Monday, 25 April 2016


Inquiry extracts:

The after end of the spar-deck bunker on both sides of the ship was divided from the accommodation (for the engineers, stewards, &.) aft by weather boards extending to the deck above.

...the forecastle 84 feet 10 inches long, adapted for the accommodation of the crew.

The forecastle had a partial steel bulkhead at each side, with weather boards between these and the forward corners of the refrigerator house. The forward well was 73 feet in length, and had at its forward end a refrigerator house 28 feet long and 34 feet wide; the after well was 30 feet long.

The spar deck was multi-purpose. It comprised the controversial twin coal bunkers, 614 tons; crew accommodation fore / aft and refrigerator house. Emigrant accommodation displaced the coal bunkers on outbound voyages, vulnerable weather boards providing a practical means of converting spaces. 

It is interesting to note that the Inquiry focused exclusively on coal, spar deck, when there was also a combination of cargo and fresh produce in the refrigerator house. Clearly this limited cargo was stowed 100 cubic feet to the ton which did not produce the same GM effect of coal at 42 cubic feet to the ton. But given the allegations of top heaviness I would have thought the Court would make special mention of the volume (not just length) of the refrigerator house and the volume of produce therein.

Captain Pidgeon, 1959:

‘The Waratah had taken on a certain amount of frozen mutton to be discharged in Durban and whenever we had a cargo for Durban, it was the custom in Lund’s ships to stow it in the square of No. 1 hold, sometimes right from deck level, to the bottom of the hold. Any cargo for London was stowed in the wings and at both ends.  After the Durban cargo left the ship, the remaining slippery cargo of frozen carcasses had to be well shored-up, to prevent them from sliding everywhere.  We usually lowered big skids into the empty space and at both ends. These were kept in place by heavy beams, 6 x 6, which were placed across the empty space left by the Durban cargo and were jammed by wedges, which were placed and hammered home by carpenter and crew.
If this operation was faithfully performed, the remaining cargo was quite secure and could not move into the empty space in the centre, no matter how great the pitching and rolling of the ship.

On Waratah's final voyage, frozen mutton carcasses were not discharged at Durban, but rather butter, rabbits, hares, flour, machinery and dried fruit = 240 tons. So it does not appear that 'remaining slippery cargo had to be well shored up', and would not have been a factor for shifting in heavy weather.

I have read a number of wreck reports and in the case of steamers with refrigeration capacity, volume was always quoted and details of produce therein. In the case of the Waratah Inquiry, the refrigerator house was referred to very briefly in terms of location on the spar deck, including length and breadth. All the focus was directed at the 240 tons of coal on the spar deck with very little reference to perishables in the refrigerator house and the limited tallow and wool on this deck.

The blatant underestimation of total cargo weight, as presented by Mr Larcombe at the Inquiry, was as follows:

- 4320 tons lower hold
- 1425 tons lower 'tween decks
- 595 tons upper 'tween decks

- 6250 tons, TOTAL.

Note: the 1300 tons of lead concentrates were not included in the general cargo figures *

No mention was made of the perishables in the refrigerator house or other cargo on the spar deck !

I would imagine that the following items would have been destined for stowage in the refrigerator house:

1,050 bxs (boxes) butter, 3,500  crts rabbits,30 bags peas.100 cases apples,1,510 cases meats,20 cases crayfish,1,238 cases oranges,1,200 cases dried fruit,
Even the most conservative weight estimate would have accounted for cargo above the upper 'tween decks (above). But Mr. Larcombe's assessment only went as high as the upper 'tween decks. No wonder it was some 3000 tons short of the realistic total.
When it comes to cargo there are too many loop holes to come to a sound conclusion.

Also see:

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