Q: Can you walk me through the crash and what heppened? What's Binnsy's
VU: Well, he was lying in bed, asleep, exhausted, actually, when
this huge crashing sound came grinding,and his cabin shook,
and he found himself on the floor, in a pile of debris with half the cabin gone.
And he checked that he was OK and then started looking for the pieces of his
apparatus. And they were scattered all over. He had to bring them all
together. And fortunately, in the dark, he knew his apparatus so well that he
could reassemble it, in the dark. However, because it was dark, and because that
meant the power was out, he was gonna have to rely on the storage batteries
that he had and they were in rather poor shape after this beating that they had
gotten with the crash. And he was not sure he was gonna be able to get a signal
strong enough to be able to reach anybody, the coast or any ship, that was
around. But nevertheless, he figured he better do it because he had to get some
rescue. It was clear that something horrible had happened to the
ship. And so he was able to put the apparatus together, and in the process of
doing this he broke the key for sending the messages. And this would have been
a calamity had he not been able to actually hold the thing together with one
hand while he sent messages with the other. He also had ascertained that the
antenna for sending messages was OK. So there he was holding the whole
thing together basically with his two hands and sending the keys -- tapping the
keys at the same time, hoping that someone would hear him.
Q: What would happen if they didn't?
VU: And if they didn't, well, it was very clear that the
"Republic" was probably going to sink. It wasn't at all clear what was going to
happen with the "Florida." Its bow had been rammed in, but it was above the water
line. However, if all the passengers from the "Republic" were to be put on the
"Florida," along with all its passengers, the question arose whether that ship
would become overloaded and finally end up sinking itself. So there was a real
need to have people coming to the rescue.
Q: What do you think Binns is thinking about, getting his signal out?
VU: Well, it was clear that something horrendous had happened.
And that there was real importance to let people know and if there were some
ships in the vicinity to get them to come. And that was clear, you know, an
absolute necessity to do it. And so one of the first things he did after he
ascertained that his apparatus was intact was to go see Captain Sealby and find
out what the state of the ship was. And
I think it was very reassuring to Captain Sealby to know that the wireless
apparatus was still functioning, although with the caveat that the signal was
far too weak probably even to reach any place like the coast.
Q: Tell us about the message that goes up back and forth between him and one
or two other wireless men when this happened?
VU: Well, there were a couple of ships in the vicinity, each of
which had a Marconi man on them, and the message he sent was received by
the "La Lorraine," one of the ships that was around. The message was basically that he was
still on the job although the ship was sinking. And this was overheard, because
anybody could receive a message, by the wireless man in the
"Baltic" who said, "Don't worry old man, we're bursting our boilers to get to
back to Interview Transcripts | next