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Liner "Republic" Rammed At Sea; Four Lives Lost?
New York Times, January 24, 1909
THE "BALTIC" REPORTS LOSS OF LIFE
by Marconi Wireless Telegraph to the New York Times
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 ports, and laden with 461 passengers and supplies for the
United States battleship fleet, met in collision early yesterday morning when an
incoming steamer, now known to be the "Florida" of the Lloyd Italiano Line, bound
for this port from Italian waters.
Steamship "Baltic," via Siasconsett, Mass, Jan. 24, 1am--The steamship
Florida collided with the "Republic" 175 miles east of the Ambrose Lightship at
5:30 am on Saturday. The "Republic's" passengers were transferred to the
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 the "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.
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
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 the 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 the 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 waves."
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 the 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
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 throughout 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 had leaped
the ambulance call of the sea, the signal "CQD.," which, translated from the
code, means, "All ships, Danger."
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 "Acushnet" 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 the 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 off the "Republic's" passengers before the arrival of the
"Baltic," should carry them to this port, the "Baltic" standing by as a convoy.
Story of The Disaster
Crash Came in Thick Fog When Passengers Were Asleep
Full details of what occurred aboard the "Republic" when out of the fog of
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," outbound with her 260 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
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 on
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 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
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 safety.
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 were sending out the distress call, which no ship would pass
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 the Ambrose Channel, was coming
full speed ahead through the fog, and that all there was to do was 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 Appeared.
At ten 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
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.