Tuesday, 3 January 2017



Mr. E. Crossley, marine inventor, allegedly had a conversation with Mr. Hodder, chief engineer, and was told:

“very dissatisfied”; “a peculiar way of getting on one side without righting herself immediately.”


Knew the chief officer of the" Waratah." Had known him for some years, and when he came into port visited him regularly.

I lunched with the chief officer at Melbourne. somewhere between the 28th June and the 1st July, 1909. I asked him if he was satisfied with his new ship. He said he was very dissatisfied. He said she did not behave as she should do. He said she had a peculiar way of getting on one side, on the port side or the starboard side, without righting herself immediately. He gave a description as falling. It fell more than rolled, and got hit back again. That was his way of expressing the motion of the steamer. 

He told me the engineers were dissatisfied as well. He mentioned the second and third, but just generally speaking the whole lot. They were going to have trouble, I think, in London. The chief officer said the majority of the officers intended, the lot of them, to leave the ship and complain about it. 

He said he was thoroughly dissatisfied with the ship, and if he could not leave her without leaving the Company, he would leave the Company. So that satisfied me he was highly dissatisfied.

By the end of the second voyage London to Sydney I can quite believe that there was an element of truth in Mr. Crossley's statement. Waratah had departed London 27 April with 193 steerage passengers (considerably less than the maiden voyage), 22 cabin passengers and 119 crew (same as return, final voyage). She carried unspecified limited cargo and a full capacity of 3456 tons of coal (excluding spar deck bunkers). A figure of 1200 tons of dead weight lowest down in the holds was repeatedly advised by the builders in terms of stabilising Waratah in a port setting and at sea. 

Dead weight could take the form of cargo loaded at 40 cubic feet to the ton, or it could take the form of lead concentrates, 11 cubic feet to the ton amidships (hold 3) - far more concentrated and effective in centralising centre of gravity lower down in the hull. This had been discussed at length after Waratah's return from her maiden voyage and the builders reinforced the importance of dead weight and filling ballast tanks 5 and 8, at the very least. 

Captain Ilbery knew 1200 tons of lead concentrates would stabilise his ship, but the source of such concentrates was a great distance from London - Adelaide, Port Pirie. We know from the quoted stability data that coal loaded in both permanent and reserve bunkers, which must have been the case during this voyage, had an alarmingly negative impact on GM. 

No wonder Captain Ilbery 'was in two minds' (ill) about taking command for this voyage. It was alleged that Captain Ilbery claimed that either his reputation or the Waratah would be lost and that he hoped for a passage without storms. There might just be more than just a hint of truth in this hearsay. 

But getting back to Mr. Hodder's alleged statement: 'He said she had a peculiar way of getting on one side, on the port side or the starboard side, without righting herself immediately'. Was this in itself dangerous? At this juncture it is important to introduce an important perspective on such behaviour:

 'The big ship (battleship) was wallowing with that ever disconcerting 'hang' at the end of a roll, such a pause as one never experiences in an ocean liner (with no heavy guns and only light upper works) needs no great amount of time to make up its mind as to whether or not it is worth while going to the trouble of getting back on an even keel.'

Mr. Hodder was a civil mariner and like his colleagues would not have had experience on battleships, which generally speaking were not unstable. Bilge keels and windage would have contributed to this phenomenon. However, Mr. Hodder described: 'It fell more than rolled, and got hit back again'. We cannot ignore this description of a top heavy steamer at the mercy of wind and sea elements. I believe that this was the voyage when matters could have taken a very serious turn for the worst if Waratah had been challenged by a storm of exceptional violence. But it was not to be and ironically Waratah survived this voyage to live another, short day.

to be continued....

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