RMS Republic holds the distinction of having sent the very first CQD distress call through the then-new Marconi wireless telegraph system. It was January 23, 1909 when the ill-fated ocean liner was rammed by the Italian liner SS Florida in dense fog near Nantucket, Massachusetts.
Republic had been on route from New York City to Gibraltar when the accident happened. It was close to 6 o’clock a.m. Despite both ships whistling to signal their close proximity to each other and Republic slowing her speed, Florida hit Republic amidships so hard that much of the deck directly above Florida‘s bow was thrust inside of it. Thankfully, more than 1000 people survived but six died; three from each ship.
Republic was known as the “Millionaire’s Ship” as many well-to-do American passengers had sailed on her. She was built at the famous Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland in 1903 and was first named SS Columbus and operated by the International Mercantile Marine’s Dominion Line which was a White Star Line (who built Titanic) sister company. She was later sold to the White Star Line and renamed SS Republic (not to be confused with an earlier White Star ship of the same name).
After the collision, Republic began listing severely and efforts were made to transfer passengers to Florida as well as Gresham, a U.S. Cutter Service vessel who had responded to the call. Florida struggled with the additional weight until Baltic, another White Star ship came and the liner took the survivors from both ships and headed back to New York. Although the captain and crew stayed aboard Republic to keep her afloat while other ships that arrived later tried to help, they could not save her.
It is believed Republic was carrying a good deal of gold coins aboard and other valuables. Her remains were found in 1981 by Captain Martin Bayerle, who secured the exclusive salvage rights to the wreck. The ship stands upright in about 270 feet of water. Recent plans have been made to salvage her in the 2014 and 2016 seasons. Bayerle’s research has been published in the book The Tsar’s Treasure: The Sunken White Star Liner With a Billion Dollar Secret.
Photo credit: Wikipedia public domain image.
© Copyright Vince Capone 2013