Thursday, 22 June 2017


Lyons, a steward, said:-"I heard theboatswain say, 'I would not like tobe on this ship in a storm. She wouldgo to the bottom.' I heard the sailorssay they had to fill tanks to get herstraight, as she rolled too much. On thesecond voyage I believe the ship struck asubmerged rock after leaving Adelaide and loosened the plates underneath.
This is a fascinating piece of 'rumour' or fact? It seems strange that this would be the only account of Waratah striking some object after departing Adelaide on her final voyage. Rather than a rock, if this be true, it would more likely to have been submerged wreckage. If Mr. Lyons only got half the story right, there might be another explanation for 'loosened the plates underneath'. We know that Waratah took the ground at the wharf, Adelaide, prior to departure, and that Captain Ilbery was extremely upset about the incident, claiming that Waratah was too large and heavy to be subjected to such forces on her hull. Although most steamers appeared to have coped with this phenomenon, Waratah was unique in respect of size and heavy loading / ballast. Captain Ilbery stated on arrival at Durban that Waratah had sustained NO damage since departing Adelaide, but the wording did NOT include, damage sustained AT Adelaide! In the case of the Koombana which ran aground Shark Bay, Western Australia, significant hull plate damage was sustained but not detected until much later when Koombana was put into dry dock, Sydney. Damage to Waratah's hull might, in the same fashion, have been drastically under-estimated. If the Harlow account be true, loosened plates, fire heat damage, hull stress due to heavy load and ballast, might have created the scenario for the steamer disappearing within minutes after striking the St John reef, Bluff Point. Watertight compartments were intended to keep the steamer afloat if one or perhaps two compartments were punctured. Waratah might very well have sustained a series of glancing blows much like the RMS Titanic rendering her doomed. There is another possibility that due to heavy loading, water tight doors were not able to be adequately closed in an emergency. Speculation runs rife :)

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