Wednesday, 19 July 2017



Name:SS Imperator
Owner:Hamburg America Line
Port of registry:Hamburg
Launched:23 May 1912
Christened:24 May 1913
Completed:June 1913 at Hamburg, Germany
Maiden voyage:11 June 1913, Cuxhaven to New York

tonnage:       52,117 GT
length:          906 ft.
beam:           98 ft. 3 in.
decks:           11
power:           4 steam turbines producing 60,000 shp
speed:            24 knots
capacity:        4,234 passengers and 1,180 crew

Note: larger than RMS Titanic.

'On her first arrival (maiden voyage) the harbour pilot assigned to bring her into the Ambrose channel, Captain George Seeth, noted that the ship listed from side to side when the helm made changes to the ship's direction. She was soon nicknamed "Limperator".
In October 1913, Imperator returned to the Vulkan shipyard to facilitate drastic work to improve her handling and stability, as it had been discovered that her centre of gravity was too high (see metacentric height). To correct the problem, the marble bathroom suites in first class were removed and heavy furniture was replaced with lightweight wicker cane. The ship's funnels were reduced in height by 9.8 ft (3 m). Finally, 2,000 tons of cement was poured into the ship's double bottom as ballast. This work cost £200,000, which had to be borne by the shipyard as part of their five-year warranty to the shipowners. At the same time, an advanced fire sprinkler system was fitted throughout the ship, as several fires had occurred on board since the vessel had entered service.'

Correcting top heaviness was an expensive business. Bearing in mind that the luxury Waratah was built for a meager £139, 900.00, I can't imagine Lund senior agreeing to major alterations once Waratah returned from her troubled major voyage. Tensions must have run high between Captain Ilbery, his officers and the owners. I can imagine Lund advising Captain Ilbery to fill Waratah to the hilt with lead concentrates at Adelaide - 'problem solved'. Allowing my imagination to run riot, and once again bearing in mind that Lund senior sat on the classification committee, was Waratah's load line adjusted / tampered with?? 

Note: 'several fires had occurred on board'. Fires on board steamers of the era were a relatively common occurrence. This might explain why the Court did not probe the causes of the fire experienced during Waratah's maiden voyage, and more importantly, why more extensive measures were not undertaken to correct 'defective' insulation materials surrounding the engine room and coal bunkers. 

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