Thursday, 7 July 2016


"Apart from the inaccurate reference to Durban, where of course, practically any repair to a damaged vessel can be undertaken, and expeditiously carried out - the condition of the Waratah's machinery was perfect, both when she arrived, and when she left, and she was thus reported to the Harbour Authorities, to the Collector of Customs, to Lloyd's surveyor (Captain Airth), and to the agents for the Blue Anchor Line (Messrs Cotts and Co)."

"Further evidence regarding the Waratah's preparedness for her voyage was obtained from Captain Airth, Lloyd's surveyor in Durban.  Captain Airth expains that it would have been obligatory upon the captain of the steamer to notify any defect in hull or machinery affecting his vessel's seaworthiness to the Board of Trade authorities, since, in the event of previous damage being discovered after a casualty, unreported at the last port at which the vessel called, not only would the captain's certificate be endangered, but the steamer's insurance would be affected."

"As a further confirmation of the Waratah's soundness before she left Durban, the certificate given by her master, Captain Ilbery, to the Collector of Customs, as Board of Trade officer, was obtained, and a copy taken."

It is as follows:

Port Natal, July 26, 1909

To the Collector of Customs.  Port

Dear Sir,

"I hereby declare to the best of my knowledge and belief that my vessel, the SS Waratah, has sustained no damage from any cause whatever since leaving the last port, Adelaide, and I have nothing special to report."

Yours faithfully,

(signed) J.E. Ilbery,

Master, SS Waratah.

"The Waratah did have one small repair carried out here, but it was of so insignificant a character that the cost did not exceed 3 pounds 15 shillings.  Mr Booth (of R Booth and Son, engineers, Greyville), who effected the repair, as being the removal of a suction pipe from one of the auxiliary feed pipes, from what is known as the Weirs pump to the heater, which raises the temperature of the condensed water preparatory to its being fed again into the boilers."

Although the repair seemed insignificant it was discovered that the copper pipe in question was flawed and being connected with the steam system implies that flawed copper piping in general could have resulted in an explosive disaster. It is often quoted that there was nothing particularly flammable on the Waratah to cause an explosion. In this instance there did not have to be...

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