port which gradually increased (cargo shifting ?).
It is thought that the captain was making an
effort to reach Port Stephens for shelter.
The vessel however became unmanageable
and the side of the steamer was nearly
buried in seething waters. When the crew
tried to launch the starboard lifeboat it was
stove in, but the 18 persons who were on
board it succeeded in clinging to it. One assumes that lifeboats = safe evacuation. In reality this was seldom the case in circumstances outlined above.
The vessel foundered in a minute or two
This could have been the scenario describing the last moments of Waratah.
She suddenly plunged and disappeared
head foremost in a terrifying manner. Flames
from her engineroom belched from her funnel
and as her stern reared for the final plunge the
screw shrieked and raced madly in midair. Apart from distress signals and explosions this remains a feasible explanation for the two distinct flashes of light seen by the crew of the Harlow.
Owing to the numbers clinging to the
boat she capsized. Several of the crew
disappeared, and others were washed off
the overturned boat by the seas which
swept clean over her. Those who were
more fortunate were successful in righting
the boat but some went mad and others
died silently from exhaustion.
Tragically, so often the outcome of crises such as this.
The Oakland was built at Dunbarton in
1890. She was a steel screw steamer of
70 horse power with a gross tonnage of 398
tons. She was 154ft long 24ft broad and 10ft in depth. Her rating at Lloyds was 100 A1.
A previous misfortune to the Oakland
occurred in August 1901, when in bad
weather she went ashore on the breakwater
north of the Richmond River, receiving
serious damage. A large hole was knocked
in her bottom and six weeks elapsed before
she could be floated. A considerable sum
had to be spent in repairs before the Oakland
could again be put in commission. One wonders if latent residual damage contributed to the catastrophe.
STATEMENT BY THE SECOND
John Howes, the second mate said the captain had asked him to go below and get some sleep. He turned in and was wakened by a bag falling on his face. He found that the vessel had taken a tremendous list. Rushing up the companian way half dressed, he heard the captain calling all hands on deck. The water was then flush with the deck. He assisted to get the life boat out. Owing to the angle of the steamer's deck nothing could be done with the port lifeboat (reality). A tremendous sea was running and as they launched the boat a belaying pin was stove through the bottom, and the ropes had lo be cut in order to free her. The boat at once filled but the 18 souls who were on board the doomed steamer succeeded in clinging to the gunwale of the boat. Four, however, were quickly washed off and just as the steamer sank he thought that not more than 14 were holding on to her.
The Oakland had such a terrible list that as the
boat was shoved off the Iower portion of the
funnel was submerged. A few moments later
the steamer took a plunge head foremost.
It was a terrifying spectacle as the flames burst
from the funnel and the screw raced violently in
the air just before the hull suddenly disappeared. Could similar final images as these have been witnessed by those from the Waratah who were doomed to perish ?