RMS Republic (II)
On 26th February 1903, Harland and Wolff launched yard number 345, Columbus (later to be Republic), a new liner intended for IMM's Dominion Line. Columbus in total could carry around 2800 passengers and 300 crew members. She had accommodation for first, second and third class passengers.
Columbus began her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Boston on 1st October 1903. In late 1903 IMM transferred Dominion Line's Boston service to White Star Line, and also at that time transferred Columbus to IMM’s White Star Line.
Columbus was renamed Republic (II), and on 17th December 1903, left Liverpool for the first time as a White Star Liner. During the voyage Republic encountered bad weather and arrived in New York on 27th December complete with ice, snow, her harbour pilot and two passengers, whom were still aboard due to the tender in Queenstown being unable to reach the ship. The three of them sailed back on Cedric.
Republic departed Boston for a Mediterranean cruise on 2nd January 1904, and from then on she spent the summer on the Liverpool to New York route and the winter cruising from Boston to the Mediterranean.
While passing the Plant Line's Halifax, in the narrows at Boston on 3rd June 1904, Suction caused Republic to collide twice with the smaller Halifax, once on her Port side and once on her stern, causing Halifax to go aground at and become stuck at Lovell's Island for around seven hours, before being freed. Fortunately nobody was injured.
Under the command of Captain Mcauley on 16th February 1907, Republic was damaged after a collision with La Veloce's Centro America, while entering Naples Harbour.
On 28th December 1908 a devastating Earthquake took place in Sicily, causing the destruction of most of the buildings in the area, and causing more than 100,000 deaths. At some point after the earthquake a Lloyd Italiano Line steamer, Florida, under the command of Captain Angelo Ruspini, left Italy with survivors from the earthquake bound for New York; Florida would soon play a key part in Republic's demise.
At 3pm on 22nd January 1909, Republic left New York on, unknown at the time, her last voyage. At 5.40am on 23rd January, off Nantucket in heavy fog, Florida smashed into the port side of Republic, causing destruction and leaving Republic slowly sinking with no power.
Captain Inman Sealby ordered that passengers and most of the crew from Republic be transferred in the lifeboats to Florida.
From his badly damaged cabin, the Republic's wireless operator, Jack Binns, sent out a CQD distress call – which was received by Jack Irwin, the wireless operator in Siasconsett, Nantucket Island – who then relayed it to other ships in the area. Eventually Jack Binns was able to communicate himself with operator Henry J Tattersall of White Star’s Baltic.
Baltic, under the command of Captain JB Ranson, then spent the next 12 hours searching, in the fog, for the drifting Republic, and then when eventually finding them, rescued the passengers and crew from aboard Florida. For Republic's passengers and crew it was there second boat trip.
The US revenue cutters Gresham and Seneca and Anchor Line's Furnessia tried towing Republic to safety, however it failed and Republic sank at 8pm. On that same day Baltic arrived in New York with the survivors, including Jack Binns who become quite a celebrity for his role in the rescue. Florida arrived in New York escorted by the American Line steamer New York.
Despite the damage – only two lives were lost in the initial collision on Republic, WJ Mooney and Mary Lynch. Eugene Lynch later died in hospital from his injuries, and three crew members aboard Florida also lost their lives in the collision.
The Republic wreck was found in 1981 by Captain Martin Bayerle. It is rumoured that the wreck may contain a high value of Gold.