The Story
The Story

December 28, 1908 Earthquake

Less than one month before the Republic left New York, on December 28, 1908, the deadliest earthquake in European history (7.5 magnitude) and resulting tsunami devastated the Messina and Calabria areas of Italy, killing no less than 100,000 people and leaving over 200,000 homeless.1 This disaster remained front page news for several weeks and spurred major world-wide relief efforts. The staging area for relief efforts was organized at Naples, north of the disaster area - a port of call for the Republic.

Messina, Sicily, December 28, 1908
Source: Earthquake Engineering Research Center,
University of California at Berkeley
(Slide 1200, Karl V. Steinbrugge Collection)

Admiral Sperry's Great White Battleship Fleet, consisting of sixteen battleships and additional auxiliary and support vessels manned by over 14,000 sailors, then in the Mediterranean and nearing the end of its round-the-world cruise, was an active participant in the relief effort.


Sailors from the Battle Fleet viewing the ruins of Messina,
Sicily, destroyed by earthquake Dec. 28, 1908.


Sailors from the Battle Fleet searching the ruins of Messina,
Sicily, for the bodies of Consul Gen. Cheney & wife, Jan. 18, 1909.


1 The effects of the 1908 Messina earthquake on one man's family, and additional links and information can be found at:
While this site is no longer online, it can still be viewed using the Wayback Machine.