Saturday, 24 June 2017


The Advertiser (Adelaide) Wednesday 18 May, 1910

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 amid-
ships in No. 3 hold. It was not unusual
to take in dead weight at Port Adelaide.
When she returned from the eastern States
she loaded cargo at Ocean Steamers' wharf
and at the Outer Harbor, and in addition
took in 180 tons of bunker coal, which was
placed in the bunkers. She had no coal
on deck when she left the Outer Harbor.
He estimated the total dead weight of
cargo on board at 9,000 tons, and that her
draft was 28 ft. 3 in. forward and 29 ft.
5 in. aft. 

Why would Mr. Neill, a respected manager, exaggerate a dead weight of 9000 tons cargo on board Waratah, if it were not the case? Furthermore, her draught for 9000 tons was exactly the same when Waratah departed Durban for the last time. It is suggested that a further 300 - 500 tons of lead concentrates were added to hold 3, before departing for Durban. This was a very heavy, GM stable steamer setting out into the vast Indian Ocean.

Captain Ilbery always spoke
most highly and proudly of the Waratah,
and never suggested any defect or any-
thing remarkable about her behaviour at
sea. All the principal officers on
the last voyage were on the ship
on her maiden voyage, and Mr. Neill never
heard any statement or hint as to any defects. 
The cargo shipped for Durban consisted of 
89 tons of flour and dried fruits,
and for Cape Town 318 tons of wheat and

One has to take into consideration the human condition. Captain Ilbery and his officers were proud men, unlikely to share misgivings with all and sundry. They represented the Blue Anchor Line and their very jobs depended on the economic viability of the Lund enterprise. If they were to have verbalised reservations about the Waratah at every port, it would no doubt have adversely affected their careers. Even though Captain Ilbery was due to retire he was undoubtedly proud and loyal to his employers. Furthermore, by the last voyage, Captain Ilbery and his officers could not have had reservations about GM stability, but might well have had concerns about reduced freeboard (buoyancy) and the under-powered quadruple expansion engines - hoping for a voyage without a storm of 'exceptional violence'.

Mr. W. Fisher (manager of the South
Australian Stevedoring Company) stated
that the usual course was followed in regard 
to the supply of the loading plant by the agents 
of the Waratah. The Adelaide cargo of the steamer 
was thoroughly well and judiciously stowed.

He would say that, wouldn't he and a stiff, upright steamer departing the port was confirmation in itself.

The Waratah took the ground alongside the wharf at
Port Adelaide at low water, but as the
bottom was mud no harm resulted. When
the loading was completed the ship
was perfectly upright, and, as far
as he knew, in a thoroughly seaworthy 

With 9000 tons of dead weight cargo, the Waratah had to be stiff. Taking the ground, in my opinion, was a very serious matter. What hull plate damage sustained, we shall never know...

Captain J. G. Gibbon (surveyor to the
Underwriters' Association) said he had no
occasion to take exception to anything 
connected with the loading of the Waratah.

Well that confirms that.

Pilot Girling said that when piloting the
Waratah outwards to Melbourne in December, 
1908, with a draft of 26 ft. and 21 ft.
6 in. forward, she was "very tender, in-
deed," when rounding Schnapper Point.
There was a strong south-west wind at the

This paragraph sums up the Waratah dilemma - note that it was December 1908, not June / July, 1909. Waratah should have had a draught of 26.9 ft., similar to that of the Geelong but because of the additional deck was 'very tender' at this draught. It is completely logical that adjustments made to counteract tenderness involved functional overloading which increased the draught to beyond 28 ft. which created its own (much-repeated) problems.

.....Sometimes when going head to wind in
quite ordinary weather she would take
more water over her than one would expect 
in the circumstances. 

Not surprising when one considers excessive draught and limited freeboard (+ reduced sheer).

At Cape Town, when going alongside the 
wharf a boat on the port side was taken 
inboard, and it took 14 men to do it, 
because the davits were so stiff. 
The same thing occurred
when taking a starboard boat inboard
alongside the wharf at Port Adelaide.
These were the only two boats moved
while he was on board.

Even if there had been a remote chance of launching lifeboats in the final moments, this factor would have presented a significant obstacle to the operation.

Charles Augustus Johnson (wharf man-
ager at the Outer Harbor) said he knew
Captain Ilbery had a strong objection to his
ship touching the bottom alongside the
wharf at Port Adelaide, for he heard him
say to the agent just before sailing that he
did not think it right or fair for a vessel
of her size and weight to be on the bottom, 
as she was in Port Adelaide. 

This confirms my opinion about the weight of the Waratah. Captain Ilbery knew the implications of keel forces such as this and had good reason to be concerned. We shall never know if or the extent of hull plate and rivet damage when Waratah made her way down the Wild Coast, but my suspicions, remembering the case of the Koombana, are firmly in the camp of damaged plates, placed under further considerable strain.

Koombana, Broome, 1911 - one shudders to think of the huge, heavy Waratah doing the same.

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