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.
The source for this article isn't clear, since Binns reportedly didn't keep a log himself. It may have been assembled from various other station logs, plus newspaper accounts. 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 (RCG).
Modern Electrics, February, 1909, pages 387-388:
Operator Binns' Wireless Log
(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 approximately.)
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 to lives.'
"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 in darkness.
"6.50--Standing by MSC (captain's message) working BC. Can hear BC O. K. but impossible to get our weak spark.
"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 (Siasconsett).
"8.20--MSC calls us. Can't read our answer through jamming. Boat settling fast. Tried to tell them to hurry aid. Jamming fierce.
"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.'
"9.15--Captain sends message saying passengers all aboard Florida and all O. K.
"9.45--LI (La Lorraine) calls us, but don't get our answer.
"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 going down.
"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.
"2 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.
"5.30 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, however.
"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.
"1.30 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. Reply nor'west.
"12 noon--Tell FI that RCG is taking nor'westerly course.
"12.30 p. m.--Towing operations now under way. Going mighty slow. Captain and crew numbers thirty-eight. All standing by captain.
"1 p. m.--Send message to MSC (Siasconsett) saying, 'Towing now. RCG ahead, FI astern, steering.'
"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 together.
"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 man.'"
(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).