11a["Ethergraphs on Ocean Vessels", The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 01 February 1909, page 7]



London, Jan. 30.

Owing to the service of wireless telegraphy saving the passengers of the Republic and the Florida, a bill has been introduced into the United States Congress for the compulsory installation of ethergraphs on all ocean-going vessels.


If this is true, the legislation was introduced just eight days after the accident.

11b["Wireless Telegraphy", The Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW), Monday 01 February 1909, page 1]





[Reuter's Message.]

Loudon, Saturday.

Owing to tho service of wireless telegraphy saving the passengers on the Republic and Florida when they collided off Nantucket Island (U.S.A.). a hill has been introduced into Congress, for the compulsory installation of ethergraphs on all ocean-goipg vessels.


This version identifies the source as Reuters.



Name: Republic ex-Columbus

Operator: Oceanic Steam Navigation Company d/b/a White Star Line

Builder: Harland and Wolff Shipyards

Yard number: 345

Launched: February, 1903

Christened: Columbus

Fate: Sunk after 23 January 1909 collision with SS Florida on 24 January 1909. She remained afloat for 39 hours after the collision.

General characteristics

Tonnage: 15,400 tons

Length: 570.0 ft (173.7 m)

Beam: 67.8 ft (20.7 m)

Draft: 34 ft 1 in (10.39 m) .

Depth of hold: 24 ft

Propulsion: twin propeller

Speed: 16 knots

Capacity: 2,830 passengers

Crew: 300



The ship was originally built in Belfast, Northern Ireland for the International Mercantile Marine's Dominion Line (a sister company to the White Star Line) and was named SS Columbus. After two voyages with Dominion, she was sold to White Star and renamed Republic (the White Star's original Republic of 1872 had been sold over a decade earlier).

Collision with SS Florida

In early morning of 23 January 1909, while sailing from New York City to Gibraltar and Mediterranean ports with 742 passengers and crew and Captain Inman Sealby (1862-1942) in command, Republic entered a thick fog off the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Amongst the passengers were plenty of illustrious people such as Mrs. Sophie Curtis, wife of George M. Curtis, Mrs. Mary Severance, wife of Cordenio A. Severance, Professor John M. Coulter, and Lady Katherine Van Loo. Travelling in first class were also Mr. Leonard L. McMurray, who, in 1915, would survive the sinking of the Cunard liner Lusitania, and Mrs. John T. Davis, daughter-in-law of senator Henry G. Davis of West Virginia with two children.

The steamer reduced speed and regularly signalled its presence 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, 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 26th. On Florida, three crewmen were also killed when the bow was crushed back to a collision bulkhead.[1]

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.[2] Florida came about to rescue Republic's complement, and the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Gresham[3] 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, commanded by Captain J. B. Ranson, 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.