News from 1909: The Sinking of Republic II

Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
[MAB Note: The New York Times of 24 January contained several pages of articles about the Republic-Florida collision of the day before. The following are the first three of those; they began on the first page and continued inside.]

The New York Times, 24 January 1909

Florida Hit Her in Fog Off Nantucket While Her 461 Passengers Were
Transferred to the Florida, Then to the Baltic, Which Heads in at 1 A. M.
A Whole Company of Mighty Ships, Called by Wireless, to Her Aid
But Is Reported to Have Left Her Early This Morning---The Rescued Will
Be Here To-day

By Marconi Wireless Telegraph to The New York Times
Steamship Baltic, via Siasconsett, Mass., Jan. 24, 1 A. M.---The
steamship Florida collided with the Republic 175 miles east of the
Ambrose Lightship at 5:30 A. M. on Saturday. The Republic's passengers
were transferred to the Florida.

The Republic is rapidly sinking. It is doubtful if she will remain
afloat much longer. The Baltic is now taking all the passengers aboard.
The Lucania, Lorraine, and Furnessia are standing by to render
assistance and convoy the Florida to New York.

It is reported on board that four passengers on the Republic have been

The weather is threatening, and the Florida is seriously damaged. We
hear that assistance is coming from New York.

Out in the fog-hidden waters of the Atlantic, some 250 miles from this
city, and 26 miles southeast of the Nantucket Lightship which guards the
Nantucket shoals, the White Star liner Republic, outward bound from this
city for Mediterranean parts, and laden with 461 passengers and supplies
for the United States battleship fleet, met in collision early yesterday
morning an incoming steamer, now known to be the Florida of the Lloyd
Italiano Line, bound for this port from Italian waters.

Fifteen hours or so later Capt. William I. Sealby of the Republic still
stuck to his ship with his crew, but every one of the Republic's
passengers had been transferred to the steamer Florida, still afloat,
although her bow was caved in. It was this damage to the Florida which
soon afterward decided Capt. Ransom of the White Star liner Baltic,
which had arrived at the scene in response to wireless appeals from the
Republic, to remove all the passengers from the Florida into his own
boat, including in the number the Florida's contingent as well as the
men and women who had been transferred to her from the Republic.

Transferring the Passengers

A wireless message from Capt. Ransom, received at the office of the
White Star Line here at 11:40 last night, said that only the desperate
condition of the Florida had persuaded him to the move and he added that
he had begun the work of transfer with twenty boats, each capable of
carrying ten persons besides the crew that manned it.

The message stated also that the vessels lay about a mile apart, and it
was estimated for this reason that the Baltic could hardly accomplish
the transfer of all the passengers before morning. The Baltic had on
board 90 first-class passengers, 170 second-class passengers, and 220
steerage passengers. This number is far below her capacity, and Capt.
Ransom wired that he would have no difficulty in caring for the 210
first-class passengers of the Republic as well as the 250 steerage
passengers and the contingent from the Florida, which brought the total
number added to his own list up to 1,242.

In the same message Capt. Ransom stated that the Republic was still
afloat and had drifted sixteen miles nearer to the Nantucket Lightship,
lying then about ten miles southeast of the Nantucket Beacon.

Survivors on Baltic---Republic Abandoned

The transfer of the passengers to the Baltic was accomplished speedily
and without Incident, and shortly before 1 o'clock this morning both
the Baltic and Florida started for this city. If the Baltic proceeds at
her usual speed, not delaying for the Florida, she should reach here
this afternoon.

A wireless message from the Baltic at 2 o'clock this morning, after many
contradictory reports about the Republic had left her condition very
much in doubt, said that she had been abandoned and that Capt. Sealby
and his crew were aboard the Baltic.

At 2:30 o'clock this morning, a dispatch from Nantucket said:

"It is learned definitely that Capt. Sealby and a boat's crew still
remain at the scene of the wreck. No one is on board the Republic, but
the Captain is in a small boat with a few men alongside. It is supposed
that he awaits the final plunge of his vessel beneath the

This was the news which reached this city in a series of fragmentary
wireless messages yesterday and last night, and seafaring men declared
that had it not been for this same wireless the story of the accident,
when it finally reached this city, might have been far different.

The collision occurred at 5:30 in the morning when many of the
Republic's passengers were still in their berths. Capt. Sealby was on
the bridge. Ahead and upon all sides was an almost impenetrable fog. The
Republic was coasting slowly along. She was a little off the beaten path
for ocean liners, having turned a little north to get a start on the
long sweep into the Mediteranean. [sic]

Suddenly there came a dozen quickly repeated blasts on a fog siren,
apparently close at hand. Almost at the same instant a hazy shape loomed
up in the mist bearing down on the Republic. There was no time to stop
or reverse the engines. The oncoming steamer crashed into the Republic,
lurching her over to one side as the sharp prow of the colliding vessel
gouged through the iron plates into the engine room of the White
Star liner. Then the vessel pulled away, righted herself, and staggered
off into the fog.

In a moment Capt. Sealby had called his crew to quarters and had the
collision bulkheads closed down, shutting off the engine room from the
rest of the ship. All that he could do himself had then been done, and
he turned to the last hope that remained, the wireless instrument. The
operator needed no orders. Already his fingers were pressing the key,
and out from the masthead leaped the ambulance call of the sea, the
signal, "C. Q. D.," which, translated from the code, means, " All ships.

Call for Help Heard

Then message after message was flashed away from the stricken vessel,
carrying the word that the Republic had been in collision, that she was
in danger, and that she lay in latitude 40.17, longitude 70. On the
steamer Baltic, on the French liner Lorraine, at the Nantucket wireless
station, at the naval stations at Newport, Woods Hole, and Provincetown
the message was picked up.

Each ship which got the message turned in her tracks and sped toward the
stricken ship. The revenue cutters Acushnot and Gresham started toward
the scene, and the Lucania, incoming, notified from the shore, also
turned off her course to hunt the Republic.

Then messages were exchanged with the shore. Capt. Sealby got into
communication with the White Star offices in this city, notifying his
owners of the accident, but conveying the welcome news that there was no
danger to life, and that his vessel would float for some time at least.

With the sending of these messages all that could be done on board the
ship had been done, and there remained to Capt. Sealby, his passengers,
and his crew, nothing to do but wait until they could be transferred to
the Florida, which was quickly done.

A late wireless report from Capt. Ransom stated that No. 1 hold on the
Florida had been found to be filled with water.

Prior to the discovery of this fact it had been agreed that the Florida,
which had already taken oft the Republic's passengers before the
arrival of the Baltic, should carry them to this port, the Baltic
standing by as a convoy.
Crash Came in Thick Fog When Passengers Were Asleep
Full details of what occurred aboard the Republic when out of the fog
off Nantucket the Florida, as it is supposed, smashed into her engine
room amidships early yesterday morning will only be known when her
passengers arrive here, probably to-day. Here is the story of the
collision as it appears from the facts reported in brief wireless
dispatches and from a knowledge of conditions aboard the liner:

The Republic, out-bound, with her 250 cabin and 211 steerage passengers
asleep in their berths, was groping slowly along through the dense fog
about twenty-six miles east of the Nantucket Lightship, in the early
morning. From out of the murk ahead came the little Florida, only half
the size of the big White Star liner.

If she sounded a warning on her whistles it was too late. The officers
on the Republic's bridge saw the other vessel looming in the mist ahead,
bear down upon them, and the next moment they were struck amidships on
the starboard side. There must have been a terrific roll to port, as the
Republic's side plates were torn asunder by the sharp prow of the
colliding steamer. Iron and wood were rent apart, and the steel-clad bow
of the Florida bored its way into the White Star liner's engine room,
immediately to back out again and stagger off out of sight into the fog,
while tons of water plunged through the hole, putting out the fires.

Engine Room Flooded

The engine room force tumbled up the ladders to the decks, soaked,
gasping, and frightened. From the bridge the crew were called to
quarters, and the collision bulkheads closed. With the vessel between
seventy and eighty miles from the nearest land---for the Nantucket
Lightship is fifty miles from shore---with water enough in the hold to
sink the steamer with its cargo of human beings unless the bulkheads
held, the wireless apparatus was then called upon to find the means of

The operator had stuck to his post---he was sending a message when the
collision occurred---and soon from the masthead of the Republic a
message went out telling all who could understand within 200 miles, as
concentric circles of little waves spread from a spot in the water in
which a stone is dropped, that the Republic needed aid.

Response to Wireless Call

The passengers who hurried on deck when the crash came were told to
prepare to take to the boats if necessary, while being assured of the
Captain's belief that the watertight compartments would hold and prevent
the Republic from sinking. And it was soon seen that the bulkheads were
performing their work while the wireless was sending out the distress
call, which no ship would pass unheeded.

It was not many hours before it was known that the Baltic, 100 miles
from Sandy Hook, had turned in her tracks and was making for the
stricken Republic at full speed; that the Lorraine, 75 miles away from
Ambrose Channel, was also coming full speed ahead through the fog, and
that all there was to do was to wait.

The vessel rolled in the seas, powerless to turn this way or that. The
engineroom bulkheads still held, and there was now little doubt of the
safety of all on board.

A Rescuer Appears

At 10 o'clock the colliding steamer, which proved to be the Lloyd's
Italian liner Florida, with her bows smashed in, reappeared. She
announced herself able and willing to take the Republic's passengers,
and the transfer was begun.

It was 12:30 o'clock when the last of the passengers left the stricken
ship. Still Capt. Sealby and the crew stayed, hoping to save the vessel,
now sinking lower and lower in the water.

Capt. Sealby and the crew stuck to the wrecked vessel through the
afternoon. At 7:30 o'clock the Baltic found the Republic and stood by
her and the Florida, on which were the rescued passengers. The
Republic's crew were transferred, but still Capt. Sealby refused to
leave his vessel.
The Call Which Turned Other Liners to the Rescue of the Republic
This is what happened in the Marconi wireless service when the first
news of the accident to the Republic flashed across the ocean at 7
o'clock yesterday morning:

The steamships Baltic and Republic of the White Star line, Pennsylvania
of the Hamburg-American line, incoming from Hamburg; the Furnesia of the
Anchor line, from Glasgow; the French liner Lorraine from Havre, the
Cunarder Lucania from Liverpool, and the Atlantic Transport liner
Minneapolis from London, were all within the wireless zone of the shore
stations along the coast.

The Lorraine end the Lucania were furthest in, and, with the Republic,
were holding communication with the station at Siasconsett; the Baltic,
some ninety miles in toward New York, was just passing into the zone
covered by the station at Sagaponack.

Each ship has an Individual call letter---K. C. for the Republic, B. C.
for the Baltic, L. I. for the Lorraine, and L. A. for the Lucania. The
land stations take messages in order of priority. To avoid a babel of
messages the land station in communication with the vessels calls the
particular vessel It wishes to receive from or send a message to, and
tills call gives that particular vessel the "right of way." The others,
all tuned alike, keep silent and listen to the messages, or when needed,
pass them along to others further out at sea.

The Republic was in commercial communication at the time of the
accident. She had been "talking to the station," and A. H. Ginman, the
operator, was clicking off a message to the vessel. He was well under
way, and everything was in working order, in spite of the fog, when
suddenly the operator on the Republic broke in sharply, and there began
to come into the station the letters "C. Q." This is the signal of the
wireless code meaning that something important has happened and that all
other shore stations and vessels in the wireless zone must instantly
stop sending and give attention.

Distantly the operator on shore stopped his message and waited with some
anxiety for the next flash. On each ship the operators were watching,
for something of moment had plainly happened to cause the operator on
the Republic to violate the etiquette of wireless and break in thus on
the sending man ashore.

" C Q D " Out of the Fog

There were just a few seconds of waiting and then the Republic began to
send in haste, repeating over and over again the letters " C Q D."

The added " D " meant danger, and the three letters together are a cry
for help---a general ambulance call of the deep sea.

" C Q D---C Q D." called the wireless out of the fog, and then came the
Republic's identification letters and next the wireless instrument
ashore and on the other steamers began to deliver this, the first
message telling of the accident:

6:40 A. M.-Rammed by unknown ship 26 miles south of Nantucket. Latitude
40.17, longitude 70.

Immediately the shore operator sent out nother [sic] " C Q D " call, and
then repeated the message, letting all other vessels within the zone,
200 to 300 miles from the station, know what had happened and the
steamship Republic's need for help. The shore instrument is capable of
covering a greater zone than the Republic, and could reach other vessels
which might not have heard the call of distress from the Republic. It
was an indirect appeal to every steamer within reach to make for the
scene of the collision without delay.

First Response from Baltic

At this moment the Baltic was in communication with the Sagaponack
Station on Long Island, some hundred miles west of Siasconsett. It was
from the Baltic that the first answering message came. She sent word
that she had picked up the call, and began to sound off a message
telling both shore and ships that she was turning back on her course,
and would make all speed to find the Republic in the fog.

Then from all the other vessels in range---the Lorraine, the Lucania,
the New York---came wireless notice to the shore that they had heard the
message and were also turning toward Nantucket to help.

Then came other responses. The Revenue Cutter Service has just made
Wood's Hole a cutter station. As soon as Ginman received his warning of
trouble he forwarded it to the cutter Acushnet there. She at once got
out and steamed away in the fog.

The revenue cutter Mohawk was off the coast on a derelict search. She,
too, caught the message and hastened away.

And so it went. From time to time came to the wireless stations ashore
messages from the rescuing ships; from the revenue cutter Acushnet,
which got first to the disabled
liner, and more faintly as the hours went on and the batteries on the
Republic began to fail from the ship herself telling that the passengers
were safe aboard the Florida, herself partly disabled, and that there
was a rescue fleet around doing all that could be done.

Late in the evening, when wireless messages from the Republic seemed to
have failed, the White Star Line received a wireless from Capt. Ransom
of the Baltic telling that the Lucania and the Baltic were within reach
of the Republic and she was directing their movements by her own
wireless, which was found to be of use only within a limited area.

The Value of Wireless Shown

"The accident," said John Bottomly, Vice President and General Manager
of the Marconi system, last night, "has demonstrated the working of the
Marconi system in case of danger. We are much pleased with the way the
affair has been managed and the saving of life. We have sent a letter to
A. H. Ginman, the operator at Siasconsett, thanking him for his

Mr. Bottomly said that the Marconi Company had recently given to the
United States Government the call letters of all of the 180 vessels
equipped with its system. Especial attention has been called to the " C
Q D " call, which is only used in extreme cases. Fifty out of the 180
stations are equipped with long distance apparatus, which will reach
2,000 miles from high power stations.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
[MAB Note: Like the articles immediately above, the following is only the first of a number that appered in NYT on 25 January.]

The New York Times, 25 January 1909

Sleeping Off Sandy Hook in the Fog and Will Reach Town This Morning
W. J. Mooney, Dakota Banker; Mrs. Eugene Lynch of Boston, Dead Republic
Four Seamen on the Florida, Names Unknown, Also on the Death Roll
Barely Time for Crew to Scramble Off---Captain Picked Up in the Water
The Palatial White Star Liner Lies in Deep Water Off No Man's
Land---Captain Last to Leave

The White Star liner Baltic, laden with the 1,650 passengers of the
colliding steamers Republic of the White Star Line and the
Lloyd-Itallano liner Florida, in addition to her own company, were lying
outside Sandy Hook at midnight, waiting for the dawn, to come into
harbor. The Baltic was invisible in the fog, but the Marconi wireless
station at Sea Gate could catch her messages exchanged with a sister
ship near by.

The Florida, in convoy of the American liner New York, was a few miles
behind the Baltic. Both have slowly made their way here over the 220
miles between the harbor mouth and the scene of Saturday morning's
collision, twenty-six miles southeast of the Nantucket Lightship,
guardian beacon of the Nantucket Shoals.

Miles away from the Baltic, off the coast of No Man's Land, a small
islet south of Martha's Vineyard, lies all that remains of the powerful
Republic. She sank last night in forty-five fathoms of water, Capt.
Sealby and the fifty men still left on her escaping just in time.

Republic Sank at 8:40 P. M.

The big steamer, which left this city on Friday, bound for Mediterranean
ports, with 211 first-class passengers off on a pleasure tour of
Southern Europe, and 250 steerage passengers, as well as supplies for
the United States battleship fleet in the Mediterranean, gave up the
fight at 8:40 o'clock, about forty hours after the Florida's sharp prow
dealt her a deathblow. To the last Capt. William I. Sealby and his crew
had stuck to the stricken steamer, assisting the revenue cutter Gresham
and the Anchor liner Furnessia, which were trying to bring the wounded
vessel back to this city.

Before the vessel sank Capt. Sealby and his crew escaped to the
convoying revenue cutter, but a wireless dispatch seized out of the air
by the instrument at the Sagaponack Station, near Bridgehampton, L. I.,
early last evening, brought the news that the body of Mrs. Eugene Lynch
of Boston, the only woman among six victims of the accident, was
believed to be aboard the sunken Republic.

Those who lost their lives, as told in yesterday's TIMES, have proved to
be W. J. Mooney, a banker, of Langdon, S. D., and Mrs. E. Lynch of
Boston, passengers on the Republic, and four seamen of the Florida,
whose names are unknown. In addition Eugene Lynch, husband of Mrs.
Lynch, and Mrs. M. M. Murphy, wife of the financial agent of the Union
Central Life Insurance Company of Grand Forks, N. D., were injured, how
badly is not known now.

Summary of the Result

This was the situation at midnight last night, when a summary of the
meagre dispatches received by wireless during the day and night from the
Baltic and the American liner New York, from the derelict destroyer
Seneca, and from the revenue cutter Gresham, revealed that the collision
off Nantucket in the fog had cost six lives, occasioned injuries to two
persons, brought about the loss of one steamer with its valuable cargo
and personal baggage of its passengers, and seriously crippled another
steamer, the latter the Florida.

The Florida was reported by wireless last night to be slowly steaming
toward this city under her own power, but in a bad way. Her bow and
cutwater, the dispatches said, were smashed, and her two forward holds
were filled with water. Still the liner floated, and freed of her
passengers, who had been taken aboard the Baltic, she was struggling to
reach safety here.

In the fog which prevailed over the Atlantic, between Nantucket and this
port, none of the steamers creeping on their way hither dared attempt
high speed. The Baltic, bringing the rescued between her decks, made the
best time. That she would try to enter the harbor before daybreak was
not believed, however, and the White Star officials made preparations to
send out the steamer General Putnam at 4 o'clock this morning to meet
her when she came up the bay.

The Transfer by Searchlight

The fog which held throughout yesterday had overhung the waters off
Nantucket all through the previous night, yet it was at this time that
the transfer of passengers from the Florida to the Baltic was made. The
work began at 11:40 o'clock on Saturday night, with ten boats, each
capable of carrying ten passengers in addition to the crews that manned
them, doing the work. The vessels lay about a mile apart, and over the
Intervening water played the rays of the searchlights on the Baltic.

There was a sea running at the time, and the little boats tossed and
pitched as they wended their way backward and forward between the two
vessels, now laden until their gunwales were almost under, now riding
back after depositing their passengers, with the lightness of feathers.
All night long the work was kept up until 10 o'clock yesterday morning,
when the last of the Republic's passengers and those of the Florida as
well, numbering in all 1,650 souls, had been safely carried aboard the
stanch liner.

But in the excitement of the work the Republic had been lost to sight.
With her engine fires out and her engine room swept by the tons of water
which washed into it through the gaping hole in her side, the stricken
steamer was at the mercy of the winds and waves, drifting hither and
thither in a fog which rendered objects invisible when only yards away.

Republic Found Again

Capt. Ransom of the Baltic set his wireless to work, reported to the
office here the safe transfer of the surviving passengers and crew, and
announced that he was going in search of the Republic. He had started on
what appeared a hopeless task when the fog suddenly lifted a bit. It was
only a little, just enough to show the Republic lying some distance
away, but still apparently safe and in no danger of sinking.

The lifting of the fog revealed, too, that a fleet of salvage tugs had
arrived at the scene, and that the New York had taken a position near
the Florida, while the Furnessia, which had come in the night, was also
lying by ready to offer assistance.

With this help at hand, Capt. Ranson obeyed the next message which
reached him from the White Star office here, ordering him to start for
this city if he could safely leave the Republic, and the Baltic steamed
off on her homeward journey, leaving the Furnessia to care for the
Republic, and the New York to convoy the Florida, whose Captain declined
further assistance, saying that he could make this port under his own

Lorraine's Fruitless Search

Meanwhile another big ocean liner had been playing a strange game of
hide and seek throughout the night. It was the French liner Lorraine.
Picking up the Republic's first call for help the liner had started for
the stricken vessel, although she was then 200 miles away. She reached
the vicinity of the Republic at nightfall, when darkness added to the
impenetrability of the fog.

She heard the sound of the Republic's submarine bell. On the other hand
sounded that of the Baltic. Apparently the two steamers were close at
hand, yet the Lorarine [sic] could not locate them. Here and there she
cruised, calling continually with her wireless for word from the
Republic, and urging Capt. Sealby to make what noise aboard he could in
order that the Lorraine might follow it.

The game proved unending, however. Never did the boats come together,
and at last the Lorraine abandoned the search, when a wireless from the
Baltic brought word that she would stand by the Republic, and begged the
Lorraine to follow the Florida, then already starting on the trip to
this city. The Lorraine tried to follow instructions.

"The Florida is blowing four whistles," was the word from the Baltic.

The Lorraine could hear them, and she tried to follow, but presently the
whistling ceased and after another fruitless search through the murk the
Lorraine set out on the journey for this port, which she reached
yesterday afternoon.

Trying To Save the Republic

Meantime, back in the waters south of Martha's Vineyard, the island
lying a few miles south of the Massachusetts coast off Wood's Hole, the
Republic and the Florida were struggling on their way hither. With the
Florida steamed the New York, while the Republic was in the care of the
Gresham and the Furnessia. The revenue cutter had made lines fast to the
bow of the stricken vessel and the Furnessia had hawsers stretched from
her own bow to the stern of the Republic.

Thus the Gresham hauled and the Furnessia steered the wreck ahead by
bending her weight upon the hawsers. All day long the trio made slow
progress in this way, making only a knot or two an hour, but moving
nevertheless. Every effort was made to get the Republic near land and
into shoal water. It was tacitly agreed by the officers of the Gresham
and Furnessia and Capt. Sealby that the latter's craft could not keep
afloat much longer. The question was, Could she reach shoal water in
which she might find a soft resting place before her decks and upper
rigging sank beneath the waves? In such a place the vessel might be
salvaged and something saved from the wreckage. In deep water the
Republic would be lost, should she sink.

The derelict destroyer Seneca had come up and joined in the work of
towing. With her help better time was made and there seemed some hope
that the Republic might be saved after all. At 8:45 o'clock last night
a wireless was received from the destroyer announcing that the wounded
Republic was nine miles south by east of the Nantucket Lightship,
approximately six miles north of the position she was in on Saturday

End of a Noble Liner

The effort to save the Republic was not to avail, however. At 8:30
o'clock the vessel, already deep in the water, was seen to be settling.
Aboard the craft still remained Capt. Sealby and his crew. The settling
of the Republic threw the Gresham into a fever of activity. Hurried
orders rang out from the bridge, and almost before the last word had
been spoken, boat crews were tumbling over the side. With rapid strokes
they pulled back through the choppy sea to the side of the Republic. The
latter's gunwales were almost under water. From the end of a rope the
Republic's crew tumbled into the small boat, Capt. Sealby, standing by
until the last of his men were safely in the stern sheets of the
Gresham's cutter, was almost too late. He had to jump into the water,
and was picked up clinging to some wreckage.

The Gresham's seamen pulled with full speed toward their own boat
Already ready the lines connecting her with the Republic had been cast
off. Yards astern the Furnessia's men were working at a similar task.
The ropes had scarcely dropped into the water and the Gresham's small
boat was still near the stricken Republic when the big steamer's stern
plunged down, her bow rose quivering in the air, and then shot downward.
Then the waves closed over the spot where, but a moment since, the
Republic had floated.

Capt. Sealby and his crew were hauled aboard the Gresham and this
dispatch was sent to this city:

Republic sunk. All hands saved. Making Gay Head on the Gresham.

The Final Scene

A description of the last moments of the liner reached THE TIMES by
wireless from the Gresham last night by way of the Marconi station at
Siasconsett. Here it is:

"At 8 P. M., while the revenue cutters Seneca and Gresham were slowly
towing the Republic about ten miles south of Nantucket, the Republic was
seen to be rapidly sinking. Boats were instantly lowered to rescue the
crew. All were picked up. The Captain and mate were found clinging to a
grating, the Captain almost exhausted.

"It was a brilliant piece of rescue work by the boat crew of the
Gresham. The Republic sank rapidly, going down stern first.

"The Seneca and Gresham steamed slowly away. One plan is that the Seneca
shall take off the surviving crew at daybreak from the Gresham and
proceed to New York. The Captain and Mate are being cared for in the
wardroom on board the Gresham and seem to be doing well."

Messages to the Rescued

While the Republic had been making her fight for life, the Baltic, with
her heavy cargo of passengers, had been steaming slowly up the Long
Island coast, running through dense fog at reduced speed, yet hopeful of
landing her passengers in this city this morning.

Her wireless apparatus was kept at work, and late yesterday afternoon
the station at Sagaponack, near Bridgehampton, L. I., picked up a
message. It was from one of the passengers to friends on shore, and
simply told of the well-being of those aboard the Baltic. From then on a
constant stream of messages flew through the air from the Baltic's
masthead to the receiving tower ashore.

In the little beach station the operator had more than 300 messages
containing congratulations and urgent invitations to come immediately to
the homes of friends here on the arrival of the Baltic in port. But he
had no chance to send them. Some he did get off, but the majority were
relayed to the wireless station at Sea Gate.

There a throng of interested person crowded the little room on the
second floor of the Sea Gate Association's Lodge, less than a quarter of
a mile from the end of Norton's Point, where the wireless instrument is
installed. The difficulties at Sagaponack were known there.

At 5:30 o'clock the delicate instrument had caught one of the messages
on its way from the Baltic to the far-distant station on the Long Island

For some time the instrument continued to catch these messages, but
after a time communication ceased, and it was not until 11 o'clock when
the next message came, the Baltic telling that she had passed Fire
Island at 9:18 o'clock and was proceeding slowly through a dense fog.

The. weather was so heavy that even at this hour the observation
station at Fire Island reported that they were unable to sight the

Rescued Here This Morning, Sure

The distance from Fire Island to Sandy Hook is about thirty miles, a
distance usually made by vessels of the Baltic class in two hours. But
under the conditions existing last night it was not believed by the
White Star officials that the vessel would try to enter the harbor. They
said that they expected her to lie off the Hook till daybreak, and to
reach her pier about 9 o'clock this morning. The Cunarder Lucania, a
vessel probably three knots faster than the Baltic, passed Fire Island
at 6 o'clock last night, and at midnight had not been reported at the
Hook, indicating that she was anchored there in the fog to wait for
daylight before making the passage through the lower bay. It is believed
that the Baltic will adopt the same precautionary measures.

This decision on the part of the Baltic's officers was sad news to the
hundreds of relatives and friends of the Republic's passengers who had
besieged the White Star office all day with inquiries as to the safety
or whereabouts of the Republic's survivors. Many of these inquiries were
made over the telephone, but hundreds of people visited the offices,
which had been kept open all through the preceding night, seeking
assurances of the safety of their friends, and clamoring for the
hoped-for announcement that the Baltic would soon be in.

Baltic and New York Both Off the Hook

At midnight the wireless instrument at Sea Gate picked up a series of
messages which, it was learned, were passing between the American liner
New York and the Baltic. The messages were some which the Baltic had
failed to receive from Sagaponack and which the New York, receiving
later, was relaying to her. From the sound of the messages as they were
received at Sea Gate, Harry Williams, the operator, estimated that the
New York was not more than fifteen miles distant from the Baltic.

No mention was made in the messages of the crippled steamer Florida,
but as the New York was conveying her into this port, there is no doubt
that the Florida must be close up to the New York, and perhaps anchored
near her.

An effort was made by the Sea Gate operator to break in on the
conversation between the Baltic and the New York to ascertain the
whereabouts of the Florida, but he was unable to establish
communication. The Florida herself is not equipped with wireless.
So Said a Message from a Savannah Liner Near the Scene

The United Wireless Telegraph Company announced last night that it had
received from the Savannah liner City of Memphis, en route from
Savannah---which uses the De Forest wireless system---this message:

Republic went down at 8:40 All crew saved, and on board the United
States revenue cutter Gresham, off No Man's Land.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
[MAB Note: The inconsistent rendition of the dead crewmen's names is as it appears in the original.]

The New York Times, 26 January 1909

A Fourth Likely to be Added---Eugene Lynch of Boston May Not Survive
Starts to Tell It, but Is Interrupted, and Officials Stop an Officer's Narrative
Smashed Almost to the Bridge, and She Comes Up the Bay Stern High Above

With thirty feet of her bow cut away and tilting forward at so perilous an angle that she seemed about to dive into the depths of the harbor, the Italian steamer Florida of the Lloyd Italiano Line, which ran down the White Star liner Republic last Saturday morning near Nantucket, moved slowly and wearily into port yesterday afternoon a few hours behind the Baltic, which brought the passengers of both ships. Crippled she was and exhausted, but she had come under her own steam from the scene of the disaster, and the quiet smiles on the faces of her skipper, Capt. Ruspini, and his officers told that they were proud of their amazing feat, which they accomplished without any aid whatever.

Seen from a distance, the forward tip of the Florida seemed to be actually flush with the water, so much was the damaged vessel tilted. At her halyards between the masts were the "Not under control" signals, black and grim, while her flags, half masted, told of a dead sailor lying, shrouded in white, in the Florida's hospital, and of two other dead seamen, jammed and smashed out of all semblance to humanity, hidden somewhere in the chaos of broken, snapped wood and iron which had been the Florida's bow.

The Florida passed Sandy Hook at 2:20 P. M. and began her painful course up the channel toward her haven of refuge at the Italian line pier in Brooklyn. As she crept along tug after tug steamed out to her, until her course became a triumphal progress. Two of the tugs promptly tied up to her, just aft of her crushed bow, and began slowly to help her along. Up to that moment since the accident the wounded liner had not had the slightest touch of bad weather. Had there been simply contrary winds to harass her the situation of the crippled ship would have become precarious. But not until just before coming up the harbor did such winds spring up, and then the danger was over and Capt. Ruspini had accomplished his marvelous piece of seamanship.

As the Florida crept along the narrow channel, previous to anchoring off Quarantine, the neighboring shores were packed with throngs of curious people, lining the wharves and perched on every vantage point afforded by sheds and house roofs. Around the ship was a regular flotilla of tugs, small yachts, and other craft, keeping up an incessant shrill wihstling. [sic]

Wreck of the Florida's Bow

The appearance presented by the bow of the Florida as she toiled along made Capt. Ruspini's nerve in daring to run her without aid into New York seem almost beyond belief. Big pieces of sail had been strung across the bow, but between them it was possible to look through great, gaping holes as if into the very vitals of the ship.

On one side a big mass of the flooring of the deck had been jammed straight into the air, the jagged edges of the planks sticking out over the water, while a mass of iron railing, twisted like molasses candy, rose into the air on the other side. As for the bow itself, or what was left of it, it was nothing but tangled twisted wood and iron, jammed in huge masses against the forward bulkhead. "If that bulkhead should give way," remarked a sailor on the Florida, "it would be all up with us."

As the Florida dropped anchor off the shore the little flotilla of tugs closed in on her. One of the first to scramble to her deck and make a dash for the bridge was Count di Massiglia, the Italian Consul General in New York. He seized the hands of Capt. Ruspini and kissed him on both cheeks. "Your conduct has been noble," he said, "and I have come here expressly to tell you so."

Capt. Ruspini leaned against the side of the bridge and smiled. He is only 29 years old. He simply smiled as man after man rushed up to him pouring into his ears praise of his bravery. Among the others who were soon surrounding the young captain on the bridge and congratulating him were Oscar L. Richard, the agent of the Italian Line; Alfred E. Berner, and Albert Egelhoff.

After the effusive congratulations were over everybody inquired at once for Eugene Lynch, the Republic passenger who had been transferred from the latter ship to the Florida suffering from grave internal injuries. The ship's doctor of the Florida had little encouragement to give concerning the hurt Bostonian.

Mr. Lynch Ignorant of Wife's Fate

"You may talk a few words with him," he said in Italian to the newspaper men who crowded about with inquiries, "but for pity's sake don't tell him that his wife is dead. He knows nothing about it. And, look here," he added, as he piloted the visitors down through the crew's mess quarters toward the hospital, "if he says anything about a bag full of money which he had on the Republic tell him it's all right and safe, won't you?"

But when the little group got to the hospital it was not possible to communicate with Mr. Lynch. He lay stretched out on a narrow cot, white and groaning, and every time he tried to speak his stomach revolted. "Molto male," said the Italian doctor who had had charge of Mr. Lynch since the Baltic had steamed away. "He has a leg and a thigh broken, and is also suffering from injuries to the head, and his heart, too, is in a bad way."

Nearby lay the dead body of Salvatore D'Amico, a seaman, caught in his bunk in the forecastle and ground to death at the moment of the terrific impact between the Florida and the Republic. As for the two other dead, Piagnolo Lavalie and Catogero Mortuscello, the doctor simply shrugged his shoulders.

"In there," he said, pointing toward the heaped, twisted wreckage at the bow. Practically nothing had been done to get the fragments of their bodies out. Capt. Ruspini and his crew had their hands full with other problems of rescue and navigation. Sticking out from among the tangled mass at the bow were shreds of cloth and flesh, and there were red blood stains, too.

Ten men in the employ of the John M. Robbins Shipbuilding Company worked with crowbars and axes for four hours last night in extricating the mangled bodies of the Italian sailors. They were placed in pine boxes and taken to the undertaking establishment of Jacob Schafer, 4,014 Third Avenue, South Brooklyn.

The dead are: Balogero Martuscilli, a sixteen-year-old sailor from Naples; Pasquale La Vallu, 23 years old, from Naples also, and the fourteen-year-old cabin boy, Salvatore d'Amico.

Escaped One Horror to Meet Another

According to some of the sailors on the ship, this voyage was D'Amico's first. His home was in the region of the earthquake---he had left it in ruins, the only survivor from a large family---and he had taken to the sea as much to escape the memories of the earthquake and to avoid the horror and danger of a repetition of it as for any other reason.

The boy's body, because smaller than the rest, was alone recognizable; the names of the others were learned only because they were the missing ones among the crew; it was impossible to tell which was which.

At first it was difficult to make Capt. Ruspini or his officers talk. About them there is nothing of the excited. gesticulatory character which is usually associated with Italians. They walked about on the bridge smiling and calm, giving the necessary orders quite like sea dogs of Anglo-Saxon extraction.

"It was very bad. Oh! a very bad thing indeed," declared Purser Gino Maraviglia when urged to describe what he had seen. And he cheerfully asked the questioners to partake of cognac and marsala, served by an impassive steward, in the very shadow of the wreckage concealing the two dead men in the forecastle.

But eventually Capt. Ruspini was cornered in his cabin, just off the bridge. "Really, I can say nothing," he said, modestly and embarrased, [sic] "until I have made my detailed report to the Consul and the company, and heard what the Captain of the Republic has to say about the collision." But eventually he began describing the accident while the Florida was slowly limping into her dock in Brooklyn.

Capt. Ruspini's Story

"'I was on watch with the first officer," he said, "and was going at half speed through the fog, whistling all the time. I heard a blast of the whistle on the right side, and answered with another. In a few seconds there was something like a mountain straight across the path of the Florida. We then crashed squarely into the side of the Republic. Immediately afterward the impetus of the collision itself caused the Florida to back out again from the hole which she had cut in the Republic.

"After the collision I could see nothing whatever. The fog about us was too dense. Then, hearing the blasts of the fire signal on the Republic, I cruised about in every direction, endeavoring to find the ship which we had rammed. While executing this manoeuvre I saw a little boat approaching us."

At this point in his narrative the Captain was interrupted by representatives of the Italian company, who seemed desirous that he should refrain from giving further information regarding the collision. But Purser Maraviglia took up the tale where the Captain had dropped it.

"I was in command of the first boat," he said, "which went from the Florida to the Republic to take off the passengers. The first officer commanded the next boat. The transfer of the Republic's passengers lasted from 7 A. M. until about 10. There was absolutely no panic. Everybody behaved admirably, those on the Republic as well as those on the Florida. In all, the boats from the Florida and Republic, eleven in number, made about twenty-two or twenty-three trips.

"The Republic's passengers stayed an board the Florida an entire day, until it was decided to transfer everybody except the crew of the Florida to the Baltic. The transfer to the Baltic was effected between midnight Sunday and 5 A. M. Monday."

The Narrative Interrupted

At this point somebody from the company interfered likewise with Purser Maraviglia's narrative. Coming out of the cabin and seeing him in the act of spelling out his name for a reporter this individual cried excitedly, "Don't sign anything!"

From other accounts of those on the Florida it appeared to be the impression that the whistle of the Republic did not blow as frequently as that of the Italian ship.

The extreme danger attendant on the trip of the Florida from the scene of the accident to New York was made greater by a heavy snowfall, which lasted a good part of the way, retarding the already snail-like speed of the ship. But as she drew near to New York the weather cleared, and the crippled Italian liner actually went ahead for a part of the way at the rate of ten knots an hour, game to the very finish of her eventful trip. Capt. Ruspini had made only one other voyage as her Captain.

As the bow of the Florida, smashed up as if it had been of the conssistency [sic] of a matchbox, was poked into its pier at 5 P. M. yesterday, those on board saw a crowd drawn up around the gangplank, impatient for a chance to board the ship. Foremost among these were a party of men, with tear-stained eyes, friends of Eugene Lynch, who but a few days before had bid him godspeed on the occasion of his departure on the Republic. As soon as the gangplank was lowered they hastened to the deck and were immediately taken to the sickroom, where Mr. Lynch lay.

In the party were the Rev. James Lee of the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Revere, Mass.; the Hon. John H. Casey and the Hon. William Turtle, Mr. Lynch's lawyers; James McGuinness, husband of the injured man's niece; Dr. Finnegan, his brother-in-law, and James Watson, confidential clerk in Mr. Lynch's Boston liquor business. The whole party had come from Boston to take charge of their friend.

Little Hope for Mr. Lynch

When they arrived on board little hope was held out to them of his recovery. Silent and grief stricken, they stood about their suffering friend, stretched on his narrow cot, waiting transportation to a hospital.

The first ambulance to reach the pier came from the Norwegian Hospital, but Mr. Casey indignantly refused to allow his friend to be put into it, claiming that it was so old as to be unsuitable for taking so severely injured a patient away from the wharf. The Boston party then sought a telephone, summoned an ambulance from the Long Island College Hospital, and reserved for Mr. Lynch the best private room at that hospital. When the ambulance came racing along the wharf. the injured man was brought groaning down the gangplank. "God bless you all," he murmured to those who were carrying him. From start to finish he had shown great fortitude.

"Be sure that all those on the Florida get something from me as a remembrance," was his parting instruction to one of his friends before he was carried on his stretcher down the gangplank.

The removal of Mr. Lynch from the Republic to the Florida, it was said on the latter vessel, was attended with such difficulty that the injured man himself desired that he be allowed to stay where he was when the transfer of all except the crew of the Florida to the Baltic was begun. "If I am to die, let me die here,"' he said. As his condition was considered very serious, Father Morris of Trenton, one of the passengers taken from the Republic, administered the last sacrament to Mr. Lynch.

Immediately after the Florida had tied up to her pier, electric lights were strung on wires across her smashed bow, and the grewsome [sic] work of extricating the bodies of the two seamen jammed to death in the wreckage there was begun. Capt. Ruspini and the other officers of the ship remained closeted with the representatives of the line, and refused all further information to the reporters, who were eventually ushered to the pier.

The report that the cause of the collision was that the man at the Florida's wheel fell asleep while on duty, for which negligence he received a blow in the face from Capt. Ruspini, was indignantly denied soon after the docking of the Florida by the Italian Royal Commissioner, who had charge of the immigrants on the Florida on her way across the ocean.

The Florida came from Nantucket most of the way at a rate not above four or five knots an hour, simply creeping along.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
[MAB Notes: 1. This is the last article about the loss of Republic to be transcribed this year. 2. A stray line of type has been deleted where indicated by an asterisk.]

The New York Times, 27 January 1909

But Who Bears the Blame for the Tragedy Off Nantucket Is Still in Doubt
Waiting in the Fog for Day and Succor While the Wireless Called for Aid
Not a Man in the Whole Republic's Crew but Did His Duty
Binns Stayed with Capt. Sealby After the Passengers Departed---The
Republic's End

The full story of the collision between the White Star liner Republic
and the Lloyd Italian liner Florida, the greatest shipwreck in years,
came out yesterday, when the White Star liner Baltic brought the
survivors of both ships to this port. It proved to be a story of lives
saved rather than of lives lost; of earnest effort and not of
capitulation; a story of the triumph of human ingenuity, thoroughness,
sacrifice, fortitude over disaster, even over death itself; of what may
have been the mistake of one man causing the dire peril of many.

Although it is three days since the disaster off the island of Nantucket
and the great majority of those whose lives were endangered have been
saved through the instrumentality of the steamship Baltic, it is
nevertheless true that the real story of the wreck of the Republic had
not been told till the survivors reached here yesterday. Out of the
ether, from many sources, have come tales and parts of tales, confusing,
contradictory, annoyingly brief, but not until yesterday afternoon was
the full narrative of the shipwreck available.

The Republic left here last Friday afternoon. Yesterday the passengers
who waved good-bye to friends from her deck returned quietly to port to
be met by the same friends and anxious relatives. Meanwhile they had
passed through scenes which not one of them will ever forget. More
different experiences had been crowded into the two intervening days
than usually come to a man in a score of years.

Both Ships Out of Their Course

As usual in making the trip from New York to the Mediterranean, the
Republic coasted up the shore of Long Island in the late afternoon,
passed far east of Block Island, and in the early hours began, some
distance below Nantucket, the long, circling course which in the course
of time would cause her prow to point southeastward to the Azores. The
night was dark and foggy, but this condition is not unusual in the
neighborhood of Nantucket, and while the passengers went to bed to the
unaccustomed sounding of the ship's deep-voiced siren, few felt alarm.
The very sound itself seemed to spell safety.

Some time in the night the Florida, an immigrant carrier belonging to
the Lloyd Italiano Company, bound from the Mediterranean for New York,
swung around the upper half of the circle above Nantucket Light and
began a journey southward, which by daybreak should have brought her
well along the shore of Long Island toward the Ambrose Channel

Thus it was, all unknown to the passengers and crew of either ship, that
the two vessels approached each other in the murk with virtually only
the compass and the clouded yellow glimmer of the beacon on the
Nantucket Lightship to guide them. It appears now that the Florida was
the further to the westward of the two and that both vessels were
slightly out of their course---the Republic scarcely at all, the Florida
perceptibly so.

Noiselessly, to all intent and purpose, the two ships drew nearer each
other. Each sounded fog sirens. Neither could see the other's lights.
Yet the Captain of each could hear the deep note of warning that the
other sounded from time to time, and by the sound solely the Captains
located each other's vessels. And still the two ships drew together.

Mistaken Order Did the Rest

According to the best accounts obtainable yesterday, the Captain of the
Republic, William A. Sealby, when he judged by the sound of the
Florida's siren that the boats were too close for comfort, sounded two
sharp blasts. In the mysterious parlance of the sea this is a signal for
the vessel approaching to turn to port, the intent of the Captain of the
vessel signaling being to do the same thing immediately, to the end that
each ship may turn away from the other, and thus pass safely.

The Captain of the Florida heard the signal and knew its meaning. From
his point of vantage on the bridge he turned quickly to the man at the
wheel in the wheelhouse. "Port!" he shouted in Italian---"Hard a-port!"

Into the matter was then projected the agency of human fallibility. It
was alleged yesterday on board the Baltic that the Quartermaster whirled
his wheel to the right instead of to the left, sending the vessel to
starboard instead of to port and heading her directly toward the
Republic, still invisible, in fact, though dimly discernible as a glow
of dirty yellow amid the blackness of the fog.

In less time than it takes to narrate it, the accident, which has set
the world talking for three days, happened. The boats were so close
together that once the prow of the Florida turned more directly toward
the Republic's side, the collision was inevitable. The Florida's bow
struck the port side of the Republic abaft amidships; not directly, but
a glancing blow. The impact, however, was sufficient to send the sharp
prow of the smaller ship crashing into two of the cabins on the upper
decks of the Republic, while its full force was directed against the
plates that protected the engine room. These plates were torn away and a
great hole opened in the side of the Republic, through which immediately
the water began to rush.

Almost Noiseless Collision

Strangely enough, the collision made little or no noise. The Florida,
seemingly, slid backward out of the rent on the Republic's side, and in
another instant was shrouded again in the fog that overhung the sea.
Within a few seconds even her lights were out of sight, and, to those on
the Republic, save for the damage she had wrought, the Italian vessel
might have been regarded as a phantom.

Within these few seconds, however, much had happened. On the White Star
boat death had come to two persons, Mrs. Eugene Lynch of Boston and W.
J. Mooney of Langdon, S. D., the latter dying instantly. The crash,
however, had disturbed only a few, though the terrific rush of the sea
as it poured into the hole in the Republic's side awakened all the rest.
What made the situation more terrible was that every light in the boat
went out.

Passengers who attempted to obtain light to ascertain what had happened,
or to dress by, found no light available. Outside could be heard the
shouting of men on the deck and the terrible inrushing of the water.
Needless to say, no one stopped to dress. Grasping a few garments
loosely, every one, steerage and first-class passengers alike, rushed on
deck. Within a minute the decks were crowded with anxious, confused
persons, hastening hither and thither, not knowing what to do, nor where
to go; all asking questions, disturbed, yet withal cool in the emergency
And above all sounded the constant inrush of the water amidships.

Perfect Order Among the Crew

Capt. Sealby was on the bridge of the Republic when the collision took
place. Almost before the Florida struck the call to quarters was sounded
from the bridge. Equally quick action was taken in the engine room; in
this instance the most important part of the ship. The second and fourth
assistant engineers were on watch. As the order was issued from the
bridge to close the water-tight doors, an order was issued from the
engine room to rake down the fires.

These orders were given in the pitch darkness of the foggy night,
neither officers nor men knowing exactly what had already happened, or
what was to happen next. Every order was promptly obeyed. Not a man
hesitated, and to the strict discipline and implicit obedience to orders
under the must trying circumstances the passengers of the Republic
unquestionably owed their lives in the first instance.

As though it was simply a case of regular drill and not a deadly earnest
matter, each officer, petty officer, and sailor on the Republic went to
his station, took his orders, attacked his task, and kept at it. Petty
officers went about among the scantily clad passengers, reassuring the
nervous, getting order out of chaos little by little. Two rockets,
signals of distress, were fired from the bridge. Meanwhile the
water-tight bulkheads had been closed on the engine room and the inrush
of the sea had been stayed. The work of raking down the fires had to be
done speedily and was a perilous task. To have left the fires would have
been to risk an explosion which would have sent the ship, and in all
probability every soul on her, to the bottom. The great fires that had
driven the ship throughout the night were raked down in a few minutes
while the water was still rushing in. When the coal passers and
engineers at last jumped up to safety they leaped out of water nearly
three feet deep.

Waiting in a Calm Sea

It was 5:45 in the morning when the collision occurred. The dawn should
have been breaking, but the fog obscured the light. In the darkness the
passengers huddled together on the decks and kept still. Some of the
more venturesome felt their way through dark alleyways to staterooms and
obtained additional wraps. The murk without, the utter darkness in the
cabins, the absence of the throbbing of the engine to which the
passengers had already become accustomed, and the sullen washing of the
calm sea against her sides, all served to accentuate the mystery of the
thing that had happened and to make the timid more fearsome. From the
time the two ships met until the light of day came was a period of
quiet, except for those who had tasks to perform.

One of those whose task was all important was J. W. Binns, the Marconi
operator, to whom the survivors owe the swift summoning of distant ships
to their aid and the world owes what news it received within a few hours
of the collision. Of Binns's courage and energy, of his efforts and
their results, a great deal has already been written. Within a few
minutes after the Florida had faded back into the mist whence she came
the air above the ship was transmitting the magic code signal, "C. Q.
D.," which apprised the world of what had happened, and brought to the
scene, at full speed, the vessels that were to prove the salvation of
the passengers and crew.

The Florida Reappears

While there was any steam available the Republic's whistle was kept
going continuously, and it was this that brought the Florida back out of
the fog to the aid of the ship she had wounded. Although it was
apparent, almost as soon as she have [sic] in sight, that she was the
cause of the Republic's damage, she was none the less welcome to the
passengers on the decks of the larger ship. The mere sight of her was
cheering, and, while the Florida's bow was literally torn away and a
gaping hole stood out double black in the dim light of the early,
fog-hidden dawn, it was easily seen that she was not nearly so badly
smitten as was the Republic. So, with the coming of the light, every one
aboard the White Star liner took courage.

The extent of the injury to the port side of the Republic ascertained,
and an examination made of the bulkheads to see whether they would
withstand the strain which the tons of water were putting upon them,
Capt. Sealby turned his attention to the possibility of getting the
passengers off. He got into communication with the Captain of the
Florida, which had come up alongside, within hailing distance. The
arrangements were soon made. Then Capt. Sealby summoned the 449
passengers to the deck below the bridge. They came straggling, some of *
them still confused. Their appearance, too, in the half light would have
been ludicrous had the occasion not been so serious. They were dressed
in every imaginable garment from blankets to overcoats. Many were
barefoot. Some had stockings, but no shoes; others wore slippers, but no

Captain's Speech From the Bridge

Speaking from the bridge, the Captain reassured the passengers and asked
for their co-operation. He said there was no immediate danger, but that
their transfer to the Florida was thought advisable. The embarkation in
the small boats must be done slowly and carefully, he said, and of
course it must be a case of "women and children first."

Capt. Sealby had been so busy directing the saving of his vessel that
few of the passengers had seen him after the vessel was struck until he
spoke to them from the bridge. He said:

"Passengers of the Republic: I want to advise you that the steamer has
been injured in collision. We are in no immediate danger, but I want to
ask you to stand by me and act with coolness and judgment. There is, I
repeat, no immediate danger; but to be on the safe side it is necessary
for you to be transferred to the Florida as soon as possible. It will
take some time, and I expect that you will be cool and not excited. Take
your time getting into the lifeboats. Remember, the women and children
go first, and the first cabin next, and then the others. The crew will
be the last to leave this vessel."

There were shouts of approval, a cheer or two, and then, with a direct
objective before them and the prospect of not standing by helplessly any
longer, the passengers hastened in an orderly manner to gather together
what belongings they had and to follow the directions of the officers
and crew as to taking the boats.

When the boats were lowered the women and children were taken aboard,
and trip after trip was made until they were all safely transported to
the Florida. Luckily the sea was calm, very calm indeed, but even as it
was the trip across the stretch of water to the Florida was somewhat of
an adventure to many of the women. The transfer of the passengers, 449
of them, occupied two hours and a little more, and was accomplished
without mishap.

Binns Stayed at the Key

During the morning, in response to the "C. Q. D." signal, ships began
arriving in the vicinity of the Republic. On board were then only the
Captain, the second officer, a boat's crew, and the indomitable Binns,
the Marconi operator. The oncoming vessels were guided by Binns, still
at his instrument ticking away messages, first to this port, then to
that; one to this ship, then one to the office. News was going out to
the world that the passengers were safe, that the boat had not sunk,
that there was no
immediate danger.

Instructions were going out, too, as to the exact locality of the
disabled steamer. Binns was doing it all. He and the Marconi instrument
kept the whole thousand-odd souls on board the two boats in touch with
the world out beyond the fog. Now quite alone in his little cabin, and
now with Capt. Sealby standing by him and telling him what to send and
where to send it, Binns kept at his task all the livelong day and well
into the night. When darkness came the electricity in the storage
batteries gave out. The dynamos had gone when the engine room was
flooded. His instrument silenced, Binns was perforce idle. But he had
done a great day's work in the estimation of all who knew of it.

The Baltic Appears

In the early evening the great Baltic hove in sight. The Gresham, from
Wood's Hole, had arrived earlier, and thus, though the batteries failed
aboard the Republic, the stricken ships were able to keep up
communication by proxy, as it were.

But with the arrival of the Baltic another and much more momentous
change took place. Careful consideration of the injury done to the
Florida in the collision showed that though her engines were unharmed,
she was in a condition which made it inadvisable to leave aboard of her
the 1,600 or more people who now constituted her burden, when a much
safer means of conveying them was at hand. Therefore it was decided that
the passengers should be transferred once again. Not only were the
Republic's passengers and crew to be taken aboard the Baltic, but the
passengers and most of the crew of the Florida were to be transferred,
too; and there were 839 of the Florida's passengers.

Transfer in a Choppy Sea

The task was stupendous. To make matters worse the sea had risen in the
evening and was very choppy. To transfer from one ship to another
approximately 1,400 passengers, even in calm weather, is a difficult
undertaking. it had to be done, however, and, as it was at every stage,
the men were there who dared to do it.

The boats of the Baltic and the Republic were used. Each carried about
ten passengers, in addition to its crew. The first boat left the
Florida's side about 8 o'clock on Saturday night, according to Capt.
Ranson of the Baltic, and the transfer was finished twelve hours later.
Thus, all through the night the boats plied back and forth, the
passengers none too well pleased at the ordeal through which they were

This second transfer was totally different from that which had been made
in the morning. To begin with, the Republic's passengers had found much
to dislike on the Florida, which is an immigrant ship. Gen. Brayton Ives
was so disgusted that he volunteered, elderly man as he is, to handle an
oar in one of the boats, and his services were accepted.

Trouble Over Second Moving

The same caution that is always given on such occasions was sung out on
board the Florida before the boats were lowered. It was to be a case of
women and children first, of course. There are stories, somewhat vague
and probably not quite true, to the effect that the Italian steerage
passengers on the Florida, or some of them, objected to the order of
things proposed by the officers. Little or no objection was made to the
women and children first order, but the proposal that after the women
and children had been taken the men of the first class should take
precedence over those in the steerage was not kindly received.

"There are no classes here; we are all equal," the Italians are credited
with crying. The officers, however, were adamant, and orders were
obeyed. Two or three men stood by the head of the gangway all night long
and saw to it that the women and children did take to the boats first,
and that the first-class passengers took precedence over the
others. One of the men who did a great deal to maintain discipline and
order and to make the transfer to the Baltic a success was Chief Steward
Frederick S. Spencer of the Republic. No one "got by" Spencer.

It is in connection with this transfer, too, that the tale was told by a
great many of those who reached port on the Baltic yesterday of the
conduct of the writer of nautical stories, James B. Connolly. This story
is emphatically denied by Mr. Connolly. It was that he insisted on going
aboard a boat with the women. The feeling against Connolly on the Baltic
yesterday seemed to be very strong indeed. He denies emphatically,
however, that he did anything of the kind.

Republic Long at Sinking Stage

Twenty-four hours after the Florida struck the Republic the two ships
were lying in almost the same place side by side, destroyer and
destroyed. The great Republic now had tarpaulin hung over her side
hiding the big rent. The boat had a list to starboard, though the hole
was on the port side. A little distance away the Florida, the great gap
in her bow the most noticeable thing about her, "stood by." She had
refused assistance, and it was believed that she could make New York
under her own steam, as proved to be the case.

Even while the transfer of the passengers from the Florida to the Baltic
was on, it was feared that the Republic would sink. At one time soon
afterward, so great was this fear, that Capt. Sealby and his chief
officer, together with a few of the crew in a small boat, stood off for
hours waiting for the liner to make her last plunge. She had some hours
of existence left, however.

Five Deaths on Two Ships

With the arrival of the Baltic the night before there had come an
opportunity for a roll call, and it developed during the night, as
printed in THE TIMES in the morning, that there had been five
deaths---two on the Republic and three, not four as at first reported by
wireless, on the Florida. One steward, Hugh Roberts, had charge of the
four cabins on the Republic which were literally destroyed when the
Florida's bow crashed through the superstructure. As soon as some
semblance of order was obtained he had gone from room to room, looking
to the safety of the passengers in his immediate charge. He helped Mr.
Lynch out of Cabin 34 and Mrs. Mooney to gain the deck from Cabin 32. He
found, too, that Mrs. Lynch's body had been terribly mangled and carried
some distance aft by the collision. Mr. Mooney had apparently been
sleeping on one of the settees, his wife being in a lower berth. His
body carried some distance, and the head was terribly crushed.

When Capt. Sealby heard Roberts's story of the finding of the bodies he
quietly ordered that they be placed in coffins and left on the boat.
There was hope then of saving the vessel. When she was abandoned the
first time the coffins were left on board. So it was the second time.
And finally they went down with the ship.

Owing to the fact that the quarters of the crew on the Florida were far
forward the men off watch were those to suffer. One of them, a lad of
18, was the only survivor of a family which lived until a few weeks ago
in Messina. His family all dead, he had turned his face to a new land
and was working his way across the ocean on the Florida to the country
he was doomed never to see.

Even those closely concerned knew little of these events until the early
hours of Sunday, for only then was there a chance to gather up loose
threads, to check over passengers lists, to hear reports from petty
officers who had been on duty twenty-four hours without a break, always
busy and with no time to attend to details.

Sealby's Fight for His Ship

After the passengers had all been transferred to the Baltic, and safely
transferred at that, though the odds had been all against the
undertaking, and one or two persons had fallen overboard, but had been
rescued, Capt. Sealby determined that the Republic was going to
withstand the terrific battering she was getting from the waves and
that, with care, she could be saved. He was on board again, and soon let
Capt. Ranson of the Baltic know that he wanted back on board the members
of the crew who had been taken to the Baltic.

Standing on the bridge of his damaged ship, confident and active still,
though he had passed through twenty-four hours of experiences such as
come to few men, and would try the soul of most, Capt. Sealby called
through a megaphone to the Baltic, that he believed the Republic was
going to stay afloat. Across the stretch of sea on the bridge of the
Baltic stood Capt. Ranson.

"Do you want us to continue to stand by?" asked Capt. Ranson through his
megaphone, while the great crowd of passengers on the deck below, looked
and listened and wondered.

Sealby's laugh could be heard across the water. "You can go on," he
shouted. "We're all right."

Then he went on to explain that it all depended on one bulkhead. If the
bulkhead known as No. 1 held, all would be well. If it went, the ship
would go, too. And Sealby yelled across the water that he believed the
bulkhead was going to hold.

There were standing by at this time the Anchor Line boat Furnessia and
the revenue cutter Gresham, in addition to the Baltic. The New York,
which had stood by for some hours and which it was expected would have
to tow the Florida to New York, in all probability, was also within sight.

The Baltic Starts Homeward

So it was that when Capt. Sealby announced that he was all right, the
Baltic got under way for New York. It was a mixed crowd of passengers
she carried---Italians who had never seen America, pleasure seekers
returning to their native land after weeks and months of absence, and
other pleasure seekers, whose thought had been but two days ago, that
they would not see New York again for many weeks or months. It must have
been with mingled emotions that the latter class gazed back at the
partly submerged Republic as she lay like a great log, making her fight
against the sea.

The fog did not delay the Baltic much, and she came down from the wreck
to Long Island in good time. There she was picked up by the wireless
station at Sagaponack, and later by the Sea Gate station, so that all
New York would have known of her coming had it not been that the day was
Sunday. The Cunarder Lucania had preceded her by about four hours, and
had been in communication practically all day, so that every knot of her
progress toward this port was watched.

Early yesterday morning, only a few minutes after midnight, in fact,
watchers off the Ambrose Channel Lightship heard the big boom of the
Baltic's siren off in the fog, which had come down again after lifting.
Soon she appeared, a great yellow blear in the fog. The pilot was taken
aboard at about 12:30 o'clock. Then the run was made down past the
lightship to a point not far from where the Lucania had anchored. The
anchor was dropped and the big boat lay still. The Republic's
passengers were all asleep by that time. It had been many hours since
they had had any rest.

Last of the Republic

Back at the scene of the wreck Capt. Sealby was making good his promise
to try and save his ship. With a small picked crew he was on the
Republic, and the Gresham and the Furnessia had passed lines aboard in
preparation for towing. The Furnessia was to act as a rudder, the lines
being passed from her bow to the stern of the Republic. The Gresham was
dead ahead, trying to pull the disabled ship along. The whole intent was
to get the Republic in shallow water along the Nantucket Shoals
somewhere, so that if she sank something could be saved from the wreck.

Progress was slow. The little Gresham had tackled a big job. The
derelict destroyer Seneca joined in the work of towing early in the
evening. The Gresham kept her searchlight playing on the disabled boat.
Before long, when the Republic was about six miles further to the north
than she had been on Saturday night, Capt. Sealby decided that the
chances were greatly against him. He feared the ship would sink at
almost any minute. Eventually he sent the crew aboard the Gresham, but
refused to follow. His chief officer declined to leave him, so the two

When about 8 o'clock in the evening the Gresham's searchlight was held
steady on the wreck for a few minutes, it was noted that the bow was
rising fast. Shortly afterward two pistol shots sounded and blue lights
burned on the wreck.

Captain On Her When She Sank

Capt. Sealby and his chief officer knew when the fight was over. They
knew when the sea had won its victory. Just after the shots were fired
and the blue lights lit, the chief officer jumped from the rail. The
Captain made for the foremast. The bulkhead he had counted on had not
held. He went up the mast and when he reached the mast head light he
paused. Then the ship went down.

The plunge of the Republic was witnessed from the Gresham, which had
lowered its lifeboat as soon as the pistol shots were fired. The big
ship went down stern first. In point of fact Capt. Sealby was on her
when she sank. The Gresham's lifeboat picked him up within
three-quarters of an hour, and the chief officer was found, too. The
boat was rowed away from the spot toward the Gresham. Just an angry
swirl of water for a few minutes, and then the surface of the sea, at
that particular point off Nantcuket [sic] Shoals regained its usual
appearance. The Republic had gone.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The New York Times, 12 February 1939

Masters of the Republic and Florida Introduced 30 Years After Vessels
David Sarnoff, Lee de Forest, T. D. Haubner and Jack Binns Receive

The captains of the steamships Republic and Florida, which figured in
one of the most dramatic disasters of the North Atlantic when they
collided on Jan. 23, 1909, met for the first time last night.

The occasion was the fourteenth annual dinner of the Veteran Wireless
Operators Association at the Hotel Astor. Few of the guests realized the
significance of what seemed a casual before-dinner introduction by
William J. McGonigle, president of the organization, until the men he
had introduced were presented to the assemblage during a radio program.

Yet both Captain William Inman Sealby, iron-gray-haired and sturdy at
75, and Captain Angelo Ruspini, tall and suave at 58, smilingly
confirmed that they had never met before. In fact, Captain Ruspini, who
was master of the Florida, pointed out it was actually the first time
they had seen each other, because it was far too dark on the night of
the tragedy.

The two veteran seamen said they had spent a half hour or so before
taking their seats--four places apart on the dais---in talking over
their careers since the crash, rather than the celebrated event itself.

"We spoke very little about the accident," Captain Ruspini said. He
retired from the sea in 1914, represented the Italian line here, and
now lives in Great Neck. Captain Sealby practiced law, commanded the
transport Monticello, served with the United States Shipping Board and
retired six years ago. His home is in Vineland, N. J.

To round out the reunion, John G. Orr and Jack Binns were introduced.
Mr. Orr was chief quartermaster of the Baltic, the rescue ship, which
brought the survivors of the lost Republic into port. And neither he nor
Mr. Binns, radio operator of the Republic, had ever met Captain Ruspini
before, although they had been among the admirers of his seamanship on
the historic night down the years.

Other features of the unusual program were awards to David Sarnoff and
Dr. Lee de Forest, and responses by long-distance telephone. Mr.
Sarnoff, receiving the association's first Marconi Memorial Gold Medal,
said in Palm Beach, Fla., the award was more a tribute to a "land of
opportunity" than to the recipient. Dr. de Forest spoke briefly from Los

T. D. Haubner, who in August of 1909, from the Arapahoe, sent the signal
S O S for the first time---the previous call having been C Q
D---received a medal similar to that awarded to Mr. Binns on the
thirtieth anniversary of his grim stay at his post aboard the Republic.

Honor scrolls went to Patrick Chapman, radio operator of the flying boat
Cavalier; Alexander Hamilton of the rescue ship Esso Baytown, and
Richard Stoddard, Howard Hughes's radio man, none of whom was present,
and to Charles Hogger, a much-honored operator once personally decorated
by the Czar of Russia. Mr. Hogger, his lapel heavy with medals, was a

Vaughn de Leath, who sang "Suwanee River" in December, 1919, in what
is regarded as the first broadcast of a song, repeated the tune, without
benefit of orchestra.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The New York Times, 5 November 1909

Officers and Crews Who Rescued the Republic's Passengers to be Honored

Medals will be presented this morning to the officers and crew of the White
Star liner Baltic, now at the foot of West Tenth Street, for the part they
played in the rescue of the passengers of the White Star liner Republic,
which was lost as a result of a collision with the Italian liner Florida
last January. The officers will receive gold and the crew silver medals.

The medals are the joint gift of the saloon passengers of the Baltic and the
Republic. The committee that raised the fund is composed of R. H. Ingersoll
of New York, Arthur Bles of Paris, France; J. E. Lamble of London,
England; Charles Ward of Charleston, West Va., and M. E. Waldstein of South
Orange, N. J. Mr. Ingersoll will present the medals, which were designed by
Mr. Bles.

On the obverse side of the medal is a picture of the White Star liner
Republic with the wireless sputtering from the top of her mast. Above the
picture are the letters, "C Q D," the wireless signal of distress. On the
deverse [sic] side is this inscription:

From the saloon passengers of the Baltic and Republic to the officers and
crews of the steamships Republic, Baltic, and Florida, for gallantry
commemorating the rescue of over 1,700 souls Jan. 23, 1909.

The officers and crew of the Republic will receive 240 medals and those of
the Florida 97 medals.


Encyclopedia Titanica

Staff member
Sep 1, 1996
One steward, Hugh Roberts, had charge of the
four cabins on the Republic which were literally destroyed when the
Florida's bow crashed through the superstructure. As soon as some
semblance of order was obtained he had gone from room to room, looking
to the safety of the passengers in his immediate charge. He helped Mr.
Lynch out of Cabin 34 and Mrs. Mooney to gain the deck from Cabin 32. He
found, too, that Mrs. Lynch's body had been terribly mangled and carried
some distance aft by the collision. Mr. Mooney had apparently been
sleeping on one of the settees, his wife being in a lower berth. His
body carried some distance, and the head was terribly crushed.

When Capt. Sealby heard Roberts's story of the finding of the bodies he
quietly ordered that they be placed in coffins and left on the boat.
There was hope then of saving the vessel. When she was abandoned the
first time the coffins were left on board. So it was the second time.
And finally they went down with the ship.
Could this be the same Hugh Roberts that was a bedroom steward on the Titanic?
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Thomas Krom

Nov 22, 2017
It is perfectly possible. It is also interesting to note that, if it is the same Hugh Roberts that is, that there was another survivor of the sinking of the second Republic. None other than Titanic her second purser Reginald Lomond Barker survived the sinking of the second Republic as well,
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