The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 13 November, 1882.
LOSS OF FIVE LIVES.
.......which befel the magnificent Orient
liner Austral, at 4 o'clock on Saturday morning.
Whilst lying snugly at anchor in Neutral Bay,
receiving coal from a tender alongside, she suddenly
listed over, and her ports being open, the water
poured in so rapidly that she foundered in a few
minutes. There were on board at the time the officers
and crew, numbering between 70 and 80 men, and of
these five are known to have perished.
Austral, which met with an accident to her machinery
on her last voyage from England, sank this morning,
about 4 o'clock in Neutral Bay, just off Kirribilli
Fix this textPoint, whither she had been removed a day or two ago.
The Austral had been busily coaling for some
time from lighters moored alongside of her. The
coal, however, had been placed on the bunkers
on the starboard side which gave the vessel
a list and as the weight gradually increased, the water
rose nearer to her lower portholes. These were,
unfortunatelv left open; and immediately they reached the
level of the water a torrent poured into her which no
human skill could counteract. The vessel gradually
filled and settled down into between 40 and 50 feet of
water her decks being covered by probably two feet,
and her masts being, of course, almost entirely above
Injudicious loading of coal could and did have disastrous consequences, whether the steamers involved were top heavy or not. Massive inundation of water could cause steamers to founder within minutes.
There had been similar problems loading and coaling Waratah at Sydney during her maiden voyage. However, by the time Waratah was due to depart Durban (for the last time) coaling took place on the boat deck, via a coal chute forward of the funnel. Although a difficult process (coaling manager was loud in his complaints) and dirty for those on the upper decks, it does appear to be a more sensible approach, obviating significant weight on the side of the steamer adjacent to the wharf. Over the course of two voyages lessons were learned and adjustments made.
108 years ago Waratah departed Sydney's Central Wharf, Miller's Point, at noon (ref. S Leff-Patterson). The die was cast and fate in all its cruelty to be played out by 27 July, 1909.