Nantucket, MA Ocean Liners REPUBLIC and FLORIDA Crash, Jan 1909

RMS Republic Sinking after the Crash with the Florida, photo from

Taking standard precautions and maintaining her speed, the steamer regularly signaled her presence in the outbound shipping traffic lane by whistle. At 5:47 a.m., another whistle was heard and the Republic's engines were ordered to full reverse, and the helm put "hard-a-port". Out of the fog, the Lloyd Italiano liner SS Florida appeared and hit Republic amidships on her portside, at about a right angle. Two passengers asleep in their cabins on Republic were killed when Florida's bow sliced into her, including liquor wholesale manager Eugene Lynch's wife Mary and banker W. J. Mooney. Eugene Lynch was critically injured and died as a result of his injuries at Long Island College Hospital, Brooklyn, January 26. On Florida, three crewmen were also killed when the bow was crushed back to a collision bulkhead. Six people died in total.

The engine and boiler rooms on Republic began to flood, and the ship listed. Captain Sealby led the crew in calmly organizing the passengers on deck for evacuation. Republic was equipped with the new Marconi wireless telegraph system, and became the first ship in history to issue a CQD distress signal, sent by Jack R. Binns. Florida came about to rescue Republic's complement, and the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service cutter Gresham responded to the distress signal as well. Passengers were distributed between the two ships, with Florida taking the bulk of them, but with 900 Italian immigrants already on board, this left the ship dangerously overloaded.

The White Star liner Baltic, also responded to the CQD call, but due to the persistent fog, it was not until the evening that Baltic was able to locate the drifting Republic. Once on-scene, the rescued passengers were transferred from Gresham and Florida to Baltic. Because of the damage to Florida, that ship's immigrant passengers were also transferred to Baltic, but a riot nearly broke out when they had to wait until first-class Republic passengers were transferred. Once everyone was on board, Baltic sailed for New York.

At the time of Republic's sinking, ocean liners were not required to have a full capacity of lifeboats for their passengers, officers and crew. It was believed that on the busy North Atlantic route assistance from at least one ship would be ever-present, and lifeboats would only be needed to ferry all aboard to their rescue vessels and back until everyone was safely evacuated. This scenario fortunately played out flawlessly during the ship's sinking, and the six people who did die were lost in the collision, not the sinking. The closest ship, RMS Carpathia did not arrive until four hours later, much longer than anyone could have expected such a rescue to take.

Captain Sealby and a skeleton crew remained on board Republic to make an effort to save her. Crewmen from the Gresham tried using collision mats to stem the flooding, but to no avail. By this time the steamers New York and Lucania (from Cunard) had also arrived, and waited while an attempt was made by Gresham to take Republic under tow. This effort, too was futile, and on 24 January, Republic sank. At 15,378 tons, she was the largest ship to have sunk up to that time. All the remaining crew were evacuated before she sank. -