20["Wireless and the Waratah", The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 10 August 1909, page 6]


No word has yet been received of the Waratah. Other vessels have arrived after travelling along the same track, and one, the Guelph, has reported that she sighted the Waratah, and tried to signal her on the evening of the 27th - a week ago. Nothing seems to have passed between the two steamers by way of information, but no distress signals were flying. Our cablegrams yesterday tended, perhaps, to diminish hope, since it was reported that 3OO tons of coal had been shipped at Durban and placed upon the bridge deck.

Those who read Captain Tickell's reassuring words, as telegraphed from Melbourne on Sunday night, naturally assumed that after reducing the coal in the bunkers on the voyage from Adelaide by 1500 tons, it was dangerous to take on a large quantity on the upper decks. Might not the steamer have capsized? But the bridge deck of the Waratah is a lower deck. First comes the boat deck, then the promenade, and next the so-called bridge deck. There was nothing in our cablegram yesterday to suggest that anything had been done to impair the stability of a fine steamer which had already proved her powers under trying conditions. As no wreckage has yet been discovered, and the searching cruisers are still away, it is reasonable to believe that the worst has not happened, though the indications are sufficiently ominous. It is true that with twin screws the Waratah ought not to be wholly disabled, since one screw should be available in case of accident; and in that event she should have been heard of before this. But the unexpected must still be kept in mind. Although one never hears of twin screws failing together, it is not impossible that something of the sort has happened; and in any case the experiences of other steamers which have drifted about before being assisted into port, or coming in under their own steam, may be repeated in this case.

But the main thing at the present moment which is stirring the public mind is the value of wireless telegraphy. We have word of the Powerful at a distance of 450 miles; and it is easy to imagine the Waratah sending news of herself to either Durban or Capetown right up to the minute of disaster, and after, so that help could have been at once forthcoming, if she had been so equipped. The lesson of the Republic, the White Star liner of 15,000 tons, with nearly 800 people on board, which was rammed by the Florida, is fresh in mind. After the collision, and in response to ethergrams, many other liners steamed to the scene, and rendered assistance. It may be remembered especially that the White Star steamer Baltic, of 23,870 tons, hurried forward, and Mr. Tattersall, her Marconi operator, stuck to his post for more than two days sending cheering messages to the sinking ship, and communicating with the shore. So impressed were the public that a bill was introduced into the United States Congress with the object of making compulsory the installation of ethergraphs on all ocean-going vessels. Almost immediately it was announced that the French Minister of Commerce and Industry was about to introduce a bill into the Chamber of Deputies to force all mail steamers of a certain tonnage to be equipped, and now the feeling will be general that something of the sort should be insisted upon with British vessels. It may appear unfair to the various companies to propose to add to their expenses in this way. There seems to be no end to the demands which are made upon them nowadays, and there must be a point beyond which the levy must not pass. But one can see how much may depend upon wireless telegraphy in a case like that of the Waratah. It might easily happen that enough money could be saved, by timely knowledge of a steamer's mishap, to equip a whole fleet with the necessary apparatus, and the relief to thousands of anxious hearts would be correspondingly great. Lack of knowledge so often means serious loss, that in self-defence the companies will have to consider the question, all the more so because the various Legislatures will be forced by public feeling to pass laws, directly to deal with the matter.