Tuesday, 10 May 2016


Extracts from Inquiry (in black):

On the 27th October, 1908, a passenger certificate was issued entitling the "Waratah" to carry 128 first class, and 160 third class passengers, with a crew of 144, a total of 432 persons.

The certificate did not correlate with crew and passengers as follows:

On Thursday, the 5th November, 1908, the "Waratah" left London on her maiden voyage. She carried 67 cabin passengers, 689 emigrants, and a crew of 154.

Emigrants fell into a 'gray' category, but according to the Merchant Shipping Act (1894), were classified third class passengers. It is both extraordinary and alarming that 689 emigrants were on board when the number should not have exceeded 160 (300 according to the Act calculation). Note that the crew for this voyage was in excess of the 144 figure - no doubt to cope with the huge numbers.

The "Waratah left London on her second (and last) voyage on the 27th April, 1909. She carried 193 steerage passengers, 22 cabin passengers and a crew of 119.

By the second outbound voyage, the steerage or third class component had dropped dramatically from 689 to 193. The number was still in excess of 160, but compensated by 22 cabin passengers. The numbers were within the Law.

I wonder if the drop in both cabin and steerage passengers had anything to do with rumours circulating about the 'top heavy Waratah?

5 437 emigrants arrived at Australia by ship during 1908, compared with 21 783 during 1909, a staggering increase of 400%. If anything there should have been a greater demand for emigrant passage on Waratah's second outbound voyage. 

Why was this not the case?

I can only speculate that by the second voyage Waratah was not allowed, by Law, to transport more than the number quoted (193). Secondly Waratah had experienced stability issues during the maiden voyage and it was possibly acknowledged that the number of emigrants and their baggage on the spar deck had an adverse effect. Thirdly, there is the possibility that complaints by emigrants, maiden voyage, drew undesired attention to the passenger overcrowding factor, hence more stringent application of the Law by the second voyage. 

From a financial point of view, in light of the increasing demand, 193 steerage passengers does not make sense, but in terms of the Law, it does. 

The figure of 144 crew, according to the certificate, draws my attention back to Mr. Summerbell's comments in the House of Commons, suggesting that the crew on board Waratah (119) during her final voyage was 'inadequate'. 25 crewmen short is significant. However the passenger number of 92 was well within the Law.

The Inquiry did not draw attention to the numbers discrepancies and implication the Law had been broken. One wonders why? Inappropriate influence at the highest level? Perhaps it came down to the simple fact that there were only 211 persons on board during Waratah's final, fatal voyage, and 119 crew was adequate for a passenger component of 92, a full three times less than capacity.


1 comment:

Mole said...

How intriguing.