Hannah van Hemmen's picture
Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

SS Florida / SS Republic Collision (TBT)

A photo of the damaged SS Florida as a result of its collision with the SS Republic in 1909 hangs in our office.



On the back is an article from an unknown source (I'm betting that one of our consultants decided to look up the story one day).  The story reads as follows:


"Due to dense fog on January 23, 1909, the Italian steamship, Florida, rammed the Republic on her port side.  Two passengers were crushed to death immediately.  For the first time in maritime history, a wireless was used to summon aid.  The R.C. Gresham and the destroyer, Seneca rushed to the disaster site.  All remaining passengers and crew were rescued without mishap.  The huge hole in the Republic’s side was plugged with a make shift collision mat made from canvas.  The Republic was then taken in tow by the Gresham but before reaching shallow water, she sank.  The Republic had remained afloat for 39 hours after her collision.


Aside from being the first to use a wireless, the Republic had two other interesting aspects.  She was the largest vessel of her day to have sunk (quickly surpassed by the Titanic), and it is rumored that she was carrying three million dollars in U.S. gold “eagles”, worth about one and a half billion dollars today."


The wreck has been found and various people have dived on it, but, so far, no official gold recovery has occurred.


The picture has a caption that states the Florida was repaired in 24 days, which is very nice work by any standard.  It doesn't say which yard performed the repairs.


The bow suffered an almost perfect interframe buckling collapse, which was much more common in transversely framed vessels and could also dangerously occur in ship's midship bottoms during heavy weather.