Friday, 30 June 2017


The Argus (Melbourne) Wednesday 11 August, 1909.

Mr O. C. Beale commented on the maiden voyage:

'Captain Ilbery', says Mr. Beale 'is a watchful, earnest and cool commander, who maintains excellent discipline without a display of authority. His Chief Officer, Mr. Owen, was considered by his colleagues to be an exceptionally accurate and careful navigator. Chief Engineer Hodder himself received the whole of the machinery when it was erected in the ship, and the entire mass was delivered in 36 hours, while she was under the sheer-legs. It is a magnificent installation throughout of the most modern type, and it worked with perfect smoothness throughout the voyage. Upon the trial of the Waratah a portion of the main steam-piping was considered by Mr Hodder to be inadequate, and it was removed on his advice, and replaced by more reliable work. During our voyage a fire broke out in one of the coal bunkers and it was subdued by the staff without flooding the bunkers, which probably have been the last resort had serious danger threatened. The Waratah carries much top hamper, because of her numerous decks far above the water, her enormous funnel, many boats, and rafts, water tanks and some few stores. Nevertheless she was very stable during the whole trip. 'Fiddles' were scarcely once required on the tables, and on my dressing-table pot plants stood the whole voyage.'

It is heartening to come across positive character references. There is a tendency in some quarters to point the finger of blame at the master and crew of Waratah. Thank you Mr. Beale for much-needed positive references.

In all the many posts on this Blog, little has been said about the copper used in the steam pipe system. Mr. Hodder recognised flaws as early as when the Waratah went on trials. It is common sense that flaws could have had catastrophic consequences. It is assumed that the problem was solved before the Waratah entered into service. But this was not the case: 

"The Waratah did have one small repair carried out here, but it was of so insignificant a character that the cost did not exceed 3 pounds 15 shillings.  Mr Booth (of R Booth and Son, engineers, Greyville), who effected the repair, as being the removal of a suction pipe from one of the auxiliary feed pipes, from what is known as the Weirs pump to the heater, which raises the temperature of the condensed water preparatory to its being fed again into the boilers."

"The job was quite a small one, and was needed owing to a fracture which having occurred in the pipe - a copper one - due to a flaw in the metal. This took place some time before the steamer's arrival in Durban, on the voyage from Australia."

The removal and replacement of the 'suction pipe' was carried out at Durban during Waratah's final voyage. The 'fracture' pointed to a flaw in the copper used in the pipe's construction. This indicates that the full extent of the problem noted by Mr. Hodder at trials, was not thoroughly attended to. It took three complete voyages for the problem to manifest. This shortcoming in construction points once again to inherent faults - relating to a limited budget? The construction of Waratah was won on tender rather than commission = cost-cutting It is not surprising to me that this issue was not raised at the Inquiry. Every effort was made to steer the Court's attention away from inherent defects in Waratah. 

Mr. Beale claimed the voyage was smooth and pot plants on the table remained in place. This statement certainly flies in the face of comments describing a list to outrageous degrees which would have had objects sliding off tables en masse. 

Returning to the Harlow account, can it be assumed that an explosion of a flawed copper pipe in the steam system was sufficient to destroy the Waratah? The following examples, of many, illustrate that although such explosions were destructive, damage was limited to crew injuries and not compromise of the steamers. I doubt whether such an event, should it have happened, would have caused what was observed astern of the Harlow.

The Advertiser, Adelaide, 29 August, 1902.

Sydney, August 28.
A shocking accident occurred this after-
noon on .Messrs. J. & A. Brown'*-,steam
collier Duckenfield, vat Hexham. A steam
pipe burst, and caused the death of two
youth»?, Frederick Lundy and John Ereund,
and injury more or less severe lo three
men, John Robinson (second engineer of
the steamer), Thomas Hore, and J. Ford.
Fix this text
Several other'men had narrow escapes.

Evening News, Sydney, 10 December, 1903

Dreadful Explosion.
A dreadful explosion, believed to have been the
bursting of a steam pipe, occurred shortly before 
10 o'clock this morning, on the Adelaide
Steamship Company's well-known steamer 
Innamincka, while that vessel was lying at the 
Colonial Sugar Refining Company's Wharf, at 
Pyrmont. One effect of the explosion was that one
Fix this text
fireman was scalded to death, and several others
were less seriously injured. It is supposed that the
explosion was the bursting of one of the steam 
pipes of the donkey boiler.

Thursday, 29 June 2017


"Exactly. - But to go back to still earlier
times," resumed the "old man." "The President 
was the first steamer to do the vanishing trick. 
She disappeared in1841." 

SS President:

Tonnage:2,350 GT
Length:243 ft (74 m)
Beam:41 ft (12 m)
Sail plan:3 masts

SS President was a British passenger liner that was the largest ship in the world when she was commissioned in 1840,[1][2]and the first steamship to founder on the transatlantic run when she was lost at sea with all 136 on board in March 1841. She was the largest passenger ship in the world from 1840 to 1845.[3] The ship's owner, the British and American Steam Navigation Company, collapsed as a result of the disappearance.[1]
President was the second liner owned by British and American and was noted for her luxurious interiors. Designed by Macgregor Laird and built by Curling and Young of London, she was fitted for 154 passengers. President was over 25% larger than the British Queen, the previous holder of the size record, and over twice the size of Cunard’s Britannia Class, the first three of which were also commissioned in 1840. This was accomplished by adding a third deck to the design of the British QueenAs a result, President was top heavy. She was also under powered and had the slowest passage times of any transatlantic steamer up to that point. To avoid litigation, changes were made to her paddle wheels after her second round trip that further complicated her lack of power, especially in rough weather.[1]

On March 11, 1841, President cleared New York bound for Liverpool on her third eastbound voyage. She was overloaded with cargo to compensate for her roll. President was last seen the next day struggling in a gale.[1] Her disappearance was major news for several months and even Queen Victoria followed the story
Her opulent interiors were in sharp contrast to the sparse accommodations of Cunard’s fleet. Great American wanted passengers to feel they were in a luxury hotel rather than at sea. The saloon measured 80 feet by 34 feet and was in Tudor Gothic style. The corridor aft to the regular staterooms was a picture gallery, with ten oil paintings depicting scenes about Christopher Columbus. The regular staterooms could accommodate 110 passengers and another 44 forward in Servants cabins. The two berth regular cabins were seven feet by seven feet. Her exterior decoration included a figurehead of George Washington.
President’s wooden hull was subdivided into watertight compartments. However, it was not as robust as Great Western or the new Cunard vessels just entering service. After just two round trip voyages, she required refit after stormy seas weakened and twisted her hullPresident was top heavy and rolled excessively because she was constructed with a third deck on top of a hull with almost the same waterline dimensions as British Queen.[4]

Relative to her size, President was significantly less powerful than her rivals. As a result, her 1840 times were disappointing. This problem was compounded in 1841 when President’s paddle wheels were modified with non-feathering paddles. Tests in 1830 demonstrated that feathering paddles improved speed by 25% in smooth water and over 50% in rough seas. British American failed to secure the rights to use the patented design and removed the feathering paddles before President left on her first 1841 voyage in order to avoid litigation.
Departing Liverpool in February, under Captain Richard RobertsPresident’s third westbound voyage to New York lasted 21 days. She sailed for her return voyage on March 11, 1841 with 136 passengers and crew along with an extensive cargo manifest. President encountered a gale and was seen on her second day out laboring in heavy seas in the dangerous area between Nantucket Shoals and Georges Bank. She was not seen again. Among the passengers was the Rev. George Grimston Cookman, who had served as Chaplain of the Senate, and the popular Irish comic actor Tyrone Power, who was the great-grandfather of the film star of the same name.[6] The late ship deathwatch stretched out for months. Queen Victoria asked that a special messenger be sent to her if there was news about the ship.

The President shared some similarities with the Waratah. She was based on the British Queen, but supporting an additional deck. Waratah was based on the smaller Geelong, again with an additional deck. Both vessels were essentially top heavy, which required overloading to compensate for the tender rolling pattern (deeper than average draught). The President exhibited evidence of hull strain and my contention is that Waratah's hull suffered similarly excessive forces over and above taking the ground at Port Adelaide. The President was under powered and so was the Waratah relative to other similarly sized vessels of the time - 5500 ihp vs. 8000 ihp +.

The Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser, Wednesday 27 October, 1841.

The New York papers received by the ' George
Washington,' contain the particulars of a long
investigation into the fate of this unfortunate
vessel, instituted by Mr. Buchanan, the British
Consul for the port of New York. He convened 
a meeting at the office of his consulate,
for the purpose of inquiring into the condition
of this steam-ship when she put to sea last from
New York, what cargo she had, how her coal was
stowed, whether there was any deficiency of spare
yards, &c., whether or not she was logged or
strained by previous storms, and every articular
connected with her.

The meeting was attended by Jacob Walton,
Rear Admiral of the White, George
Barclay, Esq., the agent for Lloyd's in the port
of New York; Thomas W. Moore, Esq., Her
Majesty's packet agent, Mr. Henry Smith, of
the firm of Wadsworth and Smith. the agents for
the steam-ships President and British Queen;
Captain Benjamin Waite, of the packet-ship
England; Captain Cole, of the packet-ship
Orpheus; Captain Bell; and several other gentle
men eminent for experience in nautical matters.

The pilot who took the President to sea, Mr.
Lockman, one of the New York pilots, was not
present; but a person was there to represent and
speak for him. The meeting was organized by
calling Rear-Admiral Walton to the chair, and
appointing George Barclay, Esp., secretary.
The gentleman who appeared for Mr. Lockman, 
the pilot, said that when the pilot left the
President, Captain Roberts felt satisfied of making
a quick passage; that his vessel was in good
order; he had abundance of fuel, &c.; and that,
with regard to her trim, she was only about one
and a half inches by the head. Captain Cole, of
the ship ' Orpheus,' stated, that he left New York
In company with the steam ship ' President,' on
the 11th of March last, and that he was in sight
of her until about sundown on the evening of the
12th. The captain farther stated, that when he
last saw the President rising on the top of a
tremendous sea, she appeared to. be pitching
heavily, and labouring tremendously. She was
then situated in that dangerous part of the Atlantic Ocean, 
about midway between the Nantucket
Shoal, and the Saint George's Bank. just where
the Gulf Stream strikes soundings, and where the
waves rise straight up and down as high as a four or 
five storey house; that the President then must have 
been shipping seas heavily and fast; that, probably 
these large bodies of water worked through into the engine
room or fire-room, and extinguished the fires, in which
case the steamer would have been comparatively
helpless; that the storm was terrific all that
night; that next morning the wind lifted
suddenly from N. E. to S. E. knocking up a
still more tremendous sea, and that the gale
continued with unabated fury till midnight of the
13th; and that it is his belief, that the President
did not survive that gale, but foundered with all
on board and that all perished before sundown on
the 13th, or in less than twenty-four hours after
he last saw her, and, most probably, in the
terrific night of the 12th of March.
In this opinion Captain Waite and the other
nautical gentlemen seamed to coincide.
After this the meeting broke up, and the following 
statements was drawn up for publication by
the gentlemen whose names are here-unto attached.

British Consulate, New York
11th June 1841.

That there was no coal on deck, and that the
ship was in proper trim, drawing 17 feet 9 inches
abaft, and 17 feet 6 inches forward.
That she was not fully loaded, having spare
room for about four hundred barrels (so they said).
That the statement of deficiency of sails and
spare has been satisfactorily rejected by the letter
of Julius Smith, Esq,, of London, which has
That when last seen by Captain Cole, of the
Orpheus, was during the storm on the
12th March. between Nantucket Shoals and
George's Bank, at which time the ship Orpheus
who labouring heavily, and shipping large quantities 
of water on her deck.

Rear-Admiral of the White

Wednesday, 28 June 2017


The Mercury, Monday 21 March, 1910
Mr. Rider, who was second officer ofthe steamer Clan Macintyre, whichspoke the missing steamer Waratahafter she left Durban for Capetown,was a passenger by the RMS Ionic,which left Hobart on Saturday, in continuation of his voyage from Londonto Wellington. In conversation with arepresentative of "The Mercury" Mr.Rider said the Clan Macintyre, whichwas a vessel of 4,807 tons, left Durbanearlier in the day than the Waratah,and was bound for London. 
At 5 o'clock the next morning the Waratahpassed the Clan Macintyre. (interesting how the times vary with different accounts) The chief and fourth officers were on the bridge ofthe latter vessel at the time Signalswere exchanged between the steamerswith the aid of the Morse lamp. TheWaratah was then all right. Theweather was fine and the sea smooth.
Mr. Rider is a further witness who claimed that the Waratah was 'all right'. It does seem plausible that able seaman Lamont's account from the Clan Mac of a Waratah listing and pitching like a yacht, is to be taken with a pinch of salt. A visibly 'all right' Waratah may not have manifested at that time with visible signs of a fire on board. It was only much later in the day, early evening, that the crew of the Harlow witnessed a steamer 'smoking fiercely'. 
The same night it came on to blow fromthe westward, and tremendous seagot up. The Clan Macintyre, whichhad been steaming at the rate of 11 to11 1/2 knots an hour was unable to makeany headway against the gale. In fact,she was driven back 33 miles in the24 hours. The gale then moderated,and the Clan Macintyre was able tomake headway again. Nothing wasseen of the Waratah during the gale.Mr. Rider said the sea was wall-like inits formation, and tremendously high.If anything went wrong in the engineroom of the Waratah she would nothave had "a look in ".
The simple fact as reported is this; 'nothing was seen of the Waratah during the gale.' If something had 'gone wrong' in the engine room of the Waratah it is very likely the Clan Mac would have overhauled her - unless the Waratah had moved beyond of the general outer track, further out to sea. If this be so it seems very unlikely that the Waratah signaled the Guelph which was following the inner track up the coast, closer to shore. There is a very real possibility that the Waratah foundered further out to sea, overwhelmed by the conditions at sea, but, in my opinion, it seems more probable that Captain Ilbery elected to come about and retrace his course back to Durban so that the fire on board could be comprehensively dealt with there. After all, there were no other large steamers which could have been astern of the Harlow by 8 pm 27 July, off Cape Hermes.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017


Let's, for arguments' sake, say that relatively heavy objects from Waratah were deposited close to shore along the stretch of water between the Bashee and Xora Rivers. Extensive exploration of these waters has not revealed the wreck of the Waratah. How could these objects have come to rest here if there is no wreck of Waratah close by?

If the Waratah did indeed founder in the vicinity of Cape Hermes / Poenskop, what would the pattern of current moving / dragging the objects have been?

We know that the initial current force and direction was part of a cyclonic vortex moving northeastward and then circulating further out to sea reintegrating into the powerful Agulhas mainstream moving southwestward. But this does not explain how objects would then come to lie off the Bashee and Xora Rivers instead of being carried further southwestward ultimately into the southward influence off the Agulhas Bank, much further southwest (Mossel Bay and further).

There is a phenomenon called coastal upwelling which interestingly occurs in the region of the Xora and Bashee Rivers - and further northwest of Cape Hermes. Upstream from these points the general flow is southwestward. The upwelling is one of six large solitary meanders in the Agulhas Current, called Natal Pulses. The upwelling can last for up to three weeks and has been observed over the inner shelf. The cold water at the bottom of the Agulhas stream, dragging objects southwestward, can rise at an average of 1.8 m per day, dragging objects out of the main stream towards the coastline. The plume of the leading edge of the meander can move onshore, reaching speeds of 80 cm / second.

This would be a feasible explanation for anything relating to the Waratah ending up off the Bashee and Xora Rivers without the Waratah necessarily having gone down in the vicinity.


Mr. A. Hoehling remarked in his book (Lost at Sea - referred to in previous posts) that when loaded Waratah 'drew between 29 and 35 ft.' which ensured stability, even in adverse conditions. 

The Inquiry quoted that Waratah had a maximum draft of 30 ft. 4 1/2 inches (30.375 ft.). 35 ft. is 4.6 ft. over her limit! Waratah's depth of hull was in the region of 39 ft. which would have left about 4 ft. freeboard! I am inclined to accept the data listed in the Inquiry report stating Waratah departed Durban 26 July with 28 ft. 3 in. forward and 29 ft. 5 in. aft, rather than 35 ft..  But having said this it is interesting, coming from an experienced maritime historian with appropriate timeline knowledge of steamers, that Mr. Hoehling would make such a claim, reinforcing my own beliefs (covered many times in this blog) that Waratah was too heavy / functionally overloaded and needed to be such in order to offset her potential top heaviness. 

Circa 1909, the sand bar at the mouth of Port Natal, Durban, was about 32 ft., so therefore Waratah could not have had a draught beyond 31 ft. when she left Durban for the last time. But can we be absolutely sure that she had a draught in the region of 29 ft.? I noticed, with great interest, a comment made on another blog that Waratah did not have a plimsoll line marked midships. This is extraordinary considering that the law by 1909 was quite clear on the matter: all British and foreign-going vessels had to display the plimsoll line as per the vessel's registration and classification. Such an omission should have been raised at the Inquiry. Why would Waratah not have had such a crucial indicator? 

In order to stabilise Waratah her dead weight and draught had to exceed the average draught for a steamer of her size - I have quoted a figure of 27 ft. in previous posts referring to Waratah's equivalently-sized sister ship Geelong and many other equivalently-sized steamers. But given the fact that there was no plimsoll line, can we even assume that the average figure of 29 ft. was accurate? Could she not have been in excess of 30 ft. (but less than 32 ft.)? Is there any evidence to support or disprove that Waratah took a knock clearing the sand bar at the mouth of Port Natal, and that this did not contribute to the disastrous sequence of events that were to play out along the Wild Coast?? After all when Titanic struck the iceberg, most on the upper decks were not even aware of the destructive incident.

Having said all of this my firm belief is that the expert testimony given by the officials at Port Natal was accurate and Waratah's overall draught was in the region of 29 ft., matching the figure at Port Adelaide, which as such, was still 2 ft. deeper than it should have been for her size.


Unique ID:19562
Description:BOT Wreck Report for 'Ionic', 1909
Creator:Board of Trade
Copyright:Out of copyright
Partner:SCC Libraries
Partner ID:Unknown
(No. 7273.)


The Merchant Shipping Act, 1894.

IN the matter of a Formal Investigation held at the Caxton Hall, Westminster, on the 1st and 8th days of June, 1909, before ARTHUR HILL HUTTON, Esquire, assisted by Commander WARREN F. CABORNE, C.B., R.N.R., and Captain J. H. WALKER, into the circumstances attending the loss of the British sailing ship "IONIC," of London, which left London on the 29th December, 1908, for East Cowes, was in company with the barge "GLENDEVON," off Beachy Head, on the 10th January last, and since that time has not been heard of.

Report of Court.

The Court having carefully inquired into the circumstances attending the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds for the reason stated in the Annex hereto, that the British sailing ship "Ionic" was probably run down and sunk by another vessel, presumably by the German Hamburg-America Line steamship "Bethania," off or in the neighbourhood of Beachy Head, about 9.40 p.m. on the 10th day of January, 1909, her master and crew being drowned.

Dated this 8th day of June, 1909.



We concur in the above Report.





Annex to the Report.

This Inquiry was held at the Caxton Hall, Caxton Street, Westminster, on the 1st and 8th days of June, 1909.

Mr. Archibald Read, barrister-at-law, conducted the proceedings on behalf of the Solicitor to the Board of Trade (Mr. R. Ellis Cunliffe). Mr. C. Walton, barrister-at-law, appeared for the underwriters, and Mr. Alfred T. Bucknill, barrister-at-law, for the owners of the cargo. Mr. Richard Cox, the owner of the vessel, appeared in person, and was not professionally represented.

The "Ionic," Official Number 98961, was a British sailing vessel, built of wood, at Limehouse, in 1891, by Mr. Horace Shrubsall, and was registered at the Port of London. She had two masts, was spritsail rigged, and was of the following dimensions: Length 82 feet, main breadth to outside of plank 20 feet, and depth in hold from tonnage deck to ceiling at midships 7 feet. Her gross tonnage was 85.53 tons, and her registered tonnage 66.37 tons. 

She carried one boat of the description usual in this class of vessel (a seagoing sailing barge) and provided with the necessary equipment: three life buoys and three life belts; and was owned by Mr. Richard Cox, of Castle-town, Portland, in the County of Dorset, ship broker, who also acted as her manager, under advice received on the 7th of May, 1894. It should be mentioned that the vessel was acquired by Mr. Cox from Mr. Shrubsall, her builder, in 1894; the latter having himself employed her from the time she was built.

The "Ionic" loaded, in London, a cargo, consisting of 85 tons of pig lead and 44 tons weight of teak timber, making a total of 129 tons; her dead weight capacity being about 160 tons. There is no evidence as to her draught on this occasion. Fully laden, she would draw about 6 feet 6 inches, or 6 feet 7 inches, and her freeboard would be about 14 inches.

At 6.45 a.m. of the 29th December, 1908, she left the South West India Dock, bound for Cowes and Exeter, apparently in a seaworthy condition, under the command of Mr. Henry F. Phillips, who held no certificate of competency, manned by a crew of three hands, all told. Thence she proceeded to Gravesend, which she left on the 2nd of January, 1909, in company with the sailing barge "Glendevon," putting into Margate on the 5th of January, and into Dover on the 8th January.

The "Ionic" and the "Glendevon" appear to have kept together after their departure from Gravesend, and both vessels left Dover on the 9th of January, the "Ionic" preceding the "Glendevon" by about an hour.

At 5.45 p.m. of the 10th of January the "Ionic" and the "Glendevon" were off Eastbourne, the latter being abreast of, and about two miles distant from, the pier, with the former a mile astern of her. There was then a moderate breeze from the west, the weather was clear, the sea was smooth, and both vessels were on the starboard tack, carrying all sails; jib, foresail, mainsail, and mizen and were making from four to five knots through the water. Under these circumstances, and about this time, the master of the "Glendevon" (Mr. Charles Moore) lost sight of the lights of the "Ionic," which were then burning brightly; and of the subsequent movements of the latter vessel there is no direct evidence. 

Between 10 and 11 o'clock of the same evening, the "Glendevon" found it necessary to shorten sail on account of an increase in the wind; but there was nothing in the character of the weather calculated to cause disaster to the "Ionic," which was in good trim.

On the 18th of February, 1909, Monsieur Jules Popelier, master of the Belgian fishing smack B 46, "Marie Antoinette," of Blankenberghe, when a short distance to the south-eastward of the "North Hinder" light vessel, picked up a boat, many planks of which were broken about the centre and after end, with the name "Ionic, London," painted on its stern.

There, under ordinary circumstances, all knowledge as to the fate of the vessel might have terminated. But on the 9th of March, 1909, the Marine Court at Hamburg sat to investigate a casualty which had occurred to the German Hamburg-America Line steamship "Bethania," 4,848 tons register, commanded by Captain Meyerdierck. From a translation of the proceedings of that Court, put in by consent of the respective parties, it appears that about 9.40 p.m. of the 10th of January, 1909, the "Bethania," which was on a voyage from Hamburg to New York, and was then in the neighbourhood of Beachy Head, came into collision with an unknown vessel, apparently rigged like a fishing boat, and standing towards the English coast, which vessel was supposed to have sunk with her crew, though every effort was made by the German steamer to find her, with a view to saving life. In that report the weather at the time of the collision is variously described. In one place it is said that it was foggy; the chief officer, who was in charge of the deck of the "Bethania," stated that it was very dark and rainy, but that lights were visible; while Captain Meyerdierck described the night as very dark, and the wind W.S.W. Only one witness, the third officer, appeared to have seen anyone on the deck of the unknown vessel, and he thought that he saw a man fall overboard at the time of the collision. The catastrophe was, by the witnesses before the Hamburg Court, ascribed to the fact that the "feeble" green light of the unknown craft was not seen until too late to avoid collision, and that no stern light was visible to those on board the "Bethania"; but these are matters upon which this Court can express no opinion, there being no evidence before it bearing upon them.

The Marine Court of Hamburg, having considered the disappearance of the "Ionic," which had been officially posted at Lloyds' as a total loss, the finding of her boat and other wreckage, the position in which the collision occurred, and that in which the "Ionic" might have been at the time, arrived at the following decision:

"On the evening of 10th January, 1909, off Beachy Head, a collision took place between the steamship 'Bethania' and an unknown sailing vessel, presumably the spritsail barque" (? barge) "'Ionic,' of London, whereby the latter vessel was sunk and her crew drowned. The casualty is due to the green light of the sailing vessel only having been sighted on board the 'Bethania,' in spite of due precaution, immediately before the collision. Whether this green light was burning badly, or was obscured, could not be ascertained with certainty. No fault is to be found with the navigation of the 'Bethania,' nor with the attempts at rescue, made after the occurrence."

This Court, in view of the evidence before it, is of the same opinion as the Marine Court of Hamburg as to the probability of the vessel with which the "Bethania" collided having been the "Ionic"; but in the absence of evidence has no cognizance of the other matters dealt with in the judgment of that tribunal.

At the conclusion of the evidence, Mr. Read, on behalf of the Board of Trade, submitted the following questions for the opinion of the Court:

(1) What was the cost of the vessel to her owner? What insurances were effected upon and in connection with her?

(2) When the vessel left London on or about the 29th of December last.

(a) Was she in good and seaworthy condition as regards hull and equipments?

(b) Was her cargo properly stowed and secured from shifting?

(c) Had she the required freeboard, and was she in good trim for a voyage to Cowes and Exeter?

(3) What is the cause of the vessel not having been heard of since she was lost sight of by the master of the barge "Glendevon," at or about 5.45 p.m. on the 10th of January last?

Mr. Bucknill and Mr. Read then addressed the Court, and the Court gave judgment as above, and returned the following answers to the questions of the Board of Trade:

(1) The cost of the vessel to her owner, in 1894, was £941 17s. 4d., and she was completely overhauled, in 1908, at a charge of £247 15s. 2d. Only one insurance, amounting to £500, was effected upon and in connection with her.

(2) When the vessel left London on or about the 29th of December last.

(a) She was in good and seaworthy condition as regards hull and equipments;

(b) Her cargo was properly stowed and secured from shifting;

(c) She had the required freeboard, and was in good trim for a voyage to Cowes and Exeter.

(3) There is no direct evidence as to the actual cause of the vessel not having been heard of since she was lost sight of by the master of the barge "Glendevon," at or about 5.45 p.m. of the 10th of January last. But, according to the decision of the Marine Court of Hamburg, under date of the 9th of March, 1909, a collision took place about 9.40 p.m. of the 10th of January last, off Beachy Head, between the German Hamburg-America Line steamship "Bethania" and an unkown sailing vessel, presumed by that Court to be the spritsail barge "Ionic," of London, whereby the latter vessel was sunk, and her crew drowned; and that decision being consistent with the facts now proved, this Court is of opinion that the "Ionic" was run down and sunk by another vessel, presumably the "Bethania," somewhere off Beachy Head, about the time above mentioned, her master and crew being drowned.



We concur.








Henry F. Phillips



William Alexander



William Ernest Usher



(Issued in London by the Board of Trade on the 29th day of June, 1909.) 

This is a fascinating case study. One could easily come to the conclusion that the Inquiry was a whitewash, resembling the white cliffs of Dover, Beachy Head. Bizarre that the crew of the Bethania claimed that the weather was not clear (foggy; rainy; dark), sharply contrasting with the crew of the Glendevon stating that weather was fine. Furthermore, the crew of the latter stated that the lights of the Ionic were burning brightly - subsequently disappearing, roughly one mile astern shortly before 6 pm. The crew of the Bethania, on the other hand, claimed that the green light of the 'Ionic' was faint, a 'substantial' reason for running into and destroying the vessel at about 9.40 pm that night.

As if to make matters worse, neither the crew of the Bethania (despite claims to the contrary) nor the crew of the Glendevon did very much to investigate or attempt rescue of life. It certainly does not say much for the inquiring mind of the Board of Trade Inquiry. Now if there had been 1500 lost, as in the case of the high profile Titanic, would this have been allowed / tolerated? The Ionic was reported to be perfectly seaworthy and yet the Inquiry did not have the draught measurements before her final departure from port, assuming that almost fully loaded, she was within maximum draught limitations. 


Once the bright lights of both Ionic and Waratah had disappeared, these observable facts coincided with both vessels vanishing without a trace.

There is a gap in time frame between 5.45 pm and 9.40 pm which did not seem to bother the Court much as did the loss of life. 

This case does not say much for the credibility of the Board of Trade, circa 1909!!

Beachy Head