Saturday, 30 April 2016

A COMPREHENSIVE ENQUIRY?

The Advertiser (Adelaide) Friday 25 March, 1910.

THE WARATAH.
A COMPREHENSIVE ENQUIRY.
- Melbourne, 
The Federal officials, who, on behalf of
the British Board of Trade, are conducting
enquiries into matters associated with the
missing steamer Waratah, state that the
board intends to make the enquiry very
thorough. The Federal Crown Solicitor,
Mr. Charles Powers, who is now conducting 
the necessary enquiries through the
most likely channels, states that the 
investigation embraces enquiries into, 
among other things the following matters:-

Description of cargo and weight, loaded and
unloaded at Melbourne, Adelaide, and
Sydney, to ascertain the total weight of
cargo on board the ship when she sailed;
weight of bunker coal loaded at Sydney,
Melbourne, and Adelaide; from the stevedores 
as to the cargo loaded and amount
in each hold, and how much and where
stored and secured, and as to bunker coal
and where, also as to weight and description, etc, 
of cargo or bunker coal if any on
deck, and how secured; the vessel's draught
in salt water and freeboard when
she left the different ports; whether the
vessel was upright on leaving each port;
the number, names, and ratings of the crew,
the passengers and other persons, if any
on board when she left the different ports;
report from the pilots who took the vessel
to sea; on the vessel generally, its condition, 
trim, state of sea, the behaviour of
the ship, etc. The evidence of Messrs.
Richardson and Saunders, who sailed to
Durban in the vessel, left there and returned 
to Australia as to deck cargo or
bunker coal, and the behaviour of the ship,
etc.; evidence from four seamen who left
the ship in Australia on the behaviour of
the ship, and generally evidence from any
persons available in Australia who travelled
by the ship to Australia; extracts from
letters received from passengers to Durban
if any reference is made to the behaviour
of the ship on the way, or to complaints
referred to in the report of the interview
with Mr. Saunders at Durban.
Mr. Powers will be glad to bear from
any persons who can give material evidence 
regarding tie vessel, her loading, and
her behavior during previous voyages.

The intentions in preparation for the Inquiry were thorough to say the least. Not all of it translated into meaningful evidence at the Inquiry.

Extracts from the Inquiry:

The captain's, or rather the chief officer's, stowage plan also was made before anything had happened to the ship. It was despatched to the owners from Durban. There is no reason to suppose that, so far as it goes, it is anything but accurate and trustworthy. The information it gives is, however, very general in character; in some cases only are sufficient details given to enable any particular parcel of cargo to be identified.

The stevedores' plan is a document which emanates from Sydney, appears to be completed at Adelaide, and thence returned to Sydney. There is some attempt upon it to discriminate between the various ports of loading and also between those of destination; but it seems to be a hurried production, gives no weights, or particulars, beyond the names of the various commodities, and is obviously inaccurate in places both in its colouring and in its disposition of commodities. 

The depositions were made after the event, and are confused and contradictory. The Melbourne deposition is misleading; the principal commodities are lumped together beyond hope of disentanglement, the smaller consignments are left out altogether, and yet a total is arrived at considerably in excess of the total manifest weights. The Adelaide depositions give no indication whatever of where the cargo was stowed. 


Those who still argue that cargo was was well detailed / defined in terms of items and weights are naive. The final stowage plan before departing Adelaide was equally coloured and misleading. What was to be achieved by this? I believe it all came down to duties paid. Such confusion smacks of paying less. I don't believe Waratah was unique in this respect. Cargo loading and load lines were a gray zone in 1909. 

Not one word was said in connection with the vast refrigerator house contents.




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