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White Star Liner Republic – part 2


If you were listening earlier this week, you heard about the White Star liner Republic, which was hit by another liner and sank near Florida in 1909.

George Winship, editor of the Grand Forks Herald, was on board the Republic, and published an account of the sinking in the New York Times. The passengers aboard the Republic were first transferred to the Florida, the ship that struck them—but was not in quite as bad a shape. However, the Florida was full of immigrants, and so those from the Republic had to huddle together on the decks for 15 hours, as other liners came to save the day.

“All were transferred,” Winship wrote, “including the steerage passengers on the Florida. The Italian vessel was found to be seriously wounded, and the fore part was settling. When the transfer was going on some of the Florida’s passengers fought to get to the boats first. Some two or three drew knives, but they were driven back in short order.”

Parallels can be drawn between this event and the later sinking of another White Star liner, the Titanic, but this first accident resulted in only a handful of deaths—such as W. J. Mooney, of Langdon, who was in a Stateroom on the saloon deck where the ship was hit. Winship wrote that Mooney was “literally torn to pieces … and it is presumed that his remains went down with the steamer. Mrs. Mooney, who occupied a berth on the opposite side of the room, escaped miraculously.”

The Countess Pasolini, originally of Tennessee, whose stateroom was directly below Mooney’s narrowly avoided death as well—possibly due to the slant of the Florida’s bow. She reported, “I was awakened by the flare from a green light pouring in through my cabin window. … The next moment I heard a tremendous crash. It seemed to be right above me. I knew something unusual had happened, and got out of bed.” Several others were killed or injured in the collision.

Despite preserving its precious cargo of so many lives, the Republic has been a source of speculation and some mystery. In 1981, the wreck was discovered by Martin Bayerle. In 2005, 24 years later, he was granted the right to salvage the ship—including a rumored treasure—a cache of gold coins.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker




January 25, 1909, Minot Daily Optic, page 1

The New York Times, January 26, 1909

Racine Daily Journal (Wisconsin), January 23, 1909 – pm

The New York Times, January 24, 1909