Wednesday, 5 July 2017


The Advertiser (Adelaide) Tuesday 9 March, 1909.
Messrs. Geo. Wills and Co. are in receipt of a cable from Messrs. W. Lund & Sons, advising the safe arrival in London of their new twin screw Blue Anchor liner Waratahon March 3, after a passage of 43 days only, which included calls at Albany, Durban, Cape Town, and Las Palmas.
The fact of the Waratah arriving in London three days before her programmed date shows that she is possessed of exceptional speed, and she should be a very welcome addition to the passenger fleet trading between Australia and England.
One may assume that the return passage was not fraught with significantly adverse weather conditions. We know that Waratah was relatively under powered for her size, which did not effect overall speed under 'ideal' circumstances:
Another example of a relatively under powered steamer was the Baltic. At the time of launch Baltic was the largest steamer afloat (until 1905). On her maiden voyage, she completed the distance between Liverpool and New York (2871 n miles) in 7 days and 13 hours, which matched her registered speed of 16 knots. Despite the excellent crossing time, Baltic was proven to be under powered, her twin quadruple expansion engines being the same capacity as her smaller siblings, Celtic, Cedric and Adriatic. Power output was 14 000 ihp, but for her size, should have been 16 000 ihp. Modifications were made at a later stage to improve the output. It is important to note that being under powered did not affect speed under normal conditions. If one uses the Baltic as a frame of reference the Waratah should at the very least have had a power output of 6 226 ihp, not 5 400 ihp.
The new Waratah certainly made an impression during her maiden voyage. I have perused many newspaper articles between December 1908 and June 1909. The Waratah only received glowing reports. No mention, whatsoever, was made of top heaviness or instability. No passengers complained about the voyages and nor did they express concerns about the safety of the new flagship. It just goes to show that once the Waratah disappeared, negativity emerged from the woodwork, fueled by hysteria surrounding the loss of the flagship.
This does not mean that there were not top heaviness issues during the maiden voyage. The overseas shipping lines were a great source of British national pride which counteracted negativity in the press. In fact this pride was embodied by the Board of Trade which was reluctant to undermine the industry. We see a manifestation  of this position at the Inquiry into the loss of the Waratah. 
Although the Court was prepared to indulge the many negative personal testimonies regarding the initially top heavy Waratah; explore in great detail lading in terms of GM and righting force figures, it (rightly) came to the conclusion that Waratah was adequately stabilised by her final voyage. Of course no attempt was made by the Court to explore the negative side of the newly stabilised Waratah in terms of dead weight and buoyancy (not to mention the power output of her engines). Furthermore the Court was reluctant to explore the veracity of bodies seen off the Bashee and Great Fish rivers and the accounts of both the Guelph and Harlow. All of these were dismissed out of hand and the final verdict steered into the 'storm of exceptional violence' and perils of the sea - restoration of British shipping pride.
What a whitewash!!

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