Thursday, 13 July 2017


The Advertiser (Adelaide) Tuesday 23 August, 1910
On Monday morning the Inspector of explosives (Mr. W. A. Hargreaves) went toPort Adelaide, and was conveyed down theharbor to the steamer South Africa. Hemade a thorough examination of the vessel.
Pumping the Water Out.
Mr. C. Allen, Port Adelaide manager forMessrs. Harris. Scarfe, & Co., agents forthe South Africa, proceeded to the vesselon Monday morning in a launch. Thewater poured into the steamer by the fire-float on Sunday evening was being pumpedout again by the vessel's pumps, and thework was completed during the day. MrAllen said the saloon and storeroom beneath were completely gutted.
"Damage about £3,000".
Captain J.H. Gibbon. Lloyd's surveyor at Port Adelaide, proceeded from the harbor to the vessel to carry out a survey on Monday afternoon. The Marine Board Engineer surveyor (Mr. J. Harris) was on board makinghis examination. As the launch rangedalongside the smell of smoke was stronglyapparent, and a plate in the hull amid-ships, just below the shelter deck, was seen to be slightly buckled and with thepaint burned off. 
On deck burnt tarpaulins, charred hatch boards, damaged blankets, and mattresses told a tale that could not be mistaken, but a closer examination of the vessel gave evidence ofmore serious damage. The deck amid-ships for about 30 or 40 ft. of the lengthand the full width of the vessel wasbuckled. The heat below must have beentremendous indeed, a member of thecrew stated yesterday that the plateswere red-hotThe saloon was in a sorry state.
Where the Fire Began.
The steward's storeroom, immediately beneath the saloon, was nothing but a massof charcoal. This was where the fire isconsidered to have started. With theexception of this room, which has beenbuilt just recently, the vessel is  illuminatedwith electric light. It is stated thatcandles were used on Sunday in the store-room, and that the fire must have beendue to them. 
In the vicinity of the storeroom the beams which, support the shelter deck were twisted, eight being materially damaged. Captain Darley assisted the two experts to conduct their examination. 
If a fire had been the reason for Waratah turning back for Durban, this account illustrates the extensive damage that can be caused - notably hull plate compromise. The heavily laden Waratah's hull would not have fared well if this was the case.
Given Waratah's heavy loading and reduced buoyancy a further dilemma might have presented in the form of not being able to adequately flood the bunker/s where the fire burned out of control. Flooding would only have increased the dead weight, reducing buoyancy further, creating a dangerous list.
Captain Ilbery and his officers could not win.

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