Saturday, 22 July 2017


Yea Chronicle, 17 December, 1908.

Under the heading "-Seeking their
Fortune" the "Argus." of Wednesday,
prints a paragraph which states
that the steamer Waratah has arrived
at Port Adelaide from London with
an unusual number of passengers
and a record number of immigrants
aboard. Most of those on board are
destined for New Zealand, while
130 are for Melbourne, and the
remainder for New South Wales.
These "immigrants" state that they
have heard a lot about Australia
lately, and were induced to come
this way because Canada and the
United States for the time being
seem done; and because of the
depression in Great Britain and the
large number of unemployed. Now
the question arises as to whether we
want the 130 immigrants, referred
to, seeing that they have brought
with them capital ranging from £15
to £150 only! These munificent
banking accounts may tide the
"fortune seekers" over the summer,
providing no confidence -man relieves 
them of the lot in one night, as is often 
the "case with our native born subjects; 
but what are they to do as the song says 
"in the winter time"...
The only logical conclusion that can
be arrived at is that the majority
will be stranded along with hun
dreds of others who are daily in
search of remunerative employment.
Australia may be prospering, as they
say, and may also require more
people. Nevertheless Australia
wants people with slightly more
than £15 or even £150; nor does
she want clerks as some of these
"immigrants" are said to be. The
Governments are already endeavour
ing to solve the unemployed problem, 
which was as difficult to deal
with this year as ever it was. Clerks
are in a bad way, while our present
land policy, as has been the case for
years past precludes settlement. The
bursting up of large estates is, of
course, the only remedy, and even
were this done it is doubtful if £150
would be of much use to a would-be
purchaser. The policy of inviting
immigrants to this country with
such paltry sums, as we have indi
cated, at their disposal is undoubht
edly a mistaken one, and can only
tend to intensify the problem of the
Fix this text

Imagine such an article appearing in modern-day newspapers??


The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 27 April, 1908.

LONDON, April 25.
The threatened lockout in the shipbuilding 
yards of the north-east and west
coasts is about to come into operation.
The men balloted on the alternatives
(1) Accept the reduction of Is 6d per week,
or (2) refer the matter to arbitration, and
thence the establishment of conciliation
boards. To the latter alternative the 
employers objected.
The ballot was two to one in favour of
arbitration and the establishment of 
conciliation boards.
The employers thereupon adhered to
their ultimatum, and decided to serve
notices of lockout, affecting 80,000 ship-
wrights, joiners, drillers, wood-cutting
machinists, and others in all the ship-
building yards on the north-east and west
On the north-east coast the shipwrights,
joiners, and drillers have been out on strike
since January 21, 3500 men being affected.
The masters, in consequence of the depression 
in the trade, declared that all wages
should be reduced by 1s 6d a week for those
on time, and by 5 per cent, for those on
piece. There are about 25 trade unions in
the shipyards, and these all agreed to the
masters' demands but the three mentioned
above The workmen accepting the reduction 
number about six-sevenths of those employed 
in the shipyards. A clear indication of the 
depressed state of the shipbuilding
trade is given by the amount of new tonnage 
under construction on the north-east
coast. The employers base their demands
for a lower wage on the difficulty of securing 
the few orders for new ships unless they
are prepared to tender at a figure which, on
the scales of wages in force last year, would
show considerable loss. For a long time
the men declared that the masters were 
exaggerating the depression, and asked that
they might continue to receive the wages
on the 1906 footing, which were the highest
rates ever earned by the trades on strike.
The boilermakers and others came to terms
with the masters, and very many men 
benefited by the withdrawal of the lockout notices, 
and are now getting the hulls of new
ships ready for the shipwrights and joiners.
The following figures will show how comparatively 
few new orders for ships are reaching the north-east 
centres - the Tyne, the Wear, the Tees, and the Hartlepool and
Whitby districts 
Another sign of the depression in trade is
the crowded state of the Tyne between
Shields and Jarrow with vessels laid up for
want of remunerative freights. In some
places steamers with their fires drawn are
moored six abreast.

Waratah was conceived and built during tough times, which might in part, explain why Barclay, Curle and Co won the tender and agreed to build the new flagship for a budget price (compared with other similarly sized luxury steamers of the era). Having won the tender and later the controversy and hints at liability, management at Barclay, Curle and Co might very possibly have regretted their decision.

Clyde-Fairfields fitting out basin.

Friday, 21 July 2017


If a coal bunker fire required flooding of that particular bunker to gain control of flames and smoke, a factor called water entraining comes into play. In effect the amount of coal would absorb or retain about 30% of the total coal weight, preventing this component of water from being ejected by bilge pumps. 

Let us create a hypothetical scenario: Waratah's starboard side lower deck alongside casing - 137.5 tons is on fire. Water is being played onto this coal and the bunker flooded. This weight could be increased by 41.25 tons to 178.75 tons by entrained water, creating a list to starboard. Furthermore the bilge pumps are being choked by the coal dust saturation of the free water to be eliminated. This further increases the list to starboard - free water effect. With each degree of list, this would reduce the starboard freeboard by at least 6 inches. Waratah would roughly have had a starting point freeboard aft of 9.5 ft.. Theoretically the ship would have been compromised by a list of only 19 degrees. In order to avoid a list to this fatal extent, Captain Ilbery might have elected to lighten Waratah, increasing freeboard, by discharging water from ballast tanks 1 (129 tons) and / or 8 (222 tons) and keep flooding the affected bunker; or allow the fire to burn out of control, spreading to other bunkers and holds. The result of the former action could worsen the situation considerably by reducing GM, increasing top heaviness factor, and further exacerbating the list with free water within the partially emptied tank/s. An example of this is the Clan Gordon which heeled completely over during such an operation to trim the stern. If lead concentrates and carcasses shifted, well it would all be over in minutes.

If Waratah was attempting to return to Durban due to coal bunker fire that was gaining the upper hand, it must have been a terrifying time with excruciating decisions to be made. 

Rena, 20 degrees list - all over for Waratah.

Apprentice Sydney Lamont of the Clan MacIntyre claimed that Waratah was heeling like a yacht when she overhauled them. His claim flew in the face of his officers and captain who maintained that Waratah was upright and steaming strongly. If Lamont's untruthful account had been true, it would have all been over for the Waratah by 9.30 am, 27 July, 1909!!

Thayer, G. David. First to Die: The Tragic Loss of the SS Vestris (Kindle Locations 253-255). Rapidsoft Press ®, jointly with Our American Stories ® LLC. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, 20 July 2017


SS Vestris:

'...water was coming through an ash ejector below the waterline, and several hours later he noticed a distinct list to starboard.'

'According to statements made by the rescued stokers, the first leak in the Vestris came from a cracked sea valve which went down to the ash hopper in the stokehold of the steamer. According to the testimony of the stokers, this sea valve was cracked before the Vestris started her final voyage. [They] said there had been some question before the Vestris sailed as to whether she would sail at all.'

'water coming through the “half door” (also referred to as the “working door” and “coal port”) on the starboard side, about six feet above the normal waterline. The leak grew steadily worse.'

'They said the rubber gaskets that were meant to make the two swinging doors watertight had long ago rotted away and disintegrated, leaving gaps wide enough to admit tons of water.'

'assigned it to a dependable carpenter and carpenter’s mate, who were supposed to have bolted the doors and caulked the cracks. Although the coal ports closed from outside the ship, he admitted that he had not inspected them.'

'Chief Engineer James Adams said the first leak was found about 9:00 a.m. Sunday in the starboard ash ejector. It was plugged by noon after letting twenty tons of water into the stokehold bilge, nearly filling it. At 10:00 a.m., the second leak was discovered in a lavatory, which was caused by the carrying away of a scupper plate on the starboard side. This was also plugged by noon after letting fifteen or twenty tons of water into the engine room bilge, which it almost filled.'

Thayer, G. David. First to Die: The Tragic Loss of the SS Vestris (Kindle Locations 253-255). Rapidsoft Press ®, jointly with Our American Stories ® LLC. Kindle Edition.

The West Australian, 25 June, 1918.

A telegram from Geraldton was recently
published to the effect that the State
steamer Bambra, in her latest trip north
words occupied 60 hours on the voyage
from Fremantle to Geraldton, whereas the
time usually taken is 24. The Colonial
Secretary (Mr. H. P. Colebatch) has re
ceived from the. acting manager of the
State Steamship Service (Mr. Stevens) a re
port on the matter. This shows that the
chief engineer explained that the cause of
the trouble was the flooding of the stoke
hold owing to water having got down the
ash ejector pipes on each side of the ship,
and also through the side doors to the
bunkers. which apparently washed down
coal dust sufficient to fill the bilges and
choke the pumps. The ship was laden
deeply on leaving Fremantle, but was in
every respect in good order, and the trouble
was due to the exceedingly heavy weather
which prevailed, all hands having been kept
busy for 24 hours baling out the water. On
arrival at Geraldton the bilges were pro
perly cleaned out before the ship proceeded
on her voyage. Since leaving Geraldton
no further trouble had been experienced.

In the case of SS Vestris and SS Bambra, both deeply laden steamers, the ash ejector discharge ports, close to the waterline, were a weak link in terms of flooding. It is interesting to note that coal dust could choke the bilge pumps, further exacerbating a flooding situation. If Waratah experienced a severe coal bunker fire, 27 July, 1909, intentional flooding of the bunker/s in question might have caused a significant list, submerging the ash ejector outlet on one side. This could have been a source of further flooding and listing.

There was no evidence submitted to the Inquiry that Waratah's hatches and coal doors were adequately secured. I doubt very much whether Waratah departed Durban without this having been done. It was after all winter and storms anticipated on the run from Durban to Cape Town. 

SS Bambra


Cairns Morning Post, 9 October, 1908.

Navigation Bill.

The Merchant Shipping Acts, 1894
- 1904, operate throughout His
Majesty's Dominions, except where
local shipping laws have been passed.
This Bill (1908) as was the case with
the first Bill introduced, 1904, is not
intended apparently to be a complete
record of the law affecting the shipping
trade of Australia.

Deck and Load Lines.--The alteration 
from the summer to the winter
North-Atlantic load line would very
seriously affect the shipping companies, 
as it would cause in some
vessels a reduction in the carrying
capacity of 300 tons, which represents 
a loss of approximately £35-000 per 
annum. The Royal Commission 
recommended that, power should be 
given to the Minister to fix the load line 
for certain vessels, taking into 
consideration the nature of the cargo, 
but they did not go so far as to say 
that the winter North-Atlantic Ioad line,
which has never been used on this
coast, should be adopted for coal
cargoes all the year round. The
Royal Commission also stated they
were informed by experts that the
weather in this hemisphere is much
less stormy than in the other hemis-
phere. It should, therefore, not be
necessary to have the winter North
Atlantic load line at all, and if the
winter load line is applied it should
be only made applicable to certain
periods of the year. It is interesting 
to note that at the Maritime Conference 
of the principal officers of the Marine 
Departments of the Australian colonies 
held in 1894 of the Australian colonies,
it was unanimously agreed there was 
no necessity for vessels engaged in 
the Australasian trades to be marked 
with the North-Atlantic winter or Indian 
summer load line. 


She was to be built to Lloyd's Rules (1907-1908) for the 100 A1 spar-deck class with freeboard. The minimum freeboard when fully loaded to 30 feet 4 1/2 inches mean draught was 8 feet 1 inch. She was a larger ship than was contemplated by those rules, and her scantlings were practically the same as those for the three-deck class.

It is interesting to note that only one mean maximum draught figure was quoted at the Inquiry, implying that Waratah was not issued with a North-Atlantic winter loadline, a 2% reduction on the summer loadline (one may assume that the 30 ft. 4 1/2 in. applied to summer). 

The argument put forward in the report is that winter conditions in the southern hemisphere did not approximate that experienced in the northern hemisphere. This cannot be said for, nor applied to, the Wild Coast, South Africa, midwinter. In fact, it is along this very coast that notorious rogue waves occur, dwarfing anything the worst of storms the mid-Atlantic can produce. 

Of course, as calculated in the report, a varying loadline would have had a direct impact on cargo-carriage and profits. Given that 30 ft. 4 1/2 in. was Waratah's maximum draught in summer conditions, her draught in winter conditions should have been reduced to a mean of around 29.7 ft., which was only 3.6 inches short of the aft draught of 29.4 ft. rather than the assumed 11.7 inches, when Waratah departed Adelaide for the last time.    

Furthermore, according to the wording of the Inquiry extract above, Waratah was larger than applied to 'those rules', including freeboard of 8 ft. 1 in.. A larger vessel would require a larger freeboard factor. A rough calculation would have LBP (465 ft.) / a factor of 40, which gives a rough freeboard of 11.6 ft. for a vessel the size of Waratah. Obviously there are other subtle factors taken into account which would not alter this figure significantly. A freeboard of 11.6 ft. would give a maximum summer draught of 26.85 ft.. i.e. 26 ft. 10.2 in..

Let's return for a moment to the SS Vestris, which was registered for a summer draught of 26 ft. 9.25 in.. Is it not strange or merely coincidental that the similarly, if somewhat larger, Vestris had a summer draught, a meager 0.75 in., less than my estimation for Waratah??

Taking this exercise further, one can extrapolate a winter draught figure for Waratah - 26.3 ft., which is 2.7 ft. less than the mean 29 ft. draught when Waratah departed both Adelaide and Durban for the last time. Waratah was functionally overloaded to the tune of 2.7 ft.!! Her registered maximum draught was a joke and NEVER explored by the Court of Inquiry. Naturally Waratah was exceedingly tender with a mean draught of 26.3 ft., which could never work in practice, forcing 'overloading' and heavy ballasting to improve GM.

Some consider this 'bleating', I consider this convincing!!

SS Vestris


The Advertiser (Adelaide) Wednesday 11 August, 1909.

The reason why the vessel did not put
into East London is that there is no landing
place there, and there is a dangerous
bar. Passengers have to be landed at
that port from steamers by the baskets
which are lowered into lighters. Then 
repairs could not be carried out at East
London with the same facility as at Durban.

Repairs would include a more comprehensive fire-fighting deployment. With a storm of 'exceptional violence' approaching from the southwest, it would not have been feasible for the deeply laden Waratah, with fire in one or more of the bunkers, to hove to off East London.

present day

Wednesday, 19 July 2017


The Advertiser (Adelaide) Tuesday 19 April, 1910.

'When off Gravesend the Board of Trade 
made an inspection of the boats,
but examined only two out of the 16.
None of the boats had provisions in them.
On painting the boats on the inside the
paint leaked through to the outside.'

Maiden voyage.
"There was boat drill once a week, but all 
that was done was to loosen the covers of 
the keats and then put them on again. 
In case of an accident it would have taken at 
least five minutes to unloosen the fastenings of
the coverings of the boats and they never lifted 
the boats off the chocks.

In Sydney it took 13 men with ropes and
blocks to lift the No. 6 boat off the chocks,
and then they had to get a steam winch
to swing the davits out. The davits had
become rusted. 

At Adelaide he had attempted to paint two 
of the aft boats. One of them was so soft 
and rotten that it would not take the paint. 
He could have put his hand through the 
wood at the bottom of the boat This was 
an outside boat, which had never been
swung out; it had never been moved out 
of its position during the voyage The rafts 
were in such a position that until the boats 
were removed they could not be launched 
at all.

The following extract relates to the loss of the SS Vestris. If the above be true, could a similar omission have applied to Waratah?

'§Another surprise arose when Edward Keane, inspector of hulls in the United States Steamboat Inspection Service of the Department of Commerce, admitted at the Tuttle hearings that if he had made a truthful report of his inspection of the SS Vestris, it would not have been issued clearance papers. At the Tuttle hearings, Keane reiterated testimony he gave first at the inspection service’s investigation that although in his
official report he said that he had lowered the Vestris’s lifeboats, he had not actually done so. “That being a requirement,” asked Attorney Tuttle, “unless it was done clearance papers should not be issued, should they?” “No,” the inspector agreed. Tuttle produced Keane’s official inspection report and read from it a printed question as to whether the lifeboats had been lowered. Next to this question Keane had written “yes.”'

Thayer, G. David. First to Die: The Tragic Loss of the SS Vestris (Kindle Locations 2382-2386). Rapidsoft Press ®, jointly with Our American Stories ® LLC. Kindle Edition.