When it comes to Waratah spar deck coal controversy is synonymous with the very mystery itself. I eventually came to the conclusion that when Waratah departed Durban for the last time, 240 - 300 tons of coal on the spar deck were loaded intentionally. It helped reduce the GM from 1.9 ft. to 1.5 ft. (or 1.35 ft.). The reason for doing this, the over-improved GM brought with it an equally improved righting force which caused a 'jerk' on the voyage over from Australia. This 'jerk' was in part responsible for a passenger falling on deck:
When Waratah was loaded at Durban the main chute fore of the funnel on the bridge deck was utilized. It was claimed that coal was loaded to within 2 ft. of the opening of the chute. We know that the chute/s could hold 130 tons of coal, all of which contributed to weight up to the spar deck AND ABOVE. It is interesting that this additional weight issue was not raised in the context of spar deck coal contributing to GM instability.
Coal in the chute should have been just as contentious.
What I find interesting and illuminating is that Captain Ilbery (and Mr Hodder) must have ordered such loading to reduce the GM to a more satisfactory level. It would be one thing to have carelessly loaded 240 tons of coal on the spar deck of a top heavy steamer, but to have left coal in the chute as well points to only one thing: all of this was done intentionally.
When Waratah experienced top heaviness issues during her maiden voyage, the coal chutes were left empty on departure from Sydney and there was NO coal on the spar deck. I have never for one moment believed Captain Ilbery and his officers were negligent. Their lives were also at stake!