Friday, 30 September 2016


I have asserted that the 'jerk' described during Waratah's voyage across from Australia to Durban, July, 1909, was due to an over-correction of GM (increased righting force). By adding 1300 tons of lead concentrates at 11 cubic feet to the ton and 8 ft. high in the lower hold, improved GM to a figure of roughly 1.9 ft. which is stiff, not tender - tenderness being associated with top heaviness. Further to this I have asserted that Captain Ilbery needed to load about 250 to 300 tons of coal on the spar deck to reduce GM to a more palatable 1.5 ft. and thus remove the jerky recovery - passengers had fallen on deck due to this jerky recovery. There are many skeptics who dispute my assertions. The following is taken from my Yongala Revisited Blog. I believe the point is very well made:

Captain Mackay asked the witness about
the rumor that 400 tons of ballast had 
been taken out of the vessel, and the 
witness said he had replied to that. He 
pointed out that when the vessel was 
on the Western Australian trade she 
generally travelled from Fremantle to 
Adelaide with very little cargo, and often 
none at all. Her mean draught from 
Fremantle to Adelaide would be from 
16 ft. 8 in. to 17 ft. 6 in..

If the reporter documented the figure accurately 400 tons of pig iron were significantly more than the 164 tons of pig iron quoted in the Inquiry transcript:

'it was explained by the general manager that this ballast, amounting to 164 tons, became unnecessary, owing to cargo being obtainable both up and down the Queensland coast.'

It must be said at this juncture that the mere fact Yongala required between 164 and 400 tons of permanent pig iron ballast, over and above the water ballast component, indicates an inherently tender (top heavy) vessel. The point is well made that there might have been significantly less cargo between Fremantle and Adelaide, but the witness failed to mention that Yongala, as late as December 1910, periodically serviced the route between Adelaide and Fremantle, and not exclusively the east coast! If Yongala was an inherently stiff steamer there would not have been the need for additional permanent ballast.

The water ballast she then carried would
be 400 tonsIn May, 1904 it was decided
to put some stiffening in her for the run
across the Bight, and on May 17, at Sydney, 
184 tons of pig iron were stowed in the
after end of the No. 2 hold. In May, 1907,
when the vessel was put on the trade from
Melbourne to Cairns, this was discharged,
as the vessel could rely on having cargo
both ways.

It appears that the reporter confused the figure of 400 tons with ballast water, as he or she might have done referring to 184 tons rather than 164 tons. I am going to take 164 tons of pig iron ballast as given (Inquiry transcript). If Yongala had retained the 164 tons of pig iron, taking into consideration that she was 36% full in terms of cargo, 23 March, she might have survived the storm. After all, the pig iron was added with reference to storm conditions off the Australian Bight and reduced cargo component.

The witness read a letter from Captain
Knight, dated June 11. 1907, stating that
the vessel seemed much better since the
iron was removed. It had done away, he
said, with the jerking recovery which had
been so noticeable when the iron was on
board and the vessel was in ballast trim.

This is a significant passage. Improved GM stability did not equate with passenger comfort. Further to this I cannot help but draw a comparison with the Waratah. Captain Ilbery of that vessel significantly improved GM stability (reducing the top heaviness factor --> stiffening) for Waratah's final voyage by loading 1300 tons of lead concentrates at 11 cubic feet to the ton and 8 ft. high in a lower hold, creating a significant shift of Waratah's centre of gravity downwards - reducing top heaviness. However, during the voyage over from Australia to Durban (South Africa) there were reports of just such a 'jerking recovery' described above which caused passengers to fall on deck. It seems to me that in both cases, making corrections for relatively top heavy vessels, created its own set of problems. 

SS Yongala

SS Waratah

Saturday, 17 September 2016


Range of Visibility of Lights: The coloured sidelights are only required to be visible for 2 miles, but are usually visible for a greater distance depending materially on atmospheric conditions; the mast lights are 5 miles, but again will usually be seen further— especially in the exceptional conditions described in this book.

Padfield, Peter. The Titanic and the Californian (p. 334). Thistle Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Controversy will always surround the details of that which was seen by Captain Bruce and his officers of the SS Harlow, 8 pm, 27 July, 1909. Captain Bruce, his chief officer and chief engineer, all had the impression of a large steamer astern, showing two masthead lights and a red sidelight. Conditions were relatively clear, the storm of 'exceptional violence' evolving far to the southwest. Captain Bruce remained steadfast about the details of that which they had all witnessed despite the fact that his two officers submitted to the suggestion that bush fires onshore could have mimicked a large steamer astern. The truly interesting thing about the above passage is that sidelights (i.e. the red sidelight) could not be seen beyond 5 miles, in general conditions. This confirms Alfred Harris' statement that he estimated that the large steamer was less than 4 miles astern. This makes sense and further to this a steamer the size of Waratah could not have been mistaken for anything other than what she was, less than 4 miles astern of the Harlow.

Saturday, 10 September 2016


Examiner (Launceston) Friday 10 February, 1911.
Depositions were read to-day, fromwhich the following are extracts:
Mr. Harris, chief engineer of thesteamer Harlow:-
"On July 27, 1909, when off the African coast, I saw two lights, one a red light, apparently thoseof a steamer. I afterwards noticed largevolumes of smoke and a glare, afterwhich the lights disappeared. Therewere bush fires on shore. I expressed anopinion at the time that if that werea steamer, she was on fire. "The smokemight be attributable to bush fires."
Much has been said about Captain Bruce's account of the 'large steamer astern of the Harlow'. But Chief Engineer Alfred Harris' account was succinct and highly convincing. Not only this it mirrored Bruce's description of events - despite the simple fact that bush fire mirages are in the eye of the beholder and unlikely to present the same images to multiple eye witnesses. The reference to a 'glare' is interesting in itself and could have related to a fire on board. However, witnesses on the Californian, the tramp steamer within visual distance of the sinking Titanic, commented that they could see the masthead light of Titanic with a 'glare' aft. This confirms that if a large steamer with many deck lights was viewed from a distance at night head on, i.e. bow pointing towards the vantage point of observers,  these decks lights would be seen as a 'glare'. This would have applied to the Waratah astern of the Harlow. The large volumes of smoke could have been attributed by a fire on board but the glare might not have been similarly associated with flames on deck. It is also interesting to note how much confusion existed on the Californian as officers on watch witnessed numerous distress flares. Interpretations varied and ultimately the Californian did not go to the aid of the Titanic - such a similar situation to the Harlow account.
Food for thought....
SS Californian.