I noticed in recent days the news about the plight of Titanic's older White Star Line sister named Republic. The Republic sank on January 24th, 1909 when she collided in a dense fog with an immigrant ship named SS Florida. The approximate location of her sinking is about 50 miles south of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. The Republic was reportedly carrying a fortune of 5 tons of newly minted American Gold Eagle coins valued at $3 million in 1909, 15 tons of gold bars, a Navy payroll with estimated current value around $70 million and several tons of silver, as well as passengers' jewelry. Additionally, it was reported to have on board JP Morgan's rare library of documents and books. She was discovered in 1981 by Martin Bayerle and salvaged throughout the mid-1980's. While I was diving the Andrea Doria through the 1980's, I could look off to the horizon and see about 5 miles away all the machinery of the rigs that were used to split open the Republic like a ripe watermelon. In all their destruction of this once-beautiful vessel, not one part of this vast fortune was found. Evenually, the salvors lost money and abandoned their claim to the ship. Auctions were held for the recovered artifacts from the Republic; however, there were very few buyers for these items. Literally boxes of artifacts were sold at a cheap rate and then the ship seemed to disappear for the past 15 years. In the mid-1990's, many of us that dove the Andrea Doria every year would then come over and dive Republic once. Unfortunately, the salvors had broken up the ship very badly and we were all disappointed in the structural integrity of the ship.
Now Mr. Bayerle has, once again, secured salvage rights to the Republic. Since she lies in the shipping lanes into and out of New York, the Coast Guard has a mandatory 180 day notice to mariners period that must be given before diving can commence. With the weather window to dive the Republic all but closed, the operations will not begin until 2006. It will be certainly interesting to see if Mr. Bayerle's efforts will pay off or whether he will only succeed in desecrating the wreck site a second time.