This was not a good start! As with all steamers which had gone to watery grave, the level of paranoia regarding potential liability was high, no doubt inducing Mr. Goodham to make this blatant excuse from the outset of the investigation. The fact, if it be true, that Waratah did not require 'attention', implies that she was viewed as a normal steamer requiring only a cursory, routine inspection, which is in itself a positive sign.
At the time of his visit the vessel
was lying perfectly upright, and
there was nothing to lead him to
believe that there was at that time
any want of stability, no suspicion
of any such want intimated to him
by anyone on board.
This statement seems perfectly plausible and goes against allegations that officers on Waratah were in a state of panic and desperation, hastily taking out insurance policies and claiming that Waratah would be a 'coffin for somebody'.
Mr. A. Agnew said an inspector
should see that every ship left
port in perfectly seaworthy
condition. It ought not to be
necessary for anything to be
referred to him before he saw
it. It seemed from his report
that, unless his attention was
drawn to something, he need
not bother to look for it.
I agree, very damning indeed.
Mr. H. Belfrage (seamen's
representative) said that there
should be no doubt about the
seaworthiness of the ship
when she left this port;
otherwise she would never
have traveled a distance that
took her 21 or 22 days. She
was alright when she arrived
Fair enough point as long as the ship was not confronted with extreme conditions at sea. Waratah survived a significant storm whilst departing Australian waters, which further strengthens this point.
Mr. J. M. Corby (engineer): She
was no lame duck when she left
Well that's a pretty expressive way of giving Waratah the all-clear.
Mr. D. Y. Syme (shipowner): We
recognise the certificate of the
Board of Trade and other marine
boards in the British possessions.
Waratah held a Board of Trade
certificate. She was passed by the
Board of Trade officers, as well as
Lloyd's. Everything connected with
her stability or strength or suitability
for the work for which she was
intended was done when she was
being dealt with.
Fair enough except for the possibility that Mr. William Lund held undue influence over the Board of Trade and reminding ourselves that Waratah departed (cleared) London on her maiden voyage with far too many emigrants on board, in excess of the stipulations set out by the Act. She was also a larger vessel than specified by her registered classification. How valid this certificate was at the end of the day remains in the realm of speculation.
Our Inspector could not make any
report than what he had. He does
not wait for instructions from here
to examine any vessel. To go into
the 'whole question' of stability
connected with the ship we have
not the appliances here."
So, if there had been complaints that Waratah, at this late stage, was unstable, there were no means available to confirm or reject the allegations. An overall indictment on the quality of steamer inspections at Australian ports during 1909. This certainly did not help the case in favour of a seaworthy steamer.
After further discussion the
president said that the board had
no complaint against the ship while
she was here. There was a provision
in the Act by which, if any two or
more members of a crew complained
of anything, the board should inquire
This is a very important point and confirms that NONE of the officers on Waratah complained about her stability - or perhaps they were loyal to their master and the Blue Anchor Line, keeping mum. If complaints had been made Waratah would most certainly have been detained in port with far-reaching ramifications.
The inspector had seen the
ship in first-class order. There was
nothing unusual in her appearance.
He had done all that was expected
of him. If any complaints had been
made against the ship directly or
indirectly, the board would have
taken action. and the inspector
would have been specially
instructed to look into it.
I tend to agree with this overall statement and can quite believe that by this stage there was NOTHING adverse to report about Waratah.
Agnew said that notwithstanding
what had been said, it was un-
satisfactory to him as a member
of the board. A vessel might be
safe at one port and not at another.
Had the inspector the right to inspect
a vessel unless his attention was
called to a faulty condition? They
ought to be perfectly satisfied that
the inspector's duties were properly
Good point, born out by Waratah's GM variability between ports and voyages. One may assume that during her worst moments of stability issues she was given the all-clear by just such an inspector. But there again, as many experts testified at the Inquiry, although Waratah was top heavy during her maiden voyage, this was not necessarily dangerously so. Professor Bragg referred to her as comfortable and steady.
Mr. Currie: We have given you too
much latitude, and I think I should
rule you out of order. If you are so
emphatic about extra surveillance
and care, the wisest course of action
would be for you to bring the matter
forward by a motion so that it might
be discussed. I think it is out of place
to reflect on the inspector now.
Finally it was decided "That a reply
be sent to the request of the
Commonwealth Government stating
that the Waratah held a Board of
Trade passengers' certificate, which
was undoubted evidence that she was
fit in every way for the safe carriage
of passengers and crew, and the
surveyor had no reason to question
this or anything he saw."
On the surface this was indeed a valid point. End of discussion (for now).
It might serve us well to be reminded of expert opinions when Waratah departed Australia for the last time, bound for Durban: