Tuesday, 27 June 2017


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.

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