leather, 500 tons tallow, 1520 csmeats, 30 tons furniture, 150 bls cuttings, 40bls gluepieces, 30 bls rags, 34 bls sheepskins,1050 bxs butter, 3000 crts rabbits, 1000 carcases mutton, and a large quantity of sundries.  
The disquieting news that the Blue Anchorliner Waratah is seriously overdue on hertrip from Durban to Capetown formed theleading topic of discussion to-day. Severaltheories were advanced as to the cause ofher non-arrival, the most favoured being thatshe has suffered some disablement of hermachinery. No information was received byJohn Sanderson and Co., the Melbourne agentsfor the Waratah, regarding the vessel, andto-day they despatched a cable to their representatives at Capetown asking for news ofthe vessel. The route from Durban to Cape-town is said to be a safe one, and that astrong current, of which the Waratah wouldreap the advantage, runs down the coast fromDurban. A suggestion that the Waratah hasmet with disaster is not seriously entertainedin shipping circles, and it is confidently expected that she will turn up safe in the end.
Among the passengers from Melbourne forLondon by the Waratah were Mrs. and MissStarke, mother and sister of a well-knownbarrister; Mrs. Wilson, wife of the managerof the Royal Bank; Miss Lascelles, daughterof Mr. Lascelles, of Dennys, Lascelles, andCo., Mr. Neil Black, a well-known westerndistrict pastoralist; and Mr. John Ebsworth,a well-known Melbourne solicitor.