Friday, 30 December 2016


Mr. Hoehling wrote a delightful section in his book describing the first voyage. As much as Waratah's list swung from one side to the other from one day to the next, so did opinion on board. Steward H.C. Herbert remarked that “She seemed to roll excessively.…I did not like the large amount of crockery that was broken.” B.J. Shore, a steerage steward backed up this claim: “a job to keep the tables laid sometimes.” Herbert also became known for pointing out deficiencies in the construction quality of Waratah and famously claimed that the promenade deck moved about so much that he could place fingers between the planks. He also claimed that a bolt came loose, striking the baker's head in the galley below. The papers fleshed this out:

 The evidence of witnesses was 
proceeded with to-day. A steward named Herbert deposed that he left the boat because he disliked the way she rolled and because of her terrific creaking. He once called the engineer's attention to a movement of her promenade deck. The whole wooden structure moved bodily athwart the ship. Boltheads actually broke off owing to the strain, while woodwork around the saloon door was separated from the ironwork to the extent of a couple of inches.

Some of these quotes have become legend and it is interesting to compare with actual Court transcript:


Herbert Comer Herbert. 

Steward. Four years at sea on passenger steamers, none larger than the "Waratah." 

Left because he did not like the ship. 

She had a list nearly all the time 

Would stop for a day or two on the same side, then go to the other side, and stop a day or two. 

No excessive rolling.

Still carried list from Australia to Durban 

Rolled excessively in dirty weather (between Durban and Cape Town) 

Very slow recovery

Brightmer John Shore. 

Steward on "Waratah" 

Always had a list; would change her list as often as three or four times in the course of an hour or an hour and half; rolled heavily. 

Undoubtedly during the first three voyages Waratah was relatively tender. This manifested in persistent lists with slow recovery, compounded by wind force against her prominent superstructure, and in my opinion, bilge keels extending 40% of the length of the steamer, amidships. The irony of this is that for stewards a persistent list is less likely to cause crockery breakage than constant rolling from one side to the other. Yes, in 'dirty weather' on all steamers, loose items had to be secured to prevent breakage. Interesting that Shore contradicted his colleague by claiming that Waratah changed her list 3 or 4 times in an hour. Between conflicting evidence and legend, there was never clarity about Waratah's true performance before Captain Ilbery altered ballasting for the last, fateful voyage. 

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