Monday, 9 May 2016


Bringing Waratah round from the builders' yard to London:

Mr. F. W. Lund was on board during this trip. He said that so far as he could recollect the water ballast tanks were full, and that about 3,000 tons of coal were on board. Mr. Shanks, the superintending engineer, who also made the trip, said she had 2,900 tons of coal on board, some in those permanent bunkers situated below the spar deck and the rest stowed partly in the spar deck bunker and partly in No. 3 hold, with some in the 'tween decks. He afterwards corrected this by saying there was no coal in the spar deck bunker, as the builders stopped it being placed there, considering it unsafe that it should be so placed in this special condition for the voyage round to London.

This extract is interesting. The heeling experiment revealed that Waratah had a GM between .26 ft. (968 tons ballast - including 300 tons fresh water) and .55 ft. (1358 tons ballast) in light condition (without cargo). Note how dramatically GM halved with a reduction of 390 tons (29%) ballast. Captain Ilbery absented himself shortly before the heeling experiment got underway suggesting that he anticipated an inherently top heavy vessel. Having been involved with the design and latter construction of Waratah, perhaps he felt that fingers would be pointed when the truth revealed itself. But I speculate. 

Waratah certainly did not require 2900 tons of coal for the run from the Clyde to London, suggesting that the coal component was part of a test to see how the flagship would behave at sea, without cargo and all ballast tanks filled. According to the design plans Waratah could load 3829 tons of coal in both permanent and reserve bunkers. Water ballast tanks were full, 1338 tons, giving a total of 4238 tons below the spar deck, 929 tons short of full coal capacity.

It is interesting that the builders were aware that under such conditions coal should not be loaded in the spar deck bunkers. The heeling test had no doubt brought the proverbial chicken home to roost. With Captain Ilbery absent from the heeling test it appears that the crew of Waratah were as yet unaware of the significance of 614 tons of coal at 42 cubic feet to the ton on the spar deck 'in this special condition', and had to be advised.

It is alleged that Mr. Hemy (third officer) claimed that coming round Dungeness in bad weather Waratah almost went over on her broad side. Others (living) denied this claim at the Inquiry. There is a real possibility that the claim was true and revealed Waratah's true limitations without significant cargo and 'lead' ballasting lowest down. 

If the claim was true it must have alarmed the crew of Waratah that 1338 tons of ballast water and 3829 tons of coal distributed between lower, 'tween and main decks did not equate with a stable steamer, particularly if one bears in mind a potential capacity of 1350 tons (35%) in the GM problematic 'tween decks. 

There must have been much discussion among the crew before Waratah departed on her maiden voyage regarding ideal cargo stowage and ballasting. To make matters worse Waratah departed London, 5 November, 1908, without formal stability curves on board. I have steadfastly maintained that if Waratah were to have succumbed to stability issues, it should have been during this voyage with roughly 700 emigrants holding on for dear life. By 26 July, 1909, the stability goal posts had shifted significantly and so had the story.

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