Wednesday, 11 May 2016


Fredk. Chas. Saunders. 

Passenger, Adelaide to Durban. 

Had made numerous trips in mail ships and coasting vessels. 

We ran into dirty weather soon after leaving Adelaide, and then for a few days until well past Breaksea we had heavy seas and wind squalls from the south-west. The vessel rolled a lot during that time, but to my mind, it was nothing unusual having regard to the weather, practically midwinter in Australia. The rolling was not sufficient to interfere with my sleep, or cause me to put out my elbows to steady myself in my bunk as I have had to do in other vessels. 

A clear description of a normal steamer of the era. Steadier than other vessels by this account.

The only matters which occurred to cause comment at the time were when the vessel (on two occasions) gave a bit of an extra roll and seemed to shake before she started to return, and one day when it was fairly calm when the vessel took two or three waves over her bows without any apparent reason. 

The 'shake' or 'jerk' was specific to the final voyage, signifying an increased righting force jerk due to a vastly improved GM of 1.9 ft.. The price to pay for the improved GM came in the form of 'waves over the bows' - very heavy with reduced freeboard and buoyancy. Don't forget that Waratah's relatively under powered engines required an additional 15 tons per day, over and above the 80 ton per day average, to maintain cruising speed.

Mr. Richardson called my attention to this latter fact, and Mr. Ebsworth and I went to the fore end of the boat deck to see the occurrence. When I saw it I remarked that I had seen something like it before in the Indian Ocean, a wave getting up suddenly without any apparent cause or reason and Mr. Ebsworth agreed that it was not uncommon, but he thought the "Waratah" showed a fondness for "putting her nose into them." These matters passed from our minds at the time, and were only recalled by me in the light of what subsequently occurred.

In my opinion this is a description of a heavy steamer with reduced buoyancy.

Both Mr. Ebsworth and myself were so confident of the safety of the vessel that we made arrangements to go back by her to Australia on her return voyage. I arranged to join the vessel at Cape Town. 

This one sentence from the Inquiry transcript highlighted Captain Ilbery's achievements in steadying Waratah and gaining passenger confidence. 

When we arrived at Durban it was difficult to obtain apartments or accommodation, and I had decided to proceed to Cape Town (i.e., in the "Waratah"), but at the last moment a friend managed to make arrangements for me, and I then went to the vessel and cleared my luggage.

What a chilling narrow escape. If it weren't for his friend, Mr. Saunders would have brought the statistic to 212 lost with Waratah. He might have been inclined at the Inquiry to dramatize the Waratah's pitching idiosyncrasy and relate how glad he was 'to be out of her at Durban', but that was not the case - I believe he gave a genuine account.


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