Below is the text of an interview with the American Captain who supervised the Australian reassembly of the sternwheeler Captain Sturt. text from The Advertiser, (1916 11 25)
NEW MURRAY STEAM BOAT: INTERVIEW WITH CAPTAIN MEREDITH, A VETERAN AMERICAN.
Captain Washington Meredith, of Cincinnati, Ohio, who has completed his task, under contract with the South Australian Government, of putting together the Murray River steamboat, Captain Sturt, which is to be used in connection with the building of the locks, is a living contradiction of the statement that in America a man is too old at 40. He has been building river boats for 65 years, and on December 6 he will celebrate his 76th birthday. Captain Meredith will leave, by train for Sydney today to catch a steamer for San Francisco, and on arrival there he has to undertake a rail journey of 5,000 miles before he gets home. He says the Captain Sturt is an experiment as far as river navigation in Australia is concerned inasmuch as it pushes its freight ahead instead of towing the barges astern but it is by no means an experiment as regards the United States, where the Charles Barnes Company, the constructing firm, has 100 craft of the same type plying up and down the Mississippi, Wabash, Kentucky, Alleghany and various other rivers. The Captain Sturt is the eleventh of the type Captain Meredith himself has superintended in construction, and in his opinion they have no equal for the handling of barges and derrick and dredge boats.
“She should be a success in every way,” remarked the captain in an interview on Friday concerning the new steamboat. ‘The Captain Sturt will revolutionise the methods of towing on the River Murray. Provided that she is handled properly she will do just as good work as our boats are doing on the American rivers. If she does not, it will be the fault of the man at the wheel and the man at the business end as we call the engine-room. Although the parts were shipped from New York, the actual construction here is by Australian labour, every bit of it.
I started with 10 men working under my direction, and wound up with 25. I had the aid of only one mechanic (an iron worker). The others did not know how to tighten up a bolt or drive a rivet, but they were young and willing to be taught, and proved as time went on to be A1 at the job. It cannot be denied that they have done first-class work.” Captain Meredith arrived in South Australia at the end of October, 1915. The new steamboat is specially adapted for carrying stone from the Mannum quarry to the lock sites. She was submitted to a stiff test a fortnight ago, with excellent results. The down trip from Blanchetown to Mannum was made in five hours. On the following morning she went to a spot 18 miles below Mannum, where a barge had been sunk and raised, and brought it to Mannum the same evening. The next morning three barges full of water were pumped out and hitched on to the Captain Sturt, which backed out from Mannum in a high wind with the four barges ahead of her. To continue the narrative in the American skipper’s word, “She straightened them up and started right on up the river to the quarries, took on some wood, and continued the voyage. Her average push up the river with all this load was four miles an hour. The barges were in front, spread out to a width of 81 ft and the whole fleet was 265 ft long. She made every bend of the river without once slowing down the engines. Five barges could have been steered up the river equally as well as the four. Coming downstream the Captain Sturt could bring 16 barges and handle them. With big boats of the same type we have pushed 60,000 tons at a time from Pittsburg to New Orleans, about 1,750 miles.
Captain Meredith has been on every navigable river whose waters flow into the Gulf of Mexico. He has been 1,800 miles up the Yukon, in Alaska, and 350 miles up Birch Creek, which runs into the Yukon Flats. “The Murray” he stated, “is so pretty a river as I was ever on. Of the American rivers it brings me most in mind of the Monongahela, although the Murray is larger. The country I have seen in South Australia is like the part of America that has to be irrigated. The Australians with whom I have come in contact have been fine people. They have treated me royally, and I thank them for it.”
The parting words of the American steam boat builder were, “Good-bye, and don’t forget to say a good word for the boys who helped me to put the Captain Sturt together.”