On the morning of January 23, 1909, the Republic,
outbound from New York, was rammed by the Florida, in heavy fog off the coast of
Massachusetts. Although the Republic eventually sank, it stayed afloat long
enough to transfer all of its surviving crew and passengers to safety, and also
radioed for assistance from other ships, most importantly the Baltic. The
Republic's initial "CQD" distress signal, sent by Marconi operator Jack Binns,
was picked up by the Marconi land station "MSC" at Siasconsett, Nantucket
Island, Massachusetts. The text below reviews the Republic's communication with
Siasconsett and a number of rescue ships over the next two days.
source for this article isn't clear, since Binns reportedly didn't keep a log
himself. "Log?" asked Binns. "The only log I could keep in the dark was in my head." N. Y. Herald, January 26, 1909, 4:1 The "log" below may have been assembled from various other station logs, plus
The Republic's radio callsign was "MKC"--the Florida did not
have either a radio transmitter or receiver. "MSG" was an abbreviation for
"message," while "CQ" meant "attention all stations." The other ships involved,
and their radio transmitter call signs, were the Baltic (BC), La Lorraine (LI),
Lucania (LA), Furnessia (FI), and the Revenue Cutter Gresham
Modern Electrics, February, 1909, pages 387-388:
Operator Binns' Wireless
(The log begins at 6.38
a. m., when Binns found himself on the floor of his cabin and the
splintered woodwork piling in about him. He lost only a second rushing to his
wire and calling C. Q. D. Owing to the darkness the time is fixed
The most dramatic tale of the sea
ever unfolded is this log of Binns. It reads:
"6.38--Called 'C. Q. D.'
"6.40--MSC (Siasconsett) answered C. Q. D.
"6.41--Tell him 'Republic shipwrecked. Stand by for
captain's message.' Cabin wrecked, telephone gone, must run to captain's bridge.
"6.42--Send MSG (captain's message) 'Republic rammed
by unknown steamer 175 miles east Ambrose Light. Lat. 40.7, lon. 70. No danger
"6.45--MSG says: 'Have wired Wood's Hole
for tugs to send to your aid. Will also tell BC' (Baltic). Lever of key broken
"6.50--Standing by MSC (captain's
message) working BC. Can hear BC O. K. but impossible to get our weak
"7 a. m.--Tell MSC occasionally our
condition. 'Hurry up assistance.' Still pitch dark. Can't see lever.
"8.00--Now getting light. Send more MSG to MSC
"8.20--MSC calls us. Can't read our
answer through jamming. Boat settling fast. Tried to tell them to hurry aid.
"8.30--BC now reads our spark.
Mighty cold here. Tell him our condition and to make haste. Give him our
position. Steward taking messages to and from bridge. My 'phone gone.
"8.45--Get MSC. He tells me BC and LI (La Lorraine)
rushing to our aid.
"8.30 (about)--Florida comes up.
Her bow is smashed. She willing to take our passengers. Transfer begins.
"8.46--Answer O. K. Tell BC and LI to 'Hurry,
please, old man.' No sign of anything to help us. Passengers remarkably calm.
Two bodies outside my room. Don't know who they are. Killed in their staterooms.
"9.12--Hear LI tell MSC 'We are rushing to MKC
(Republic). Our boilers bursting.'
sends message saying passengers all aboard Florida and all O. K.
"9.45--LI (La Lorraine) calls us, but don't get our
"9.47--LI now gets our spark. Asks 'What
depth of water and what course shall we take. Thick fog. Hard to navigate. Have
you got fog?'
"9.50--Reply. 'Thick fog here. Listen
for our rockets. Florida about, but can't see her. Now 26 miles SW of Nantucket
Lightship. Florida disabled, has no wireless and on starboard side. Our
passengers on Florida.'
"10 a. m.--Working to
BC. Giving him steering directions. Steward says we will surely sink and to
watch for signal to leave boat. Heard that only two were killed. Jamming fierce.
"11.30--Hear LA (Lucania) faintly working MSC. He
tells him of our condition.
"11.55--Get through to
MSC again. Tell him we are in bad condition. To rush aid. Looks like we are
"12 Noon--Working continually with BC
who is coming fast. Got something to eat out of pantry. Haven't had anything to
eat since last night. Only half dressed.
p. m.--Still working continuously with BC and LI, but they can't find us.
Ship settling fast. Tell BC. Stern going down.
"3.30--BC tells CQ (all stations) to keep quiet. He
is getting near us.
"4.15--Working BC all the time.
He'll be alongside shortly. He hears our rockets. Gee! I wish he'd hurry. This
place isn't pleasant, but I'll stick with the Cap.
"4.30--BC still trying to locate us. Captain says:
'Hear bomb to eastward.' I ask BC if it was his. BC says 'Yes.' Tell him to
steer to west. Fine work.
"5.10--BC now tells us she
can hear our submarine bell. Fog not raising. Almost pitch dark yet.
"5.12--Tell BC we hear his last bomb to
west-nor'west. Tell him to run east-sou'east.
p. m.--Send MSG to BC.
"6.30-BC says 'Think we
can find you.' Also, 'Think LI and LA have found Florida. Give me plenty notice
when we are nearing you. Sending up rockets. Look out for 'em.'
"6.08--Tell BC his foghorn is getting stronger.
"6.14--LI says 'Can hear four blasts.' Tell him that
it is Florida's foghorn and to go to her assistance if he can find her.
"6.20--BC now getting very close. Say 'Come
carefully.' He is near our port side. Boat now lower. Very dark now. Funny BC
can't find us. All alone here.
"6.40--BC tells LI to
go to Florida and he'll stand by us.
"7--Tell BC to
come extremely careful, as he is too close for comfort. We can't see him,
"7.20--Hear cheer. See Baltic through
cabin. Fog lifting. Great guns! BC looks good to me! Captains exchange
greetings. Sealby says, 'Come on our leeward and stand by to take up our boats.'
Wireless now closed. Say good-bye to BC's 'Goodbye, old man, until we meet
again.' Hate to leave Republic. Release key and go forward to take boats.
(When Operator Binns left his wrecked Marconi cabin
he was off the Republic until next day, Sunday. Captain Sealby and Chief Officer
Crossland remained aboard the Republic during the night. Binns insisted on
rejoining his captain and took up his station when a select crew were sent
aboard the Republic. Mr. Binns' next entry is at 9 a. m.)
"9 a. m.--Try station. Find everything
O. K. Spark weak. Report to captain. Republic has big hole in port side.
Covered with tarpaulin. Jammed abreast engine room. She looks like sinking.
"9.10 a. m.--Send message for captain asking
where tugs are.
"10 a. m.--Give good-bye to
Baltic. She has all of Republic's and Florida's passengers and part of our crew.
Florida gone on. Commence with FI (Furnessia), who has come up to stand by.
"10.55 a. m.--Revenue cutter Gresham comes up.
Takes line from our bows and commences towing. Tell FI to come to stern and
stand by to take lines to steer us.
a. m.--Tell RCG (Gresham) to come to starboard, as his line is fouling our
port anchor. Republic appears to be holding up now. May save her.
"11.55 a. m.--Ask RCG what course he is taking.
"12 noon--Tell FI that RCG is taking
"12.30 p. m.--Towing
operations now under way. Going mighty slow. Captain and crew numbers
thirty-eight. All standing by captain.
p. m.--Send message to MSC (Siasconsett) saying, 'Towing now. RCG ahead, FI
"2 p. m.--Standing by. RCG
and FI talking.
"3 p. m.--Listening in case of
calls. No one wants me. FI and RCG talking about towing. No ships on horizon.
Baltic and Florida disappeared.
"4 p. m.--Boat
settling fast. Fear she can't stay up much longer. No time to get effects
"5 p. m.--Captain sends down and
orders me forward. Ready to take to boats. Ship badly off. Go back for one last
look at station and go forward. Last message to FL and RCG says 'Good luck, old
(Operator Binns and all but Captain Sealby
and Second Officer Williams departed from the Republic at captain's orders. They
went at once aboard the Gresham and stood by to watch the last struggle of the
Republic. Two hours later the Republic went to the bottom).