She was eight hundred and ninety feet
long, weighed over forty six thousand tons, and she was the largest and
most luxurious ship that human hands had ever built. She
cruised at a maximum speed of twenty-six miles per hour.
Titanic boasted twenty-four coal fired boilers, supplying
steam to two reciprocating engines, which together delivered forty six
thousand horsepower. A marvel of modern technology at the
time, she was said to be unsinkable. Her builder, Harland
and Wolff of Belfast Ireland, claimed "not even God himself could sink
On April 14th, 1912, at 11:40 pm, Titanics builders were
proved wrong. Titanic departed Southhampton, England for her
maiden voyage and stopped at Queensland, Ireland to pick up more
passengers before her Atlantic crossing. The weather cleared
she left Ireland under cloudy skies with a headwind.
remained fairly mild on Saturday 13 April, but the following day
Titanic crossed a cold weather front with strong winds and waves of up
to 8 feet. These died down as the day progressed until, by
evening of Sunday 14 April, it became clear, calm and very cold.
For two days, the voyage was peaceful, the weather cold but
beautiful, and the days passed without incident.
was scheduled to arrived at New York Harbor, Pier 59, on the morning of
April 17th. But at 11:40 pm, 1,250 miles from New
lookout Fredrick Fleet spotted an iceberg and alerted the
The First Officer on duty ordered Titanic be steered around
obstacle and her engines reversed full power. It was too
The starboard side of Titanic struck the iceberg, ripping a
series of holes below her waterline. The seams buckled and
separated. Thousands of gallons of seawater rushed in,
five of Titanics compartments. In only two and a
hours, the "unsinkable"
ship found her place on the bottom of the Atlantic, thirteen thousand
feet below the surface.
In 1895, an Italian man named Gugliemo Marconi
set out to exploit the discovery of the radio wave and develop a method
of wireless communication. He formed the Wireless Telegraph
Signal Company by 1897. Up until this time, long
distance communication was
only possible by telegraph, and these telegraph stations had to be
connected by wires. Ships at sea could not be connected by
yet they had the most need for rapid communication with other ships and
land stations. Marconi sold his new wireless system to
companies and lighthouses, and by 1912, most ships operating
the Atlantic had been equipped with the Marconi wireless system.
Quite the entrepreneur, Marconi leased employees to shipping
lines to operate his wireless systems. While Marconi
were Marconi Company employees, they were considered ship officers, and
the job was very much coveted due to the luxury nature of the cruise
ship position. The main duty of the Marconi operator aboard
passenger ships was sending social messages for passengers back
home to friends and family for a fee. "Company
messages" regarding ship
second. "Safety messages" came third. At the time,
money sending messages for wealthy first-class passengers was priority.
However, there were only two communications officers on a
they worked long hours. This oversight would prove fatal for Titanic,
as by midnight many of the radio operators on ships close
enough to assist Titanic were off-duty and asleep in their
when Titanics distress message was sent.
Communication at the
time was by Morse code and the range of the Marconi system was about
400 miles during the day, and up to 800 to 1,200 miles at night,
the way radio signals bounce off the earths ionosphere at different
times of the day. Titanic was outfitted with the very best
Marconni wireless system available at the time. Titanic
spark-gap transmitter with a rotary spark design powered by a 5 kW
motor generator fed from the ship's lighting circuit. The
equipment operated into a 4 wire dipole antenna suspended between the
masts, 250 feet above the sea. There was also a battery
powered emergency transmitter and a separate motor generator in the
room next door. As there was no
international communications standards
established, most foreign operators used their own set of
and signals, and Marconi operators used the set of codes and signals
established by Marconi. Titanics call sign was "MGY".
Marconi stations on ships had a three-character call sign assigned by
with the letter "M" for Marconi. At that time, SOS had not
into use, so "CQD" (Calling
Any Station, Distress) was established as the distress
call for all Marconi operators.
Call sign for RMS Titanic
Marconi distress signal meaning "Calling any
"Old Man" =
Slang term for any Morse operator, regardless of age, abbreviated "OM"
|The radio installation for
Titanic was in three adjacent rooms
on the centerline of the boat deck of Titanic. Room one,
called the “silent room”,
which had sound-attenuating walls, contained the “noisy components” of
the radio transmitter: the
motor-generator set and the rotary spark gap, as well as the other
components of the transmitter proper.
The second room, called the “Marconi
was where the operators ran the radio system. It contained
telegraph key, two receivers, and the entirety of a small second
transmitter, a backup for the main transmitter.
A third room contained the bunks for the operators.
antenna of the Titanic was a T-style dipole antenna developed by
Marconi himself. It consisted of four parallel #18
B&S uninsulated silicon bronze wires about six
feet apart, strung between two spreaders at each end, which in turn
were supported by “bridle ropes” from two tall masts about 600 feet
apart. Insulators were placed in each of the wires at the
spreader, and also at a point about midway between the third and fourth
The “active” parts of the wires were 415 feet long.
of four feed wires, about 120 feet long, ran from the
centers of the active portion of the wires to a narrow antenna trunk
atop the silent room, where they all connected to a
single metal rod that ran down to the silent room. There a
flexible cable led to the transmitter.
charge was 25 year old Jack Phillips, with 21 year old Harold Bride as
the deputy or second radio officer. Both men were up early on
sailing day, April 10th, conducting final testing of the equipment.
arranged watches by personal agreement: Phillips, the chief radio
operator, took the 2000 - 0200 watch, whilst Bride was on duty between
0200 - 0800. There were no fixed watch hours during the day,
men relieved each other to suit their convenience, but a
continuous watch was always maintained.
Bride remained at their posts until about three minutes before
vessel foundered... even after being released from their duties by
Titanics Captain. Phillips continued sending out the Marconi
distress signal "CQD". At the suggestion of the Captain he
switched to the new code of "SOS" which had recently been agreed at an
International Convention. So that at 12:45 am the "SOS" call went
out for the first time, making maritime history. Harold Bride
remarked that water could be
flooding into the wheelhouse as he and Jack Phillips abandoned the
Jack Phillips was still sending distress messages
as the power supply to the radio room failed. He died of
hypothermia on or near collapsible lifeboat B. His body was
Harold Bride left the sea service after WW1, and faded into obscurity.
in Scotland in 1956.
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