Tuesday, 3 January 2017


Mr. Hoehling continues his selection of commentaries referring to Waratah's idiosyncrasies during her pen-ultimate voyage. It was a period when frustrations regarding the troublesome steamer seemed to be an all time high. Some of these quotes were to become the final word on the subject of the flawed steamer. One thing is clear, Waratah's top heaviness issues were far from being resolved during this voyage.

F.E. Thomas, shipping clerk to agents and passenger from Adelaide to Sydney:

“a list to starboard,” “She was discharging rusty-looking water and I inquired of the Chief Engineer. His explanation that they were pumping out the tank to rectify the list was good enough in words but did not seem to put the matter right completely.” Overheard sailors referring to Waratah as “a crank.”


Had one blow during my trip to Melbourne and Sydney, but it was mostly fair weather. It took us four hours to get alongside the Port Melbourne Railway Pier on account of a perfect gale blowing broadside on, but it seemed to have no effect upon her and she certainly showed no sign of tenderness. 

I saw nothing while I was on board to correspond with the reported statement of Mr. Sawyer at Durban. The only thing I noticed was that on leaving Melbourne for Sydney she had a slight list to starboard, and on the next day on looking over the side I noticed she was discharging rusty-looking water. The chief engineer came along, and I asked him the cause. and he said they were pumping out a tank to rectify the list. The list, however, continued. 

In my opinion, discharging ballast tank water from a tender steamer would not improve GM, but rather worsen it. Filling tanks would likely improve matters but was difficult to achieve at sea.

The morning after I noticed this we arrived in Sydney and the list was still on. it was only slight, and probably a casual observer would not have noticed it. . . . 

After the "Waratah's" first voyage some remarks came to my ears (I do not know who made them), to the effect that the ship was a crank one

During my trip, in sitting one day with the chief engineer, the chief officer, and purser, I took advantage of my being connected with the agents, and, knowing the officers so intimately, asked them whether there was truth in it. They all agreed there was not. . . . The chief officer said, "You often hear things like this said, and a ship in certain trim or badly loaded might be expected to be crank." But so far as the "Waratah" was concerned they were perfectly satisfied. On account of my long and intimate connection with the line and its officers, I think that if there had been any defect in the ship or anything out of the way in regard to her behaviour at sea, I should have heard something about it. I feel certain that I should, but I never did

Mr. Thomas' quotes were all about context and the fuller account submitted to the Inquiry dispelled alarmist innuendo. However, having said this, Mr. Thomas (shipping clerk to the agents) might have introduced a degree of bias in favour of the owners. It is important to remind ourselves that when Waratah was inbound from Adelaide to Sydney she was significantly tender and the following Inquiry extract highlights this point:

It is to be remarked that the ship was in a distinctly light condition, her draught when crossing the Bight being about 23 feet mean, and coming out of Melbourne 21 feet 5 inches mean.

Let us remind ourselves:

Waratah's tender condition would theoretically have been compounded near the end of her crossing from Durban to Adelaide due to the significant tonnage of coal burned out, hence a mean reduced draught of 23 ft., a potentially risky condition when crossing the notorious Bight. But the complexity of Waratah's stability suggests that burning out all the coal, if it were stowed in both permanent and reserve bunkers, reduced draught but improved GM by a factor of as much as 10 inches. So, ironically, even though with a low draught of 23 ft., Waratah might have been less top heavy as she crossed the Bight. We don't know how much water was in her ballast tanks at this stage, which might be a further confounding factor. But let's assume that at the very least tanks 5 and 8 were full (400 tons).

III. Ship loaded to disc with cargo at 40 cubic feet per ton in holds, and cargo of 80 cubic feet per ton in 'tween deck, all coal including reserve, F.W., stores, crew, and passengers G.M =4 1/2 inches.

IV. Condition III. but with all coal burned out and W.B. tanks Nos. 5 and 8 full G.M.=15 inches. 

In the context of when Waratah departed Durban for the last time, her draught was +/- 6 ft. greater, which is highly significant, and not to be forgotten. If coal was not stowed exclusively in coal bunkers during the pen-ultimate voyage but rather in displaced cargo spaces lowest down, burning out would not have had the same degree of impact on GM as suggested. 

After discharging limited cargo at both Adelaide and Melbourne one would expect the draught to have decreased slightly. 23 ft. to 21.5 ft. is possible, but there is a glaring discrepancy: 

- Waratah was coaled at Adelaide, which increased her draught, not reduced it. 

- 1000 tons of lead concentrates were loaded in hold 3, significantly increasing Waratah's draught, not reducing it. 

"Mr. J. C. Neill, Port Adelaide manager

for Messrs. George Wills & Co. (agents for
the steamer), stated that while the Waratah
was at Port Adelaide on her inward
passage in June she loaded 1,000 tons of
lead concentrates, which were put amidships 
in No. 3 hold."

Waratah's draught could not have been 21.5 ft. when coming out of Melbourne, unless her ballast tanks were completely empty and the intention was to fill them at sea, a risky business at the best of times, which I strongly doubt. Filling ballast tanks 5 and 8 would have given an additional 400 tons dead weight and if all tanks were filled, apart from forepeak (makes sense in the context of minimal cargo) this would have given 1285 tons + coal component + 1000 tons of lead concentrates, which does not equal a draught of 21.5 ft..

William Lund was both chairman and director of the Wallarah Coal Company of Sydney. There is a possibility that on arrival at Adelaide, Waratah was only coaled for the leg to Sydney, and as such would only have taken on about 250 tons of coal - 629 n miles, at 13 knots and a consumption of about 80 tons per day, including the stop over at Melbourne. This would leave us with a dead weight of about 2535 tons - still significant. I doubt very much whether the figure of 21.5 ft. was accurately quoted. But Waratah was tender overall during this stage and of that I have no doubt.

to be continued....

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