Wednesday, 6 July 2016


"In Adelaide she took on 300 tons of lead concentrates and a large quantity of refrigerated meat and boxes of butter and grain, a total of 6,665 tons as well as 82 passengers."

"He estimated the total dead weight of
cargo on board at 9,000 tons, and that her
draft was 28 ft. 3 in. forward and 29 ft.
5 in. aft."

"The Adelaide cargo of the steamer was thoroughly
well and judiciously stowed."

These period newspaper extracts serve to reinforce the fact that the figure of roughly 6250 tons of cargo arrived at during the Inquiry was significantly short of the truth. Many similar newspaper reports referred to 9000 tons rather than 6250 tons. In fact I have never come across a single newspaper extract referring to 6250 tons. 

The reference to 300 tons of lead concentrates is confusing. The Inquiry quoted a figure of 970 tons loaded at Adelaide. There are references that Waratah took on board about 1000 tons of lead concentrates at Adelaide on her inbound voyage to establish dead weight ballast after cargo was discharged. Lead concentrates were produced at Port Pirie close to Adelaide and therefore a ready source of important ballast material. I believe the 1000 tons were kept on board - not discharged at Sydney. Why would they be transporting lead concentrates to Sydney only to be confronted with an absence of the vital 1000 tons (ballast) for the outbound voyage to Adelaide, where the bulk of cargo would be loaded? It does not make sense and certainly does not reflect the improved GM figures for these legs of the voyage, taking into account ballast water variations. I believe the 300 tons of lead concentrates quoted above refer to an additional quantity of lead concentrates taking the total to about 1300 tons. This would certainly account, in part, for the GM figure of 1.9 ft. and the 'jerk' experienced on the voyage from Adelaide to Durban and exclusive to this voyage. Whether 1300 tons of lead concentrates were loaded at Adelaide or 300 tons + pre-existing 1000 tons is moot. It has no bearing on the end result which speaks for itself.


If one goes through all the impressions and experiences of passengers / crew (and boy were there many) one is drawn to an important feature of the final voyage from Adelaide to Durban. The Waratah had developed a 'jerk' at the extreme of a list which I believe was due to a much-improved GM of 1.9 ft. and righting force. There were reports of two people falling on deck - Mrs Cawood and Dr Fulford. This was witnessed by Mr Richardson. Although he attributed the falls to Waratah's peculiar rolling pattern and 'being hit by another sea' it stands to reason that the cause may very well have been the 'jerk' as described. The reason I say this is because there were no other reported falls on the first three voyages and given the high profile of the case would have been mentioned either in the press or at the Inquiry. Assuming that the GM of 1.9 ft. caused casualties on deck Captain Ilbery had to make further modifications to GM at Durban. He reduced the GM to 1.5 ft. by loading 290 tons of coal on the spar deck - INTENTIONAL - and the really fascinating thing about this weight is it almost duplicates the additional 300 tons of lead concentrates loaded at Adelaide. Instead of going to the trouble of offloading 300 tons of lead concentrates he elected to load 290 tons of coal on the spar deck, which achieved the same goal!  

Jason. H. Gibbon 

Lloyd's Surveyor, Adelaide. 

I had no conversation with the master of the steamer about the ship as I never had any doubt in regard to her. I never saw her empty. Every time she came here she was from a half to two-thirds full of cargo. I have visited the "Waratah" ever since she first came to this port, and have watched both loading and discharging. I have never observed anything in regard to her to cause me any uneasiness. 

An average of 28.875 ft. draught is 2.1 ft. short of maximum draught listed for Waratah. This implies that Waratah was intended to load about 12 000 tons of cargo. My personal belief is that Waratah could never carry this much cargo due to low freeboard / reduced buoyancy and under power. This is substantiated by the remark made by a the 'agent' at Adelaide who quoted that he never saw Waratah more than 2/3 full. Economically this does not make sense. Waratah was a flawed steamer and that which was intended could not be born out in practice.

Although lead concentrates were primarily used as high density (11 cubic feet to the ton and 8 ft. high) ballast the issue has been further confused by including this component as cargo, straddling both cargo and ballast categories. 

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