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The American Experience
The Film & More
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Hello, I'm David McCullough. Welcome to The American Experience.

Our film is a sea story -- of two ships on the North Atlantic bound in opposite directions the winter of 1909, three years before the voyage of the "Titanic".

One ship was the "Republic", of the famous White Star Line, with 742 aboard, counting passengers and crew. The other, the "Florida", carried even more, making in all 1,500 people. What happened was extraordinary...

Living in the age we do, we think of transportation and communication as separate and different things. But until comparatively recent times, they were one and the same. Until the nineteenth century, nothing could be communicated any distance any faster than a rider on horseback or a ship crossing the sea. And even with the invention of the telegraph and the telephone, ships at sea were out of touch for days, once out of sight of land. They were alone, isolated. If a ship was in trouble, if a ship went down, nobody knew.

It was the invention of the wireless that brought the great change that figured so dramatically in events off Nantucket the morning of January 23, 1909.

When introduced, wireless was considered a luxury, not essential to safety and ships were not required to carry it.

Like the "Titanic", the "Republic" lies now at the bottom of the ocean. Yet how many today have heard of her, or the story of wireless operator Jack Binns, one of the most celebrated heroes of his day.

"Rescue at Sea" by producer Ben Loeterman.

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