Monday, 30 November 2015


The bunker coal is shown in the abstracts of the engineer's log, and can be, at least partly, checked from the coal vouchers. 

Of the coal on board leaving the Thames, 637 tons were left on arrival at Adelaide. At Sydney 2,053 tons of coal were taken in, and at Melbourne 163 tons. At Adelaide on return 180 tons were bought. To Adelaide 799 tons were consumed, and from thence to Durban 1,785 tons. At Durban 1,929 tons 6 cwt. of coal were taken in. There was thus on board a total of 2,378 tons 6 cwt. Mr. Lund, probably correctly, estimated her consumption whilst in Durban at between 20 and 30 tons, which would leave her with, in round figures, 2,350 tons when she sailed from that port. 

By this stage, Captain restricted total coal to 2350 tons, compared with 3456 tons, when the Waratah departed London. Clearly, as was confirmed by GM calculations made with reserve 'tween deck bunkers without coal, sorting out the issue of coal had contributed very significantly to a more stable Waratah. The downside of this equation came in the form of 340 tons of coal on the spar deck which reduced GM. However, by the time the Waratah departed Durban for the last time, GM was significantly bolstered by reducing centre of gravity in the form of deeply loaded and significant dead weight.

Interesting to note that Waratah consumed just over a 100 tons of coal per day from Adelaide to Durban, which was 20 tons per day more than her estimated 80 tons per day. She got into port a day ahead of schedule, averaging 13.5 knots. One can only assume that the vast cargo dead weight contributed significantly to increased fuel consumption.


Sunday, 29 November 2015



George Purssey Phillips. 

Chief officer of "Clan Macintyre." 

At 6 a.m. on the 27th July we exchanged signals with the "Waratah." She had no list but seemed to be in good order, and not to be in any difficulty whatever. 

Alexander Weir 

Master of "Clan Macintyre." 

She appeared to me neither to have a list nor to be rolling excessively, but to be proceeding in an exceedingly steady manner.

The "Waratah" left Durban about 8.15 p.m. on the 26th July, 1909. She was sighted after leaving Durban by the steamship "Clan Macintyre." The circumstances are related succinctly and clearly in an affidavit sworn by Mr. George Purssey Phillips, her chief officer, which he afterwards confirmed by verbal evidence before the Court. The affidavit runs as follows: 

"I am chief officer of the steamship 'Clan Macintyre,' of Glasgow, the official number of which is 115775. I was on watch on the said vessel, in charge, from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. on the 27th July, 1909, the vessel having left Durban on the 26th July for London; the steamship 'Waratah' was in Durban when we left. I saw her there as we were leaving. When I came on watch at 4 a.m. on 27th July a steamer was in view a good distance astern of us, on our starboard quarter. She was bearing north-easterly from the 'Clan Macintyre,' that is nearer the land. She gradually overhauled us, and when abeam, at 6 a.m., and distant from 2 to 3 miles, we exchanged signals as follows:

" 1. What ship? 

" 2. 'Waratah,' for London. 

" 3. 'Clan Macintyre,' for London. What weather had you from Australia? 

" 4. Strong S.W. and southerly wind across. 

" 5. Thanks, good-bye, pleasant voyage. 

" 6. Thanks, same to you, good-bye. 

" The signals 1, 3 and 5 were from the 'Clan Macintyre' and the signals 2, 4 and 6 were replies by the other vessel. Our signals were made by the fourth officer, Mr. Carson, who was on watch with me, and all the signals were perfectly clear and unmistakable. Mr. Carson has since left the 'Clan Macintyre.' At the time mentioned, 6 a.m., we were approaching Cape Hermes. The steamer remained in sight until about 9.30 a.m., and we could distinguish a blue anchor on her funnel a little after she passed, and recognised her perfectly. When I first saw her we were steering S.W. true, and she was steering S.W. southerly. She passed ahead of us, crossing our bow, and when we lost sight of her she was heading much the same way; she was then one point to one and a half points on our port bow, and would be 8 to 10 miles away, as the weather was fairly clear, and she would be about abeam of Bashee River, and about 12 miles out from it. Her speed all the time was quite 13 knots over the ground. She passed the 'Clan Macintyre' rather quickly, and we were making 9 1/2 knots by log, and the current was about 2 to 3 knots an hour in our favour.

" The 'Waratah' was showing the usual navigation lights, there were also numerous electric deck-lights, &., on and off from time to time. She had no list, but seemed to be in good order, and not to be in any difficulty whatever. We saw nothing more of her after she passed out of sight.

" During my watch from 4 to 8 a.m. on 27th July the wind was fresh to moderate, mostly from S.S.W., there was a moderate sea and the weather was fine and clear, changing at the latter part to cloudy, and a swell also rising. We had Cape Hermes abeam at 7.11 a.m., distant 13 1/2 miles, and the 'Waratah' was ahead as described, having been abeam on our starboard as stated at 6 a.m. 

"On the same day we had Bashee River abeam at 11.11 a.m., distant 11 miles, and at 5.13 p.m. Hood Point (East London) was abeam, 10 1/2 miles distant.

Cape Hermes.


Built in 1911, Chantiers & Ateliers de Provence, 7137 gross tons, length 463 ft., beam 54.4 ft. (5 ft. narrower than Waratah). A narrow, deep hull improved GM stability.

HMAT Katuna, 4641 tons.

HMAT Mashobra, 8174 tons.

SS Dongala, Barclay Curle &Co (1905), length 450 ft., beam 50.9 ft., gross tonnage 8038, net tonnage 4723, draught 27 ft. 8 in. Note draught not beyond 28 ft.

RMS Morea, built 1911

RMS Indarra, 9735 tons,

SS Ruahine II

SS Assaye, built 1899, 7396 gross tons, 4484 net tons, length 450 ft. beam 54.25 ft., draught 26 ft. 2 in. Note draught not beyond 28 ft..

SS Erinpura, 5128 gross tons, length 411 ft., beam 52.5 ft., draught 23 ft. 5 in. Note draught not beyond 28 ft..

SS Devanha, built 1905, gross tons 8092, length 470 ft., beam 56 ft. 3 in., draught 27 ft. 8 in. Note draught not beyond 28 ft..

SS Sicilia, Barclay Curle & Co, built 1901, gross tonnage 6696, net tonnage 4174, length 450 ft., beam 52 ft. 4 in., draught 26 ft. 8 in. Note draught not beyond 28 ft..

SS Guildford Castle, built 1911, Barclay Curle & Co, gross tonnage 7995, length 450 ft. 7 in., beam 56 ft. 2 in..

Karapara, 7117 gross tons, length 425 ft., beam 55.6 ft.,

SS Tanda, gross tonnage 6956, length 430 ft., beam 58 ft.

HMHS Tagus, built 1899, gross tons 5545, length 410 ft., beam 30 ft.

HMHS Varela, gross tonnage 4645, net tonnage 1932, dead weight 5160 tons, length 390 ft., beam 53.3 ft., draught 22.9 ft. Note draught not beyond 28 ft..

    Many thanks go to this marvelous site:

    Friday, 27 November 2015


    John Rainnie 

    Port Captain, Port Natal 

    So far as I could see when that ship left Durban, I do not think it was top-heavy. She was not at all "tender." I observed that when the ship was leaving the wharf she had no list whatever, and when our tug commenced to pull upon it, it seemed to have no effect in the way of creating a list. We often see, if when we take hold of a tender ship with one of our heavy tugs, that she at once lists to the pull. But there was nothing of that in the case of the "Waratah." 

    I have not the slightest doubt that when the vessel left the Port of Durban she was far "stiffer" than when she arrived at this port two days before. 

    Mr. Rainnie described the Waratah departing Durban for the last time. There is no fraction of a doubt, that this eloquent expert opinion, described a very adequately stable Waratah.

    Alexander Smith Duthie. 

    Master of Government tug "Richard King" at Durban. 

    We towed the "Waratah" round from "C" shed. She did not lean towards us at all. Hawsers were put right on her port quarter. We accompanied her outside the bar. She was upright at the wharf, and when we started towing her round as nearly upright as possible. Had she been tender she would probably have leaned towards us. She did not do so.

    Another favourable, and to the point, statement by an expert. 

    William Robert Wright. 

    Manager, Cotts & Company, Durban who supplied coal to the "Waratah." 

    She was late in sailing owing to a list, which was perhaps caused by too much coal on one side in the bunker. The captain insisted on Messrs. Nicoll & Company taking the list out and declined to go until that was done. She went out perfectly upright.

    For a moment I thought we might have a negative comment, but no, so far there is unanimous opinion, that the Waratah was upright. 

    Victor Lindsey Nicoll. 

    Manager, Nicoll & Company, who supplied coal to the "Waratah." 

    To same effect as Wright (above) 

    I saw an instrument in the chief officer's cabin which indicated that the ship was perfectly upright. 

    It's hard to believe that there could possibly exist nay-sayers doubting the GM stability of the Waratah by this late stage.

    William George Miller. 

    Leading mooring attendant, Durban. 

    The ship looked in beautiful trim when she left the harbour. There was nothing in her appearance to indicate she was top-heavy.

    We're going for a clean sweep! 

    Hugh Lindsey 

    Government pilot Port of Natal. 

    Took "Waratah" out of port. 

    The vessel did not appear to be at all tender. When we left the wharf I put the tug on her aft with a long hauling wire. I have noticed in some ships when they are tender they lie over to it whichever way the tug pulls them, but the "Waratah" just pulled off steadily.

    Another expert, confirming the true facts of the Waratah's last moments before steaming into eternity. 

    Frank Hayward Benson. 

    Employed by Cotts & Co., who supplied coal to "Waratah." 

    Passenger, Sydney to Durban. 

    Leaving Adelaide we crossed the Australian Bight, and in that place we had bad cross seas, and in those cross seas the "Waratah" acted splendidly and was very steady; she rolled very little, but I noticed that she was slightly slow in recovering when pitching.

    It almost a relief to read the somewhat repetitive comment 'slightly slow in recovering'. Otherwise this has been a singularly informative exercise, predominated by experts, who convinced the Court that the Waratah's tenderness issues had been resolved by the time she departed Durban, 26 July, 1909, and this confirmed, as we shall come to by the estimation that her GM was a very satisfactory 1.5 ft

    The only thing that could fly in the face of such overwhelming expert opinion, is a conspiracy theory, which I believe ventures into the realm of paranoia and seeking confirmation of the visually top heavy Waratah in terms of GM. I hope by this stage that it is clear that the Waratah was either tender or stable depending on crucial loading and ballasting factors. The visual impression was consistent, but the GM fluctuated.

    Captain Ilbery had mastered his flagship, and the sequence of events which were to follow, did NOT hinge on top heaviness.

    But, of course, no one breathed a word about heaviness and buoyancy....

    Port Natal, 1909

    Thursday, 26 November 2015


    Jason. H. Gibbon 

    Lloyd's Surveyor, Adelaide. 

    I had no conversation with the master of the steamer about the ship as I never had any doubt in regard to her. 1 never saw her empty. Every time she came here she was from a half to two-thirds full of cargo. I have visited the "Waratah" ever since she first came to this port, and have watched both loading and discharging. I have never observed anything in regard to her to cause me any uneasiness. 

    Since she has been reported as missing I have heard, mostly in conversation with engineers in other lines of steamers, who either knew the "Waratah" or engineers who had served on her, that she was a crank ship when light in Sydney, but I have no personal knowledge of that. I have never heard anything said against the "Waratah" by the master or officers employed on her. They would not be likely to talk if they knew anything.

    The Lloyd's Surveyor was satisfied with the Waratah, but there again his job was on the line if he commented otherwise. Yes, 'the master or officers employed on her would not be likely to talk if they knew anything'. However, this being said, Lloyd's had a highly prestigious reputation and representing the Board of Trade, would not be in the business of turning a blind eye regarding a patently unseaworthy vessel. But there again Mr William Lund was 

    ...a member of the Board of Lloyd's Register and chairman of the classification committee. 

    No wonder Waratah was quoted to be: 

    She was to be built to Lloyd's Rules (1907-1908) for the 100 A1 spar-deck class with freeboard. The minimum freeboard when fully loaded to 30 feet 4 1/2 inches mean draught was 8 feet 1 inch. She was a larger ship than was contemplated by those rules, and her scantlings were practically the same as those for the three-deck class. 

    A quagmire of intrigue and influence.

    Chas. Augustus Johnson. 

    Wharf Manager, Outer Harbour, Port Adelaide. In employ of State Government. 

    I have known Captain Ilbery for many years, and I heard him say what a splendid ship she was. 

    I was in conversation with several of the officers on both her trips, and I never heard a word about her being tender or unseaworthy or in any other way objectionable. 

    The chief engineer is an intimate friend of mine, and he said it was the best job he had ever been in. He visited my house, having known him when he was third, second, and chief engineer, and I think had there been anything unusual or extraordinary about the vessel or her behaviour at sea, I should have heard something about it in a private way, but I did not. There was never any suggestion about his leaving the ship. 

    Favourable comments were coming thick and fast at this point, experts having their important say. 

    Alexander Inglis 

    Harbour Master, Port Adelaide. 

    The ship had no list when I saw her, except when touching the ground. I have heard since the accident, never before, that she was tender but have never seen anything to indicate it here, and have never heard anything on board to that effect. 

    I have known Captain Ilbery for many years and was intimate with him. I know that he was proud of his ship, and never heard from him, or anyone on board, anything to complain of in regard to her stability or behaviour at sea.


    Andrew Phillip Field. 

    Superintendent, South Australian Stevedoring Company. 

    I was very intimate with the chief officer. He never expressed any opinion or made any remark respecting any tenderness or unseaworthiness of the ship or as to anything out of the ordinary in her behaviour at sea. If there had been anything 1 think he would have mentioned it privately. 

    I never heard from the captain, officers, crew, or passengers a single word that might have any bearing on any unseaworthiness of the ship. 

    The Waratah WAS NOT unseaworthy.

    John McArthur 

    Foreman Stevedore, Adelaide. 

    I have had about twenty-eight years' experience loading ships every day in the week, and I am satisfied that the "Waratah" was a well-stowed ship, not overloaded and in a thoroughly fit condition for the voyage. She touched the ground alongside the Port Adelaide Wharf at low water, which is a daily occurrence with other ships and at other wharves when they are deeply loaded, but as far as I ever knew it does them no harm. I believe it is a soft bottom. Apart from this she was perfectly upright. The captain was always very particular about this. 

    Another witness, Mr. McArthur mentioned, 'not overloaded'. This issue was not on the table and did not require specific mention, unless in terms of overcompensation.... Captain Ilbery was very unhappy about the deeply loaded Waratah touching the bottom, which seems strange if it was a daily occurrence with other deeply loaded vessels. Why?? In my opinion, the concern hinged on the words, deeply loaded, and the simple fact that the Waratah could ill afford unnecessary additional forces exerted to her strained hull. If not, and if it were a daily occurrence involving a number of vessels, why should he have reacted in this way??

    I do not think she was a tender ship; saw nothing to make me believe she was. I was very intimate with the officers, but never heard on board that she was a tender ship. I always heard she was a splendid sea boat. I never heard anything of her acting badly at sea, such as Mr. Claude G. Sawyer is said to have described. If she had been a ship like that I think I would have heard something about it. 

    I was on the wharf when she started. She was perfectly upright then, and I know of no defect either in the ship or the stowage, and considered her perfectly seaworthy.

    Important reference to being 'perfectly upright', when she departed port for the last time.

    William. Arthur Wills 


    My tug attended the "Waratah" to help her off the Ocean Steamers Wharf, Port Adelaide, and down the river to the Outer Harbour Wharf on her last voyage to the Cape and London. The vessel was upright, in good trim (not too much by the stern or by the head), and in good handling trim for going down the river. She was in the deep water, but I did not know the draught. There was no difficulty in removing from the wharf, towing down the river, or getting alongside the Outer Harbour Wharf. The tug also attended the steamer next day to help her away from the Outer Harbour, where she finally started on her voyage. She hauled off her bow with her own anchor, and the tug pulled her stern off. We simply pulled her off the wharf, and then she went out of the channel to sea by her own power. She was upright then and drawing over 28 feet. She had no list and appeared to be in good sea-going trim. She showed no tenderness when we pulled her broad off from the Outer Harbour Wharf, neither did she the previous day when leaving the Ocean Steamers Wharf, Port Adelaide, and going down the river. There was nothing whatever that appeared to me, as a master mariner, to in any way suggest unseaworthiness. 

    A sweeping expert account, describing the Waratah in fine, stable condition, and quote, unquote, by a master mariner, 'there was nothing whatever that appeared to me, to in any way suggest unseaworthiness'!! Where were all the nay-sayers by this stage???

    The majority of the nay-sayers were referring to Waratah's first three voyages, when there were definitely GM issues. 

    Steam tug from the period.


    Arthur James Fisher.

    Assistant to father (as above).

    When loading was completed and the ship ready for sea, she was, in my opinion, a thoroughly well loaded ship, not overloaded, and fit for any voyage.

    This is dynamite in one sentence. It has been said, ad nauseam, that the Waratah could never have been allowed to depart any port in an overloaded condition; this despite articles from the period (see previous posts) describing overloaded vessels coming to grief at sea. My comment is a simple one, if ships were not allowed to depart ports under any circumstances relating to overloading, why did Mr. Fisher junior feel obliged to mention that which could never have been allowed in the first place???? No one in Court, by this time, had raised the issue of overloading, only tenderness over and over. Why did 'junior' feel obliged to mention an issue that was 'not on the table'? I have and will continue to persist with the opinion that Waratah needed to be functionally overloaded for stability - after all a load line is just a line - it is not the truth of the flawed steamer. Most steamers of this size and era had maximum draughts less than 28 ft.., including Waratah's sister ship Geelong.

    She was perfectly upright when she left Port Adelaide Wharf, and so she was when I left her at the Outer Harbour. The captain was the strictest man I ever knew for keeping his ship upright.

    If this statement is true, Captain Ilbery's frustration during the first three voyages must have been unparalleled. 

    I was very intimate with the officers, but never heard a word as to any peculiarity in the vessel or her behaviour at sea. If there had been anything I think I would have heard something. I have found it not uncommon to hear remarks about a ship, but never heard anything as to the "Waratah," that is, nothing detrimental. I remember reading reports as to a passenger who left at Durban being interviewed by a newspaper representative, and was surprised at the remarks he made, as I never heard a whisper from anyone on board of anything of the kind. 

    I quite agree, Sawyer was proven to be exaggerating. By this time, I don't believe there was anything negative for the officers to say compared with what had gone before.

    We have loaded the "Waratah" before, but I have never seen her empty; she would not be empty at Port Adelaide. I never saw any sign that the ship was tender and never heard a word from the captain or officers that she was. If a ship is tender we are usually informed, so as to be specially careful to properly adjust the heavy cargo, but there was no such suggestion in the case of the "Waratah." 

    'Junior' was on a roll, and need not have gone quite this far, but the point is taken, when the Waratah was last in Port Adelaide, she had an acceptable GM.

    John McDiarmid.

    Licensed Pilot

    Holds a master's certificate, and has had 30 years' experience at sea.

    I was pilot to the "Waratah" inwards and outwards on her last voyage. Inwards. took charge of her 2 miles to the southward of the Port Adelaide Lighthouse and berthed her at the Ocean Steamers Wharf, Port Adelaide. She had the assistance of a tug which was placed right ahead all the way to assist at the bends in the river. Her draught, as recorded by me after berthing, was 25 feet 8 inches forward and 26 feet 4 inches aft. Pilotage is paid for on tonnage and not on draught. We steamed in slowly. Had no difficulty in steering the ship or otherwise.

    This statement, by an expert, is interesting in that although the Waratah's draught was significantly reduced compared to that when she departed Durban, she was not difficult to handle, however....

    She had a slight list to port when I boarded her, but it was very little. No remarks were made about it or anything else, except the business we had in hand. She was not down to her marks or anywhere near it when I boarded her. When going round the bends she had a tendency to list when the tug got a strain broad on the bows, caused by the action of the helm and tug combined. I would not expect this in a ship that was nearly loaded as this one was. It might be ascribed to several reasons, the principal one being that Port Adelaide being the last port and taking the heaviest cargo (flour, grain, &.),space would be left to take that cargo as low as possible. Another reason might be the starting of pumping out water prior to taking in that cargo, and a third reason might be that she was naturally a somewhat tender ship. I had had charge of the vessel before and remarked this later to the captain on the previous voyage. Do not remember what he said, but am under the impression that he agreed with me. What caused the remark was, when negotiating the turn in the cutting at Snapper Point coming up the river she rolled from side to side without any apparent cause. I knew of none.

    Mr. McDiarmid gave a highly plausible explanation for the Waratah's tendency to list in this condition; she had yet to take on the heaviest cargo, and had started to pump out water, reducing GM considerably. The Waratah was 'naturally' a tender ship, if there is such an expression, but could be rendered more than adequately stable in GM terms, once Captain Ilbery had mastered the coal issue, cargo loading and ballast, including the lead concentrates.

    I boarded the vessel again as pilot to take her out of the port down to the outer harbour on the afternoon of 6th July, 1909. Had the tug "Wato" in attendance to help us off the wharf down the river and alongside the Outer Harbour Wharf. I turned the vessel on her inward trip so that she was heading down stream ready for departure. When starting the tug plucked her off from the bows to get away from the wharf and then went ahead. The ship was heavy in working and slow to answer the helm, but she had no sign of tenderness, neither did she on the way down the river or in going alongside the Outer Harbour Wharf. The heaviness mentioned I attributed to her heavy draught going down the Port Adelaide River, which was 27 feet 9 inches on an even keel. I put her as close as I could to the wharf and the tug then left the bow and went amidships on the starboard side and pushed her into the wharf. I left the vessel when she was made fast to the wharf. The next afternoon I returned to take her to sea. She was then drawing 28 feet 3 inches forward and 29 feet 5 inches aft. The same tug was again in attendance and plucked her off the wharf at the stern, the ship heaving off to her cable to get her bow off. She was not then down to her marks. She was quite upright and stiff, and proceeded to sea as far as the Semaphore Anchorage without any difficulty or any sign that the ship was tender or that anything was wanting to make her a seaworthy vessel fit for the voyage. I knew the master and officers only when on board the ship, and have not heard from anybody on board since I left her. I always looked upon her as a tender ship, but not to such an extent as to make her unseaworthy. Apart from my remarks to the captain about the ship rolling I never referred to the matter again, either to him or to the officers, and they never made any remarks to me as to that or the vessel's behaviour at sea. The circumstances being peculiar, i.e., the rolling, I mentioned it to some of the other pilots at the time, and they thought as I did. 

    The first important point made was 'the ship was heavy in working and slow to answer the helm, but no sign of tenderness'. By this time, Mr. McDiarmid was describing a very heavy vessel, but with improved GM. This observation was confirmed by the draught increase. The draught had further increased by the following day, when Mr. McDiarmid took the Waratah out of the outer harbour. By this time she was 'QUITE UPRIGHT AND STIFF'. Although there were concerns about the Waratah in her 'natural' state, Mr. McDiarmid, had no choice but to describe a stable Waratah when she departed Adelaide. 

    It is a well-known fact that steamers loading on the Australian coast, especially in the wool season, are compelled, in order to complete their voyage with safety and stability, to keep their water ballast tanks full all the way home. This, especially if a ship is inclined to be tender, renders it all the more necessary for care in loading at the ports previous to arrival at Port Adelaide in order to leave room to put the heavy cargo of this port as low down as possible. I do not know whether that was done in this case, in fact I know nothing about the loading of the "Waratah." 

    Mr. McDiarmid had made his points, confirmed his expertise, and did not venture to guess what the 'secret' combination of cargo stowage, coal distribution, and ballasting, Captain Ilbery was finally using to create a stable liner. He made the very important remark that most steamers would have had all their ballast tanks full. But Waratah was different, she was already too heavy with reduced freeboard and buoyancy. She needed air in ballast tanks and the missing link was filled very capably by 1300 tons of lead concentrates.

    Port Adelaide, 1909

    Wednesday, 25 November 2015


    Sarah Jane Ebsworth.

    Wife of John Ebsworth, who was a passenger on the "Waratah." who had been at sea 8 years, and held a second mate's certificate.

    In a letter to his wife Mr. Ebsworth said, "She is a fine sea boat." In the letter was enclosed a diary from which the following are extracts:

    10/7/09. The ship pitched a little as, although there was no sea, there was a heavy swell.

    11/7/09, 2 p.m. We are now off Cape Leeuwin, and are experiencing thick weather with rain and strong winds, but the ship is very steady. 

    Mr. Ebsworth gave an account which was not influenced by the circumstances surrounding the loss of the Waratah. His final words; 'the ship is very steady', even in rough weather. Captain Ilbery had most certainly mastered the idiosyncrasies of his flagship. 

    Frederick Tickell

    Commander of Commonwealth Naval Forces of Victoria.

    My son, George Hubert Alan Tickell, was a passenger on board the s.s. "Waratah" from Melbourne to London on her last voyage.

    I saw the vessel leave the pier at Port Melbourne on the 1st July, 1909. I was on the pier as she left, and watched her nearly down to the lightship, a distance of over 1 mile.

    During all the time I saw her, she was perfectly upright, and had no sign of a list.

    I left next day by train for Adelaide to spend the last few days with my son, before he left for England by the "Waratah."

    We both left Port Adelaide on the 6th July. I joined the s.s. "Pilbarra," bound for Fremantle, and my son joined the "Waratah," which was proceeding down the river to finish her loading at Largs Bay.

    The "Waratah" was at the Wharf at Port Adelaide when the "Pilbarra" passed her. As soon as the "Pilbarra" passed, the "Waratah" hauled out into the stream and followed the "Pilbarra" down, at no time being at a greater distance than a half to a quarter of a mile astern.

    The "Waratah" had a steam tug to assist her in getting round the bends. This tug was sometimes broad on the bow, and sometimes ahead of the "Waratah."

    I watched the "Waratah" down the river to Largs Bay, with a critical or rather a professional eye. At no time did she give me the impression of a tender ship. She remained perfectly upright even when going round the bends at a time when the rudder was over, and the tug broad on the bow.

    It has been said that the weather and conditions were fine during the time Commander Tickell observed Waratah from the vantage point of a vessel tracking the Waratah's course. Commander Tickell was without a doubt an expert of the time and careful to mention that he observed the Waratah 'with a critical or rather a professional eye'. He sent out an unambiguous message that although his only son had perished on the Waratah, his observations were to be taken seriously. He was satisfied with the Waratah in modified condition (much improved GM), and to be honest, he was one of the pivotal EXPERTS, of the time. Who can argue against this??? 

    W. Fisher

    Manager South Australia Stevedoring Company.

    I was not alongside the Port Adelaide Wharf when she sailed, but was at the Outer Harbour attending to the stowage as at Port Adelaide, and left her within about an hour of her sailing. I remained there until all cargo was on board and stowed. The ship was perfectly upright, and as far as I knew in a thoroughly seaworthy condition and fit for the voyage. I knew of absolutely no defect in the ship or her stowage.

    I have never seen the "Waratah" empty. Have often had experience with crank or tender ships, but have never found the "Waratah" a tender ship, on the contrary I always considered her a stiff ship.

    I have known Captain Ilbery perhaps 30 years, and considered him a most capable ship master and one who took more interest in his ship and cargo than any master I ever knew. He was most particular in every respect.

    I am sure that he was as satisfied as I was in regard to the stowage of the ship.

    It is a very common thing with stevedores to hear remarks about peculiarities or defects in ships, but although I have been so intimate with the captain and officers of the "Waratah," I have never heard a whisper of anything of the kind in regard to that vessel, and I had not the faintest suspicion of anything. If there had been anything peculiar or out of the ordinary in regard to the ship's behaviour at sea, I am satisfied I would have heard something about it, but I never did.

    Mr. Fisher may have been erring on the side of 'over-compensation', but there is no doubt in our minds there has been a significant shift for the better in witness accounts, both lay and expert. Something of great significance had happened for the final, return voyage. The Waratah, through judicious loading and ballasting had become the flagship she ought to have been from the very start. And no, the boat deck had not been lopped off to achieve this impressive goal.

    But there is still the question of reduced buoyancy, the price to be paid.

    SS Marama, with her prominent upper decks.


    William. Dow

    Pilot under Marine Board of Victoria.

    Holds a master's certificate.

    I piloted the ship from the Railway Pier at Melbourne to the pilot station outside Port Phillip Heads.

    She appeared to be staunch and in every way fit for the voyage. I saw nothing while on board to make me alter that opinion, and I had the same opinion when I left her. I saw no sign of a list on her while at the pier or going down the Bay, neither did she appear to be tender.

    As I had not piloted her before, and the captain was an old acquaintance, I took particular notice of the vessel, and her condition and behaviour.

    The sea conditions in the Bay, so far as I remember them, were exceptionally good, and the vessel behaved well. There was no rolling or pitching, but she went along as steadily as could be wished.

    The captain and officers spoke very cheerfully to me about the passage home, and made no complaint of any kind about the vessel or any remarks about the seagoing qualities of the ship.

    Something significant had happened. Another expert of the time expressed complete confidence in the Waratah, and at last, the officers were cheerful. Confidence had returned.

    Fredrick. Chas. Saunders.

    Passenger, Adelaide to Durban.

    Had made numerous trips in mail ships and coasting vessels.

    We ran into dirty weather soon after leaving Adelaide, and then for a few days until well past Breaksea we had heavy seas and wind squalls from the south-west. The vessel rolled a lot during that time, but to my mind, it was nothing unusual having regard to the weather, practically midwinter in Australia. The rolling was not sufficient to interfere with my sleep, or cause me to put out my elbows to steady myself in my bunk as I have had to do in other vessels.

    A very favourable comment, strengthened by the Waratah's handling in significantly rough weather. 

    The only matters which occurred to cause comment at the time were when the vessel (on two occasions) gave a bit of an extra roll and seemed to shake before she started to return, and one day when it was fairly calm when the vessel took two or three waves over her bows without any apparent reason.

    The very heavily loaded Waratah was likely to 'shake' and take waves over her bows, further compounded by the quadruple expansion engines which caused significant vibration.

    Mr. Richardson called my attention to this latter fact, and Mr. Ebsworth and I went to the fore end of the boat deck to see the occurrence. When I saw it 1 remarked that I had seen something like it before in the Indian Ocean, a wave getting up suddenly without any apparent cause or reason and Mr. Ebsworth agreed that it was not uncommon, but he thought the "Waratah" showed a fondness for "putting her nose into them." These matters passed from our minds at the time, and were only recalled by me in the light of what subsequently occurred.

    We're now well and truly into comments describing a very heavy steamer, but at least, so far, the extreme features of tenderness had been put to rights. The observation was only recalled as something of significance in the light of the Waratah's disappearance.

    Both Mr. Ebsworth and myself were so confident of the safety of the vessel that we made arrangements to go back by her to Australia on her return voyage. I arranged to join the vessel at Cape Town. 

    There can be no stronger conviction of the improved Waratah; both gentlemen expressed the desire to return to Australia by the Waratah. 

    When we arrived at Durban it was difficult to obtain apartments or accommodation, and I had decided to proceed to Cape Town (i.e., in the "Waratah"), but at the last moment a friend managed to make arrangements for me, and I then went to the vessel and cleared my luggage.

    A man saved at the eleventh hour. He could have used his moment in Court to slate the Waratah, but did not, for there was no reason to.

    Final, return voyage:

    George. Samuel Richardson.

    Chief mechanical engineer of the Geelong Harbour Trust, Victoria.

    Had made other ocean passages.

    While off the Leeuwin we had some bad weather. There was a heavy sea running with a strong wind. The vessel did not roll to any great angle, but she rolled slowly. It was a slow majestic roll with a distinct pause at the extremity of the roll.

    At last the Waratah was what she was supposed to be.

    She was pitching, but I did not notice anything abnormal about the pitching.

    The sluggish character of the rolling of the vessel continued after we left the vicinity of the Leeuwin, but in the moderate seas the rolling was not so pronounced.

    'Sluggish' hints at the vast cargo manifest.

    When we encountered the heavy swells in the Indian Ocean, the vessel began to both roll and pitch to a greater extent. The rolling and pitching were worse than when she was in the heavy weather off the Leeuwin. I accounted for that in my own mind by the fact that she was getting lighter owing to the consumption of coal on the voyage, and that the wave length of the swell was greater than it was off the Leeuwin. The rolling had the same character as before, that is, a slow roll with a distinct pause before recovery, and the pitching was of a similar character with the same pause and slow recovery especially from the forward dip. She rose more quickly aft.

    Mr. Richardson gives us an expert opinion, explaining the Waratah's behaviour due to longer wavelengths and burned out coal. The slow recovery from the forward dip could have been in part due to reduced buoyancy and heavy refrigeration machinery forward on the spar deck.

    I was in the habit of walking with Captain Ilbery on the boat deck. One morning I was there with him before breakfast, during the time the boat was rolling and pitching heavily, and I said to him, "I don't like the behaviour of this ship of yours any too well, Captain. She recovers too slowly for me."

    He replied, "Yes, she is a little that way, but you must remember there are many thousands of tons of dead weight to shift. When this once gets in motion, it takes some power to stop it, and, when stopped, it also takes a considerable force to start in the opposite direction."

    Although this is hearsay, for the first time we have a plausible explanation from the master of the Waratah. There is no doubt in my mind, GM issues aside, Captain Ilbery described a significantly laden vessel, suggesting by inference to an expert such as Mr. Richardson, that the unique behaviour characteristics in large part were due to 10 300 tons of dead weight (cargo 9 000 tons and lead concentrates 1300 tons). Waratah should have been able to transport 12 000 tons by specifications, but Captain Ilbery made a point of the many thousands of tons. In the context of Waratah 10 300 tons was by inference exceptional

    From my observation of the vessel's previous behaviour and of its behaviour at that time I was then of opinion that she was tender, but not dangerously so under normal circumstances.

    Mr. Richardson was not about to let go of 'tenderness' despite Captain Ilbery's wise words. 

    On another occasion, Captain Ilbery told me that the ship had behaved extremely well on her outward voyage in the Forties where you might expect much worse weather than this.

    One morning during fine weather, while there was a heavy swell, I was on the boat deck.

    Once when the ship pitched heavily, she took a heavy sea over the port bow, and was an unusually long time in recovering. I felt a distinct trembling through the boat as she was coming up. This might have been caused by the racing of the engines as the propellers came near the surface.

    Another description of the heavy vessel. Let's also not forget that she was relatively under powered and strain translated as 'trembling'.

    I could not see anything to account for the shipping of a sea at the time.

    Low freeboard confirmed!

    After breakfast I told Mr. Saunders what I had seen.

    He said," Did she? I must speak to Ebsworth about this."

    Mr. Ebsworth was a fellow passenger who had previously been a ship's officer.

    Later in the day Mr. Saunders told me that he had mentioned the matter to Mr. Ebsworth and that they had both watched the vessel and had seen the same thing repeated twice.

    Neither myself nor Mr. Saunders nor Mr. Ebsworth was alarmed by this.

    I said to them, "One of these days she'll dip her nose down too far and not come up again."

    This was only said in a jocular manner. I did not seriously think there was any risk of the vessel doing that, and if it had not been for the disappearance of the vessel, I should probably never have again thought about the occurrence.

    However, the comment stuck. 

    Again we have a witness who made the very important point that 'had it not been for the disappearance of the vessel, I should probably never have again thought about the occurrence'. It also reinforces that despite observations and comments there was no alarm

    Another day, I think it was after the events mentioned, I was reading in the music room. I felt a distinct shock through the vessel. After a minute or two I went down on to the forward well deck to see what had happened. I saw the second and fourth engineers examining the vertical ladder which ran from the forward well deck to the boat deck on the port side. The ladder was broken about 3 feet above the deck. The engineers told me that it had been broken by the impact of a sea.

    Was this incident due to a heavily laden vessel (diminished ability to absorb a sudden impact), or poor build quality; or a combination of both. Perhaps it was simply due to the longer wave lengths, previously referred to. If such wave lengths approximated the length of the vessel, such could be the force upon the hull. Were any hull plates cracked by this force ??

    I know of more than one instance when passengers fell owing to the peculiar rolling of the vessel, which I have described before.

    Once I was walking on the promenade deck with Mrs. Cawood, Miss Lascelles, and the ship's surgeon, when the surgeon and one of the ladies fell into the scuppers, and I with difficulty prevented the other lady from falling also. The fall was caused by a further roll after the pause I have described, probably by the vessel being struck with another sea before she had recovered.

    I am of the opinion that the 'jerk' described by Sawyer was the cause of the fall. Note that he said that the vessel was probably struck by another sea. He was not sure....

    The angle to which the vessel rolled at that time was not in my opinion alarming, but it was the peculiar manner of the roll that caused the fall.

    Mrs. Cawood some days afterwards fell and injured her back severely, and had to be carried ashore.

    From this account it seems Mrs. Cawood was prone to falling, for which there could be other reasons apart from the distinct roll of the Waratah.

    I am certain that the vessel never reached anything like an angle of 45 degrees at any time I was on her. I don't think the angle was ever half that much.

    This makes far more sense, further reinforcing that Mr. Sawyer was inclined to exaggeration.

    There was no permanent list on the vessel. There would be a slight list varying from side to side with the direction of the wind and as the coal was used from the bunkers.

    The GM had improved, case closed.

    SS Koombana - with 900 tons ballast water, stable - without, unstable and top heavy...