Thursday, 7 April 2016


The Advertiser (Adelaide) Monday 16 August, 1909.

Every ship master, be he the captain of
a P. & 0. mail steamer or of the crankiest 
and most evil smelling tramp afloat on
the ocean, nurses the hope of some day
earning a small fortune by salvage work.
The high seas have in the past yielded up
many fat prizes in this way in the shape of
valuable, but disabled, ocean liners, and
now there is somewhere in the vast expanse
of the Indian Ocean, so it is thought and
devoutly hoped (apart from all thought of
personal gain), one of extra-high value, 
re-presented by the steamer Waratah. On
Friday a well-known Melbourne nautical
man, who is an authority on such matters,
estimated, for the benefit of the '"Age,"
that the safe conveyance of the Waratah
into port would be worth to the rescuing
ship at the very least between £25,000 and
£30,000. Of this sum the captain of the
rescuing vessel would receive from £1,500
to £2,000, and his crew about £3,500 or
£4,000, divided on the basis of seniority
and personal risk. "If that vessel is
towed into port," he said, "the owners of
the towing vessel will make a claim for 
salvage, asking a certain sum of money. The
owners of the Waratah and the underwriters 
will then discuss the claim, and if they think 
it is reasonable, a very unlikely thing, for the 
claims are always heavy, they will pay it. 
Perhaps each party will agree to submit it to 
arbitration, and abide by the result; but that 
is a rare procedure,
I think we will be safe in assuming
I that the matter will be tried before the
Admiralty Court. The judge of that court
has unlimited powers in the allotment of
salvage. He considers first the value of
the ship salved, and her cargo, then the
value of the salving vessel and her cargo,
the loss of time and coal by the salving
ship, the extra work of her master and
crew, their risk during the tow according
to the weather experienced, any damage
she may have sustained in collision with
the rescued steamer, loss of tow ropes, etc.

Over and above hopes that Waratah was still afloat and souls unharmed, there was the monetary issue
of salvage reward. Searches for the lost Waratah were extensive, almost unprecedented. One
imagines that this was based solely on humanitarian grounds. Not so. The figures quoted above were
nothing short of a fortune and if Waratah had been confirmed carrying more than 100 tons of gold, one
can only imagine how this would have translated before the Admiralty Court. In fact, the searches
which continued well into the following year are very suggestive of a significant gold component on
board - recovery, imperative.

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