Tuesday, 26 April 2016


The most confusing aspect of the Inquiry had to be the conflicting opinions of a significant number of passengers on Waratah. To make matters worse a roughly equal number of these witnesses either claimed Waratah was not seaworthy or a fine 'sea boat'. We know from the evidence that Waratah was relatively top heavy during the first three voyages, and it took 1000 - 1300 tons of lead, lowest down (final voyage) to reduce her centre of gravity and improve GM, significantly. Some of the negative witness accounts were difficult to distinguish between top heaviness and under power. Be this as it may, I have looked back at witness accounts with particular reference to the voyage from Adelaide to Sydney, second voyage. I have done this with reference to the statement made that on arrival at Adelaide, the main hold where coal had been stowed was cleared out for cargo and coal stowed in 'tween decks. Theoretically this should have had a significant impact on the top heaviness factor. The following extracts give us some clues:

Herbert Duncan Mason. 

Passenger. An engineer holding a first class certificate, 33 years at sea. 

Nothing to prove the ship seaworthy or not coming out because smooth all the time. The only time there was a bit of a breeze, coming out of Melbourne, she heeled over very heavily. She did not recover herself properly, was not quick enough. In my opinion, if she got in a heavy seaway and did not recover herself which I do not think she would, she would get another one on top of her and I believe she went over. 

Thomas John Burrin. 

Between Gabo and Sydney was awakened by the list which had become very pronounced. She righted herself and the list only lasted a few minutes. 

Behaviour of ship gave no cause to fear for her safety. 

Harold Skarratt Thomas 

Seaman on "Waratah" 

....I noticed the behaviour of the vessel was one evening soon after we had cleared the Port Phillip Heads on route to Sydney. The wind was blowing hard, and the sea appeared rough. 

I had retired early that evening, and had been asleep. I cannot say how long I had been asleep, when I was awakened by being rolled forcibly against the side of my bunk. and I had to grip the railing hard in order to avoid being thrown completely out of bed.

Frank Edward Thomas. 

Shipping clerk to agents 

Passenger, Adelaide to Sydney. 

I saw nothing while I was on board to correspond with the reported statement of Mr. Sawyer at Durban. The only thing I noticed was that on leaving Melbourne for Sydney she had a slight list to starboard, and on the next day on looking over the side I noticed she was discharging rusty-looking water. The chief engineer came along, and I asked him the cause. and he said they were pumping out a tank to rectify the list. The list, however, continued. 

The morning after I noticed this we arrived in Sydney and the list was still on. it was only slight, and probably a casual observer would not have noticed it. . . . 

The drawback of all witness accounts is that a meaningful outcome, from a scientific point of view, cannot be achieved. However, there is more than enough inference to a tender ship, before stability was improved. It seems loading coal in the 'tween decks with less 'dense' cargo in main hold did have an impact on subjective impressions of tenderness.

Although 1000 tons of lead concentrates were loaded at Adelaide the cargo dead weight component was lacking.

No comments: