Monday, 21 August 2017



Such, for example, is the case with the concentrates loaded at Adelaide. Arthur James Fisher, the assistant manager of the stevedoring company there, deponed that the concentrates were 8 feet deep all over the hold, and this figure was corroborated by John McArthur, the foreman stevedore. If this were correct it would necessitate taking the concentrates higher than the position assumed by Mr. Larcombe, who took their density such that 1 ton would occupy 12 cubic feet, being supported in this by a statement of McArthur that they go 11 cubic feet to the ton. The two statements made by the latter are irreconcilable, and there is little doubt that the height of 8 feet is excessive.

Lead concentrates shifting, causing the Waratah to become unstable in a severe storm, 28 July, remains one of the prominent theories for the loss of the flagship. Although 1300- 1500 tons of lead concentrates were absolutely necessary to stabilise Waratah, the concentrated volume, 8 ft. high in hold 3, was 'excessive'. Shifting was one thing, hull stress quite another:

Carrying solid bulk cargoes safely - Lloyd's Register

Distribution and stability You must also make sure that cargoes are properly distributed throughout the ship’s holds to provide adequate stability and ensure that the ship’s structure is never overstressed. Information can be found in the ship’s stability information booklet or you can use loading calculators if they are available. The Master will need to calculate the stability for the anticipated worst conditions during the voyage as well as for departure and demonstrate that the stability is adequate.

One assumes, based on the fact that the Waratah left Durban without a list that the lead concentrates were evenly distributed in hold 3. However, overstressing of the hull has never been far from my mind. I have no doubt the Waratah was too heavy, including this lead component. She had already been subjected to excessive forces when taking the ground at Port Adelaide and there was no comprehensive way of assessing hull damage at Adelaide and subsequently when the Waratah arrived at Durban. The large steamer astern of the Harlow disappeared very quickly and a plausible explanation points in the direction of an overstressed, and fire-damaged hull, failing.

What is liquefaction and how does it affect cargo? Liquefaction means that a cargo becomes fluid (liquefies). On ships, this happens when the cargo is compacted by the ship’s motion. Cargoes which are prone to liquefaction contain a certain quantity of moisture and small particles, although they may look relatively dry and granular when loaded. Liquefaction can lead to cargo shift and even to the capsize and total loss of the ship, and can occur even when cargoes are cohesive and trimmed level.

Lead concentrates, depending on retained moisture, can liquefy causing weight shift and destabilization. This remains a highly plausible explanation for the Waratah foundering if she did not come about and instead steamed into the storm of 'exceptional violence'. Furthermore this factor might also have contributed to the catastrophic sequence of events unfolding off Cape Hermes.

To control the risks of liquefaction, Group A cargoes (including lead concentrates) are tested to determine their Transportable Moisture Limit (TML) and their actual moisture content before they can be shipped. The TML is the maximum moisture content considered safe for carriage. The actual moisture content of the cargo must be below the TML.

I doubt whether the technology existed in 1909 to assess the moisture content of lead concentrates, but there is no doubt in my mind that masters of vessels were aware of this problem and knew how to manage it. The liquefaction process was not likely to be homogenous, requiring regular monitoring of the holds in question. 

When it came to Waratah it was a lose lose situation any which way one cares to look at the factors.

Sunday, 20 August 2017


This excerpt from a period newspaper refers to comments made by an experienced mariner, circa 1910.

"Well, now you have got me tied up in
a bit of a knot. All I can say is simply
this: It is possible, of course, that she (Waratah)
may still be afloat and adrift, but for my
own part I doubt it. As to the absence of
wreckage on which so many seem to rely as 
a proof that she is still above water, I place
little value on it, and I think that view will be 
endorsed by everyone who has any real 
acquaintance with the history and tragedies
of the sea."

The Harlow account fell short due to lack of wreckage discovered on the coast surrounding Cape Hermes. The experienced mariner 'placed little value on it'. Furthermore wreckage from a position 0.5 miles offshore (image) would initially be carried northeastward, finally retroflecting into the powerful Agulhas Current sweeping southwestward. 

 "I need only say that out of the 144 steamships 
lost in the trans Atlantic trade alone, between 
1838 and 1879 no less than 24 not only failed 
to complete their passages, but left no evidence
as to the cause."

Waratah was by no means unique. 

Saturday, 19 August 2017


HC Deb 18 July 1916 vol 84 cc842-4
54. Major HUNT 
asked what portion of the profits of the British Petroleum Company for the years 1914 and 1915, respectively, represents the profits earned by that company in the distribution of Shell motor spirit; and whether the profits on the sale of this spirit for the year 1915 amount to nearly £150,000?
I do not think it is desirable to publish details of the source of the profits earned by the British Petroleum Company, Limited, particularly where the information also concerns the business of other companies or traders.
55. Major HUNT 
asked whether the directors of the British Petroleum Company are not, with the exception of Messrs. Kean and Colt, representative of the Russian, French, and Belgian under takings, who claim that the beneficial interest in almost half the shares in the British Petroleum Company and the Petroleum Steamship Company belong to them; and will he say what interests Messrs. Kean and Colt represent in these companies?
Mr. Kean claims that he represents Russian and French interests in the British Petroleum Company, Limited. Mr. Colt was elected a director at a board meeting held in June, 1915, at which Mr. Kean, Mr. Olsen, representing Russian interests, and Mr. Braun, representing French interests, were present, so that Mr. Colt appears also to represent Russian and French interests.
Major HUNT 
Was it not a company under German control before the War?
That I do not know.
56. Major HUNT 
asked what profits have been earned by the British Petroleum Company and the Petroleum Steamship Company for the year 1914, in addition to the dividend of £69,203 8s. and £36,258 4s. paid to the Public Trustee; and whether he will give the amount of profits of these two companies for the year 1915, without "waiting until it is determined what part of the profits will be paid to the Public Trustee?
For the year 1914 the profits earned by the British Petroleum Company and the Petroleum Steamship Company, in addition to the dividends of £69,203 8s. and £36,258 4s. paid to the Public Trustee, were £11,951 and £3,139 respectively. The profits of the British Petroleum Company for the year 1915 were £305,952. I have not yet received particulars of the accounts of the Petroleum Steamship Company for the year 1915.
Major HUNT 
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether all the profits are not paid to the German account although the Russian, French, and Belgians share almost half; and, if so, could he say why this is so?
No, Sir, I could not say without notice.
57. Major HUNT 
asked whether an inquiry has been made by the Advisory Committee appointed by the Board of Trade as to the advisability of prohibiting or winding up the businesses of the British Petroleum Company, the Petroleum Steamship Company, and the Home light Oil Company; and, if so, when was the Report received from such Committee?
The Advisory Committee have inquired into the cases of the British Petroleum Company, Limited, the Petroleum Steamship Company, Limited, and the Home light Oil Company, Limited, and their Report advising that for special reasons it is inexpedient to prohibit or wind up the businesses of these companies was received on the 19th April.
Can the reasons why the Advisory Committee arrived at that decision be made public?
On the ground of getting into existence an extensive organisation for the distribution of petroleum and petrol.
Are steps being taken to sell the shares held by the German shareholders?
I think the hon. Member ought to give notice of a question of that kind.
58. Major HUNT 
asked whether the Board of Trade intends to permit the British Petroleum Company, the Petroleum Steamship Company, and the Home light Oil Company to continue to make profits in Great Britain during the War for the benefit of the German shareholders?
It must not be assumed that German shareholders will derive any benefit from the profits earned by the companies referred to during the War. The profits which would have been paid to the German shareholders are handed to the Public Trustee, and the application of the money in his hands will be determined in accordance with the Trading With the Enemy Acts.

The Board of Trade building, 1900