Friday, 30 December 2016


Mr. Hoehling gives us an entertaining excerpt about Professor Bragg, the Nobel Prize physicist. There can be no doubt that this man's witness account was to be taken seriously and his observations revealing. Apparently the ladies on the superior decks were unable to take baths on occasion due to the angle of the list - water slopping out of baths. Mr. Hoehling emphasised that this information was not gathered first hand by the good Professor :) On a more serious note, Professor Bragg  “continued to query the captain at breakfast whether he could not do something about the list.” and asked Captain Ilbery if he had stability curves on board, which they were not. It must have been a somewhat embarrassing moment for the experienced and dedicated master. Taking this matter further, Professor Bragg cornered the chief engineer Mr. Hodder about the persistent list and received the now famous reply: “Why, she’s as safe as a church—sir!” Despite it all I agree that Waratah was safe, if somewhat tender. Personally I believe the bilge keels contributed to the puzzling phenomenon of Waratah hanging in a list. With 756 passengers on board and 154 crew (total 910) during her maiden voyage, apart from a fire, Waratah made good time and did not give cause for alarm. Professor Bragg's full statement at the Inquiry (second homeward voyage) was as follows:

William H. Bragg. 

Passenger and Fellow of Royal Society and Cavendish Professor of Physics at the University of Leeds; fourth long voyage. 

I was very alarmed 

Thought she was unstable for small displacements, but stable for larger ones. 

My impression was that metacentre was just slightly below centre of gravity when she was upright, and then as she heeled over on either side she came to a position of equilibrium. 

Judging by the camber the list was four or five degrees 

The list would last for several days in one direction 

One morning she came upright, then went over, and stopped down on the other side. 

The vessel got more upright getting towards Durban. After leaving Cape Town the list developed again. 

I was surprised to find how little she rolled, but that fitted in with her being in neutral equilibrium. 

Thought she was a remarkably steady and comfortable boat 

Often talked to the captain about the stability of ships, but never put a direct question about this ship and asked for stability curves, but was told they were not on board. 

Spoke to the chief engineer who said she was safe as a church, that if necessary the tanks would be filled, and she would then be as stiff as a board.   

When all is said and done I believe that this comprehensive statement is as close as we shall ever get to the truth regarding the first three voyages. Waratah was top heavy, but steady. 'Alarm' is a harsh word and has lived on in legend. This word was significantly modified by the further statement that 'she was a remarkably steady and comfortable boat'. In reality Waratah never listed beyond 5 degrees, which was satisfactory and with her ballast tanks filled, lowering centre of gravity, had the potential to be as 'stiff as a board'. It is interesting that Waratah 'got more upright getting closer to Durban'. We know from the Inquiry that GM improved by as much as 10 inches when coal was burned out. This would certainly have accounted for Waratah being 'more upright'.

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