The RMS Republic was a luxury liner of the White Star fleet, that had sailed from New York City on Friday January 22nd 1909 for a cruise to the Mediterranean. It was moving through a thick cold fog in the vicinity of the Nantucket lightship when the captain, Inman Sealby, and his crew heard a foghorn booming through the darkness. An unknown ship was speeding in its direction. The two ships exchanged horn blasts, with the idea that each would turn to starboard away from each other, thus avoiding a collision. As the blasts of the other ship came nearer, the Republic reversed engines and stopped. Instead of turning away, the unknown ship plowed on, right into the side of the Republic. Its bow tore a huge hole right down to the Republic's waterline and below. The bow crumpled, leaving an overhang that scraped across the Republic's main deck as the ship slid away to the Republic's stern, leaving a devastation of crumpled steel and tangled ropes in its wake.
Two people on the Republic were killed instantly, and a couple of others severely injured. On the other ship, the sailors who had been in the bow were also killed, a total of six lives lost immediately. With the death of one of the severely injured later, altogether seven people died. That was to be the total of lives lost in this accident!
Although the bows of the Florida, the ship that collided into the Republic, were crumpled, it was the more sea-worthy of the two ships, so Captain Sealby of the Republic had all his passengers and all but about 50 of his crew transferred to the Florida, a process that required four hours of backbreaking rowing by the Republic's sailors.
Once the Republic's passengers were on board the Florida, this ship too began to do badly, and it was clear that a full-scale rescue at sea was needed.
With wireless, Binns was able to call up the Marconi station at Siasconsett, and Jack Irwin, the Marconi operator there, was able to relay the message to ships in the vicinity. Eventually Binns was able to communicate directly with the ships. He then "talked" the White Star ship Baltic to the Republic's side, with the invaluable—indeed indefatiguable—help of the Baltic's Marconi man, H.J. Tattersall, who, with his assistant Gilbert Balfour, was at his key 52 hours straight!
Once the Baltic arrived, there began another backbreaking transfer by lifeboat, this time of the passengers and surplus crew of both the Republic and the Florida to the Baltic.
Photo of the Republic taken by a passenger aboard the Baltic. Note the tarp that had been placed over the gash in the ship's hull in an attempt to decrease the inflow of water.
The Baltic and the Florida then made their way to New York City. An attempt was made to tow the Republic to safety, but to no avail. She sank in forty fathoms (240 feet) of water South of Nantucket.