For some reason, of all the ships that have sailed the oceans, it’s the unlucky ones that capture our imagination. Few ships have been as unlucky as the RMS Titanic, sinking as she did on the night of April 15, 1912 after raking across an iceberg on her maiden voyage, and no ship has grabbed as much popular attention as she has.
During her brief life, Titanic was not only the most elegant ship afloat but also the most technologically advanced. She boasted the latest in propulsion and navigation technology and an innovation that had only recently available: a Marconi wireless room, used both for ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship communications.
The radio room of the Titanic landed on the ocean floor with the bow section of the great vessel. The 2.5-mile slow-motion free fall destroyed the structure of the room, but the gear survived relatively intact. And now, more than a century later, there’s an effort afoot to salvage that gear, with an eye toward perhaps restoring it to working condition. It’s a controversial plan, of course, but it is technologically intriguing, and it’s worth taking a look at what’s down there and why we should even bother after all these years.
Wireless as a Service
When Titanic‘s keel was laid down in 1909, commercial radio was in its infancy. The Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company, popularly known as the Marconi Company after its founder, Guglielmo Marconi, was established mainly to provide wireless telegraphy services to ships at sea. It had only been in business for twelve years at that point, and had only been installing “Marconi Rooms” in ocean liners since 1903. Before Marconi, once a ship was beyond sight of land, it may as well not have existed. Radio changed all that, and the lifesaving potential of being able to send a distress signal was used by shipping lines to justify the expense of adding a Marconi system to a ship.
In practice, though, safety of life at sea was a secondary consideration in including wireless telegraphy into the design of ocean liners. The Marconi Company was a commercial venture, and as such needed to monetize their service to the greatest extent possible. Sending messages back and forth to other ships or using the system to contact shipping agents on shore to arrange berthings were important use cases, but not terribly profitable. Catering to the whims of well-heeled passengers, however, many with the desire to flaunt their wealth by sending a “Marconigram” from the middle of the Atlantic was very profitable. It cost 12 shillings and 6 pence for the first 10 words, the equivalent of $63 dollars in 2017.
The Marconi service proved so popular that in the first 36 hours of the crossing that Titanic‘s two radio officers, Harold Bride and Jack Phillips, sent approximately 250 Marconigrams to shore stations in the Marconi network. The young men, 22 and 24 respectively, worked long hours to service the demand, made worse by a failure of the brand new radio gear – it had only been installed a week before sailing – the day before the collision. The two stayed up all night diagnosing and repairing the problem, which was a violation of Marconi Company policy, but showed considerable dedication to their employer.
State of the Art
The Marconi suite on the Titanic was relatively spacious. It consisted of three rooms: the main room for the operator, a “Silent Room” with soundproof walls to house the loud spark-gap radio gear, and a small bunk room for the Marconi operators. The suite was located on the boat deck between the bridge and the Grand Staircase of the First Class entry. It was located as close to the top of the ship as possible to keep the feedline run to the antenna as short as possible.
The radio gear consisted of a motor-dynamo generator that boosted the ship’s DC electrical supply to high voltage AC to power the synchronous rotary spark-gap transmitter. At 5 kilowatts, the transmitter was the most powerful on the sea, and capable of reaching New York or London from the middle of the Atlantic. International convention called the use of the 600-meter band for ship-to-shore communications, and the 300-meter band for ship-to-ship work.
A Night to Remember
Beginning on April 14, ships in the area off Newfoundland began spotting icebergs. As was common practice, radio-equipped ships would broadcast warnings of the floating mountains, to warn other vessels of the danger ahead. No fewer than six messages warning of icebergs were received by the Titanic‘s Marconi operators. The first two of these messages were relayed to Captain Edward Smith; the last four, however, were never brought to his attention. It is speculated that Bride and Phillips were so busy servicing the backlog of Marconigrams caused by the outage that they never relayed the messages to the bridge. That’s supported by Bride’s response to the last warning from the SS Californian: “Shut up, I am working Cape Race,” referring to the Marconi relay station at the southern tip of Newfoundland. That final warning was received at 23:30 ship’s time, a mere nine minutes before Titanic‘s death blow.
Whatever role Bride and Phillips’ deference to their employer’s business played in causing the disaster, their response to it and the raw power of their gear and their skills as telegraphists made up for it. Without the wireless, there’s little doubt that the loss of life would have been even greater than it was. Titanic stayed on the air for almost all of the two and a half hours it took for her to finally go under, and Bride later testified that Phillips was still transmitting as they heard water flowing up the deck outside the Marconi suite. Both Bride and Phillips made it into the frigid North Atlantic before the bow section slid under and got into the last lifeboat; Bride survived with only minor injuries, but Phillips died of exposure during the long wait for RMS Carpathia, responding to the distress call that he himself had hammered out only hours before. The 705 lives that were saved that night were saved because they stayed on the job, despite being relieved by Captain Smith.
It’s Not a Ship. It’s a Tomb
Titanic‘s secrets, and her dead, lay hidden beneath the Atlantic for almost three-quarters of a century. Once Robert Ballard found the wreck in 1985, it stirred something in the collective imagination, and spawned an entire industry of Titanica. Subsequent explorations of the wreck have mapped out in exquisite detail the location of every inch of the ship and every artifact’s location, and multiple items have been recovered by remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) over the years.
The Marconi suite’s location at the top of the ship was fortuitous, as the bow section of the great ship settled to the seafloor in essentially an upright position. This makes salvage of the gear, which can be seen in the video below, technically possible. RMS Titanic, Inc, an Atlanta-based company that has the sole right of salvage over the wreck, has recently received permission in US District Court in Virginia for the “surgical removal and retrieval” of the Marconi gear from Titanic.
The wreck is protected by a treaty between the US and the UK, which has so far limited salvage to items in the debris field surrounding the wreck. The retrieval of the radio, which will require cutting away a section of the suite’s roof, will mark the first time the wreck has been plundered for its treasure. The argument put forth is a sensible one; that the steadily deteriorating structure of the ship will soon lead to a complete collapse, burying the Marconi gear under tons of corroded metal and rendering it lost to the ages. Others argue that this will be an act of grave robbery, a desecration of the final resting place of 1,527 victims of that fateful night.
Whatever your position, it’s hard to deny that the recovery of such an important artifact, one that both cost so many lives and saved many too, is a tantalizing idea, and one that should prove very interesting to watch unfold.
149 thoughts on “Raising The Titanic’s Radio Room”
This is a fine Marconigram!
Just need to salvage the enclosures, you can simulate the guts with arduinos :-p
With enough photos, you don’t even need the cases, which I’m sure are already hardly recognizable.
Pff. i can do that with an 555. ;-)
I could raise the whole Titanic using nothing but 555’s. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. :)
Clive Cussler had an early novel about raising the Titanic.
Arthur C. Clarke did too, in “The Ghost from the Grand Banks” including a bit of commentary against raising it. And in “Imperial Earth”, but I can’t remember details.
I’m honestly not sure why we seem to be so obsessed with raising it at all. I’m all for exploring, but why can’t we just let it lay?
lol mmm, too rusty the titanic is, turn into dust you will make her.
The radio gear itself is too far gone to be reconditioned. They’ll essentially have to make new ones, and that introduces the problem of Einstein’s Pipe… if the stem and the bowl has been replaced by anyone else than the man, it’s no longer Einstein’s pipe.
Agreed. What makes them think that the radio gear would be intact when the remainder of the ship is rusting away? Was it made out of stainless steel? Dissimilar metals abound in radio gear: copper, steel, brass, iron. That gear is, or will soon be, a pile of dust.
This is treasure hunting. No better than hunting for the bell or the safe. Leave it be. It’s a grave and a monument to the consequences of hubris
Da to je pljačka grobnice ali lopovima ništa nije sveto.
Jedino je pošteno od njih što su javno priznali da su lopovi.
It’s a grave. leave it alone. Why don’t we plunder the tomb of the unknown soldier for the uniform? Why don’t we plunder Washington’s tomb?
It will eventually be reclaimed by the earth, as will we all be.
Neither of those tombs have cool old radios in them
But they have some cool stuff in them, lets grab it!
No one died in the radio room, so taking that equipment is not really graverobbery imho.
I think it’s a totally useless thing to do though. All that high voltage equipment has been damaged beyond repair by exposing it to water.
These analogies are not remotely the same thing. How many tourists get to see the Titanic on the bottom of the ocean each year? If the Statue of Liberty was on the bottom of the ocean, I’m positive we would bring it up so people could actually see it.
We may find out in 100 years.
According to the one radio operator who survived the sinking, in the dying minutes of the ship, a stoker from the crew tried to steal the lifejacket off the back of one of the wireless men as they sent the last messages. Realising what was happening, they knocked him unconscious and ran out of the half flooded room. It is therefore very likely that someone did die in that radio room…
But for good reason.
And it does not help the people who’s rotting corpses are (or have been) on the ship, if we leave anything useful on the wreck. I only do not see much use in raising that totally corroded gear.
How do you feel about the fact that the pyramids have been opened? Does archaeology offend the in general, digging up Vikings and things?
I would not raise the stuff. But not for the reason to fear to disturb bodies long gone and rotten, but because the radio gear itself is mostly rotten and of no use at all. It’s just useless.
I just don’t understand the whole tomb argument.
First the rational response. Dead people are dead. They are gone. A “tomb” is not a home where people continue to enjoy the use of their stuff. At this point all that is left of the people is probably mud. I’m not sure exactly how much value this stuff has to the living as historical artifacts to be observed in a museum but it is certainly more than the value anything can have to a dead person.
Second… completely disregarding the rational response.. regarding non-passenger wrecks where the people involved were all some form of sailor I’ve heard it said that most would actually prefer a sea burial. It’s death where they spent their life. I can somewhat understand that. But for the most part these weren’t sailors. These were otherwise landlubbing passengers. When living they probably expected to be buried alongside their loved ones. Some may have even already had lots purchased for this. As I said, most of the bodies are probably completely gone however there could still be something left inside the boat. If the dead are still so worthy of consideration then they should probably be removed, identified and burried with their families back on land.
And then there is the fact that since the begining of the human species untold numbers of people have lived and died. Everywhere is a tomb. Everything is a grave good. No doubt even much of the material our flesh is made from at some point in the past was a part of somebody else. Deal with it.
All that said, if somebody wants to put my stuff and even my body in a museum after I die they certainly have my permission. My rational mind says it doesn’t matter as I won’t know the difference. My irrational mind imagines an eternity stuck in a casket (or the bottom of the ocean) with nothing to see vs being part of a museum exhibit. I’ll pick the exhibit! Were I Pharaoh the curse wouldn’t be for those who disturb me. It would be for those who leave me lie! All that I ask is that if I somehow end up with my flesh preserved, please don’t display me without clothing.
Do you think if I put down in my will that I want to be the cymbal bashing skeleton on a fairground organ, anyone will honor it?
To be perfectly honest.. I think Yes, someone would!
In your will? Maybe. If your next of kin loves you and has the ability to make that happen then definitely!
Want better odds? I think you should start a HackaDay.io page for constructing the organ. Make your wishes clear regarding the cymbal skeleton there. Ask for volunteers to finish the project only after you are gone.
I’m sure they will display your clothing separately.
I was reading some different things about preservation of bodies at sea back in the early age of sail, a discussion promoted by the transportation of Lord Horatio Nelson. I would suggest what I would like for myself– nice big heavy strong cylinder made by Corning Glass into which the body would be placed and a full measure of good quality Brandy for preservation purposes.
if you have them put a woofer underneath you then when they would be playing the stereo really loud you would be dancing to that disco music…
I had hoped that someone would have responded to this with an actual explanation of how things like this bother them. It could have been some rational explanation of why it is better your final resting place remain undisturbed although I can’t possibly imagine what that would be. Or it could be something irrational like “their ghosts won’t be able to talk to the passengers of other sunken ships without their radio” or some BS like that. Even “Eww, there were once corpses there, icky!” would have been something.
Anything to provide some insight into how a person’s mind works when they get offended that someone wants to recover artifacts from a shipwreck. Maybe I should have finished with the words “Change my mind.”
I guess it just confirms what I really thought all along. The opposition has nothing. It’s just another symptom of the “magic thinking” that so plagues our species and holds us back in pretty much every field to one extent or another.
Oh, and “Bill Gates”. Really? The tomb of the unknown soldier? Fine. I’ll answer you. Whatever grave goods are inside that tomb were put there deliberately with a purpose of being part of a grave. Nobody while slapping the last coat of paint on the radio room walls said “There, that ought ta make a fine resting place for the first crew and passengers”. Every expectation was that it would be used for years, decades even, torn apart and rebuilt for repairs and upgrades then eventually scrapped. Just like most of the people on board probably expected to live long beyond that day and eventually be buried in a place that is nothing like the bottom of the Atlantic. It’s not a burial. It’s an accident. That radio, if enough remains to even call it that bears more in common with the pieces of broken car that one sees strewn about the side of an expressway than it does anything in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
So following your arguments, places like Ausschwitz can’t be tombs and can be raided because the people to which the stuff belonged are dead. They didn’t lived their life there or wanted to be buried somewhere else, so their last resting place can be disturbed.
Not everywhere a person died is a tomb, its where the remains of these people lie. Because of that, many fighting grounds from both WWs are protected areas.
The point is, that this was a human tragedy. 1.500 people died a gruesome death, because they were locked up in the ship or didn’t get onto a rescue boat. There is nothing recognizable left from the bodies so you can’t bury the remains some where else. But on every vest or piece of clothing which is sold, there is probably a piece sticking on it from the person which wore it when they died.
“Vest or piece of clothing that is sold” WTH are you talking about? This is about the radio room!
Ok, I’ll bite. There could be specs of soil in the crud encrusting the radio which did originally come from the bodies. Not that there is anything really special about that. No doubt some of the soil outside the buildings you and I sit in right now has been part of a homo sapien at some point in pre-history.Or maybe more recently? Then again, the dust in the air we are breathing is no doubt full of dead skin particles from people still living and/or the more recently deceased who used to come to the same places so whatever.
Ausschwitz isn’t really that great of a comparison. Ausschwitz is far more than a grave. It’s a testament that people can visit to be reminded when hate is allowed to rule. Were it not for that I would think it best to make it a pretty, tended garden for whatever time period that cemetaries normally enjoy protection in Germany.
The site of the Titanic is just a cold, dark, lonely place on it’s way to becoming nothing but rust-tinted mud.
If you feel the need to show some sort of respect for the molecular remains of the dead then when cleaning the relics save the rinse water. Pour it in a hole when you are done and plant a pretty garden over top. Say a few words and add a plaque if you like. No doubt it’s only a few microscopic specs of anything that used to be a corpse. Still, for those victims that do end up contributing, that’s a far better burial than being left where they are!
You know that there are companies which dive down there salvaging relics only to sell them for big money? And only for the money?
In my opinion, this whole place down there should be treated as a memorial to the people who died there. Especially due to its historic significance. You can’t argue in a rational way about things like that, because they can only be seen from an ethical or emotional point of view. Sure, everything is made up from deap people/animals/plants, but that is not the point.
So, your other argument seems to center around the fact that the one place is visitable and the other one is not? So if you couldn’t visit Ausschwitz, it would be OK to sell the telephones? Or the clothes and other stuff they left behind?
Let’s take another example which probably fits a little bit more: Chernobyl. Does the same logic apply there as well?
Quite so and they did raise the Marie-Rose……
I’m a simple person. I see a Tomb, I raid it.
What if instead of lying in the Ocean, we exhume the bodies and give them proper burials?
Well for starters, because there are no bodies left.
How does this differ from the Pyramids? They’re a grave, too. Not only that, we put the bodies on display without a second thought.
Prolly just coz we didn’t have the inconvenience of Tutankhamen’s grandkids turning up on talk shows to complain about it.
Are you sure? Tutankhamen’s family was famously inbred. Imagine if that loopy line did survive till today. It would explain an awful lot of Springer!
To be honest, I don’t think that presenting corpses or graves are a right thing to do.
Th pyramids on the other hand are no tombs. There is no evidence they were planned as such or were ever used as a tomb. There are no paintings on the inside and no sarcophagus, they are not even mentioned in the hyroglyphs.
I was reading somewhere that they were maybe initially a public building for the good/use of all, then a generation or two later pharoah wanted all the glory of their size and scale and claimed them, getting buried in one.. then later pharoahs did the same and when the great pyramids were all claimed then all the little ones got built purely as tombs.
Hmm. Was that on the history channel perhaps? Were there aliens involved in that “theory”?
‘The pyramids… are no tombs’ is a bold statement to make when a quick google shows plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise. It sounds like this theory has come from one of these sudo ‘History’ documentaries that conveniently ignore vast amounts of research to push some strange theory for the purpose of entertainment.
This is the first google result FYI:
I totally agree, sir.
We dig up graves all the time. Archaeological digs and such. This is no different.
and we move graves to make way fro motorways…………..
meh.. most of the world is a grave in some form. They are doing their best to do things with respect while still making money. Fairly fitting given the tradeoff between misery and profit that the ship represented even when it was operating.
People take stuff from graves all the time. Battlefields, palaces, egyptian tombs, etc. Those people are past caring. The time for respecting them was before they died, when deciding how many life boats to supply, whether or not to heed warnings of icebergs or shave some time off the schedule for glory and profit.
It’s both a grave and an archeological dig.
Not unlike the reactions of movies Titanic, and Pearl Harbor, both tell a love story but one got rave reviews and the other was ridiculed.
Graves exist not for the dead but the living. In most countries where burial is still a thing, most graves are leased for a couple of decades, just enough so those left behind have a symbolic reference. When that function has been fulfilled, it simply becomes archaeology and while this is not a reason to blindly go and dig up every burial, it now is a part of the archaeological record that is eligible for examination when relevant and pressing questions come up.
The only difference between the Titanic and a stone age burial site is time.
Did the titanic’s sister ships (Olympic, Britannic) have similar radio rooms?
There were many Marconi type installations. But nearly all of the old installations have vanished during refits of the ship. Maybe a literal handful has survived in museums or collections.
Perhaps a few more of the Telefunken whistle gap transmitters that remained on ships till the 1970s as backup emergency transmitters, with as little as a ‘Do not use’ tag locking them out.
But Marconi’s extremely wideband transmitters (relying on the Q of the antenna system for reducing bandwitdth) quickly faded away.
“… mark the first time the wreck has been plunged for its treasure.”
Plunged? Should this read ‘plundered’?
Must be an Englass, thang!
The rover has a toilet plunger on it.
It works great to bring up smooth flat artifacts, like dinner plates. ;D
Clearly. Fixed. Thanks.
From the image above it looks like a 5 kW alexanderson alternator, which was later superseded by valve/tube technology.
There is a 200kW alexanderson alternator in Grimeton, Sweden that usually transmits at least twice a year on 17.2 kHz (call sign SAQ) – Alexanderson Day (Sunday at the end of June/beginning of July) and on Christmas Eve.
Actually its a rotory spark gap
Sounds similar to a tesla coil. Which also produces a wide spectrum “signal” or interference.
Forgot to add its a quenched rotory spark gap.
This means the coil seen in the schamatic is a magnetic quenching coil
Sorry for any confusion
Also known as KD8PVZ
What a stupid plan. Nothing of the original equipment will be salvagable, save for some brass hardware maybe.
The money for the project could better be invested in creating a faithful functioning replica of the old transmitter so it can be occasionally used with special FCC permission.
I think the idea of making it work again sounds very far fetched.
But.. it might not be so worthless from a historical aspect. Once they get the corrosion and grime off I bet there will be enough remaining to give it the appearance of what once was. Perhaps they will find that the real life radio didn’t completely match the recorded diagrams. There might be some unknown history there.
And once it’s visually restored it should be an interesting piece to look at in a museum. Sure, they could just build replicas (assuming the reality matches the diagrams) but that’s just not as fun to go see as the real thing. Don’t believe me? Well, I suppose you’ve already browsed all the Smithsonian’s free 3d models through a VR headset at home right? After all, looking at something that appears to be the real thing is just as good as the actual real thing. There is no reason to actually leave your home to experience things right?
“There is no reason to actually leave your home to experience things right?”
Ask after all the pandemics are over.
Salvageable? It will probably turn to dust once it’s touched, never mind ripping it out of the wall, leave it alone.
It can’t turn to dust if it’s already sludge! Unless it dries out I suppose.
Still they used lots of glass, and ceramic insulators right? That and the brass should survive if they didn’t take too much of a knock. Many insulator bushings are solid pieces. The keys and maybe some wires might survive. A lot of the crap in the pictures might be encrustation rather than corrosion, it’s very cold down there. Just need maybe a mild acid to melt off the wee barnacles, or a fine bit on a Dremel.
Big chunks of the Mary Rose, a Tudor warship, still exist in a facility in the UK somewhere. They pulled her up in the 1980s and she’s constantly sprayed with a mixture of balanced water and plastics to preserve the timbers. The wooden housing of some of those bits and pieces seem to still be there on Titanic.
The curiosity driving the public to see it would be immense. Since there were no corpses in the actual room, I can see a case for it being OK to swipe what’s there. Like picking flowers in a cemetery vs digging the residents up. And like some other people mentioned, personally I’d like to be rescued from the bottom of the freezing Arctic ocean and buried on land. I won’t be aware of it then, but it’s what I’d want to happen now I’m here to say so.
The Mary Rose was in 30 feet of water, totally different task of recovery.
Don’t forget that most of the encrustation are the iron eating bacteria, actual recovery whould be similar except for the long trip to the surface, but preserving it whould be the hard part.
Corpses were eaten by the wildlife only shoes remain due to acidic tannins
This plan is just crass, its a grave site, just leave it alone. More instructive I’d say would be to use what knowledge is already there and if you mustm build a replica.
You want to build a replica? I know what I like to have when I build replicas. I like to have the original in one hand (or on the table) and a pair of calipers in the other! It’s kind of hard to build a replica of something that nobody has seen in 100 years!
Maybe there are detailed plans left on paper. Maybe. But if there are how do you know how closely the originals matched their plans? I’ll tell you how. You go recover the originals! Otherwise you might just be building a replcia of something that only ever existed in some engineer’s head.
As an ex radio officer I want to see it – that about a gravesite is just hogwash, graves are dug up all the time
The radio room is clearly functioning as a MacGuffin. The real point is the revenue from the inevitable TV productions, IMAX films, and touring exhibits. If a bathroom were easily accessible instead they’d be going down to recover toilets.
Yes! The Captain’s crapper!
That’s business. If you have a tooth out at the dentist he likely sells it to a med research company. They take flesh and bone from the freshly dead and sell it on, sometimes legitimately, sometimes not so. Individuals aren’t going to choose dignity over a big heap of money. That’s what unrestrained money-chasing (I’d say “capitalism” but how we live is worse than that, now you don’t need the capital, just the brass neck) gets a society.
Only reason to lift up the decaying equipment is for bragging rights.
It’s always cool saying they have in-depth knowledge for the radio room replica. (I’ll find my exit now)
Simple question, why?
It will cost a lot of money and for what? Make a replica of the radio shack and radios if you want. You would have all the benefits with a fraction of the cost.
Add in the fact that the it is considered a grave site and I see even less reason to try and recover it. The negatives greater than the positives.
Not to mention the fact that, if they can actually recover anything, restoring something that has been underwater for that long is going to involve a lot of “new” parts to make it work. Even if those parts are new old stock, they never sail on the titanic. I don’t see much difference between “this is a exact replica of the radio room on the titanic” and “this is THE rebuilt radio room from the titanic! Well not actually, but some of the brass screws and other hardware did actually sail on the titanic. Of course we had to clean them and a few stripped…..”
It doesn’t have to actually work, we have better radios now. The appeal is in the actual stuff from the actual Titanic that actually sank and spent a century at the bottom of the sea.
Authenticity, physical history, is basically all of the value in all those bits and pieces. Because people love stories and looking at a legend with your own eyes can be very moving, eerie, or affecting. There are surely satellite phones that would piss all over Titanic’s radio room in every other way, but have no value at all in the way that matters here.
If you can’t see that point then none of this is going to mean much to you. It’s very important to some people.
Hopefully wreck preservation has moved on a lot in recent decades, it didn’t use to be much good a while ago. The best museums were often significantly worse than just leaving the thing under miles of salt and silt. Stuff would survive centuries in anoxic frigid water then dissolve after 5 years of being nursed by “experts”.
Mind, that said, the first corpse that looks a bit like Leo Di Caprio will have more “relatives” turning up than LUCA.
Actually, a functioning Marconi transmitter replica is very interesting, because lots of knowledge about pre-electronics radio systems is wrong.
It would be super interesting to compare the wideband marconi systems to the narrowband telefunken whistle spark systems.
You can pretty safely operate them in the day time on the medium wave broadcast band. Most areas have a 100khz stretch where you’d be able to operate a spark gap transmitter without upsetting too many people.
Of course, arrange special permission and only do it once or twice a year.
This whole “grave site” business is emotional nonsense. There is no value to it. In a few centuries everything there will be gone, corroded into nothingness, lost to humanity.
Recovering the radio room has historical and entertainment value. In all likelihood it will pay for the effort of its recovery many times over. Its worth can be measured in the money people pay to see it.
Yes. If you really see a use for the corroded equipment, then go and take it. Before it dissolves completely. I am just not sure why I would spend the money for it. :-) But the “grave argument” is of no value to me.
Correction: Nikola Tesla invented the radio. It wasn’t Marconi.
And Thomas Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb, etc, etc, etc, but Marconi did bring it to the world. Also you have to give it to him for inventing Mac & Cheese.
Marconi’s great contribution was reducing the technology to a marketable product and wrapping a service around it. Not only was he a scientific and engineering genius, he was also an entrepreneurial leader. You have to hand it to someone who managed to become the AT&T of the high seas.
Correction – Heinrich Hertz invented radio – not Tesla.
Don’t forget Sir Oliver Lodge who decided to go on vacation befor going to the patient office, live long Maxwellians!
Read it again – I never said Marconi invented radio. He did, however, invent the Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company that bore his name, and still exists (kind of) to this day.
Don’t forget American Morconi, which after WWI was rebranded RCA
They lost their right to recognition after what they did to poor Armstrong.
Marconi is credited with taking a lab curiosity, that had been around for I think decades and showing it couid have value. I think he set out from the beginning to make money from radio. When he spanned the Atlantic in December of 1901, that got attention, and showed that radio wass useful for distance communucation (like ship to shore).
Tesla claims a lot, but I don’t think he knew radio. Besides, he was too late.
Hmm. the Luisitania had a radio as well. and the HMS Hood as well. maybe they can take those as well. the skeletons around won’t mind. I dislike these actions. but lets not forget they took some things of the Titannic already. yes. its a MacGuffin for sure.
Gonna be a bit of a challenge gathering up the pieces of the Hood’s radio set, I would imagine.
The Titanic and Hood sank in far deeper water with more damage than the Lusitania. Being interested in the Titanic for yers, I would like to see the origin wireless set restored enough for display.
Seeing this wireless set will remind people today of one of the reasons for the ships sinking. Money over safety.
Money concerns affected the ships sinking from the quality of the rivets and the steel.
In my opinion this isn’t grave robbing, its an artifact similar to the pyramids etc.
I don’t know how much money concerns added to the sinking. The radio operators did ignore some ice warnings since their job was to send paid for Marconigrams. But the reduction in the number of lifeboats to reduce weight due to a limited coal supply was probably responsible for more loss of life. The construction was supposed to be good for the day. But they never planned for tearing a gash down a length of the hull. The watertight compartments were designed for isolated punctures. And the radio operators did tell the Captain about the ice warnings. They could have asked the closer ship to standby for a bit after midnight. Other ships only had 1 radio operator and they worked until midnight and then turned it off. There were operators still listening from other ships further away because they wanted to even after off duty. The one that got upset could have done that, but being rebuffed as he was chose not to.
Look at the videos and pictures of the radio rooms taken by the submersibles. There is really nothing there to restore. Just small piles of rotted wood, brass screws and fittings, and rusted away iron pieces.
After 4,000 years people might see it as more like pyramid “exploration” grave-robbing than flat-out thieving grave-robbing. Since we already know a lot more about life in the early 20th Century than we did about Ancient Egypt. Of course, the pyramids are made of stone and surrounded by dry sand so their shelf life is essentially infinite. Shame about the limestone veneer but that’s just what happens when you leave valuable stuff out in the open and your civilisation collapses.
The Edwardians were just like us. Many of the same newspapers, institutions, and companies are still going from then. We spoke almost exactly the same language. The Egyptians we didn’t even know their alphabet! And it was one of the first alphabets, the first civilisations as far as we know. And for one of the early ones they got pretty far without too many shoulders to stand on.
As for your other point, you don’t need to go further back than 5 minutes if you want to find examples of greedy bastards risking other people’s lives for their own profit. It’ll happen again tomorrow and it’s happening now somewhere not too far.
The “shut up” was probably a perfectly polite Q signal…
Didn’t Adam Savage to a mini of the radio room?
“Shut up” was and is not a polite Q code. They were also not part of White Star Line but paid Marconi Wireless ops.
“I am busy, please do not interfere” was expressed as QRL, probably what people are calling “shut up” was actually a perfectly polite “QRL” rather than the much longer “shut up”.
Any photos of the captain room
It’s a spark gap transmitter. Those have been outlawed for ages, because they pollute a huge swath of radio spectrum, instead of having signals confined to a narrow frequency range like a modern transmitter. So the idea of restoring it and putting it on the air, even for a short demo, is crazy unrealistic fantasy. Even if a hundred years of saltwater exposure had done no damage, the transmitter can’t be used today without disrupting large swaths of modern communications.
Granted, it is one of the world’s most historically significant radios. I’m conflicted, but I lean toward letting it rest in peace.
The FCC sometimes grants temporary permission for such things.
I have personally transmitted on the one at the New England Wireless and Steam Museum in Rhode Island. They have no antenna connected, but it’s a hoot to hear the spark. Not sure they still let you do it, but man, that was a thrill.
You could operate it in a Faraday cage, reduce the input voltage, and maybe load down the antenna a lot. Reducing the power of century-old equipment wasn’t even a huge problem back then!
RFI is probably bottom of the list of reasons why they should or shouldn’t do this!
If you seriously wanted to send actual spark-generated morse-code pulses from the radio room, assuming it did all work, you’d just need to put a filter and some attenuation stuff on the end, and a suitable antenna.
Spark gaps send a modulated signal. So it’s. MCW, not CW.
It’s also not likely to be stable.
Spark was king in the very early days, when everything was jammed into below 1600KHz, the top of the current AM Broadcast band. Even if spark was viable now, I’m not sure how well it translates to frequencies that might allow it now.
Spark generates a wide signal, it relied on very long antennas to add some sort of filtering, and the fact that radio wasn’ used much so it didn’t interfere with much. Radio rules came in because of everyone jammed into a small slice of spectrum with wideband signals.
Everything was so much better when vacuum tubes couid generate signals.
There’s a famous old alternator transmitter somewhere in Europe that has permission to go on air every so often. I can’t remember if any spark transmitters have similar permission.
Radio was primitive in the days of the Titanic. Lots of wood, and components made of metal, to rot and rust. Chances are not much of value. The only thing is that the radio shack is on deck, making it more accessible than anything below deck
I believe it is interesting to have a museum of what the Titanic had on it but I’d prefer that the original was left where it is and they just display a replica of the artifact.
There is a replica of parts of the ship in Pigeon Forge, TN and Las Vegas, NV and a travelling exhibit at museums around the county for about 6 months at a time. Although a replica, it does have some original artifacts late dishes, etc. Definitely worth seeing. No radio room though.
Get it while we can one day soon all we b lost that we no 4 sure bring it all up .We show and tell mummy so no diff here. If my family member were found bring them up 2 .If u had asked people from that day if one day u could bring stuff up they would maybe say incredibly lats do it remember soon all will b goneeeeeeeee.
The radio room is really nothing so far as knowledge that can be gleaned from this wreck.
But if they are determined to loot the ship there is a treasure beyond anything that can be found anywhere else.
If you look at the old photographs you will see that they had barges that brought hundreds upon hundreds of bags of mail literally tons of it to the Titanic.
Despite the fact that the postal workers tried to move bags of mail up out of the rooms were they were being flooded they were not successful in removing even one bag of mail from the Titanic.
The Mailroom was located at a spot on the wreck that currently is a few feet above the ocean bottom where the ship has come to rest.
This means that the plates on the outside can be cut and the mailroom Maybe entered without having to dig down into the ocean bottom.
There is a time capsule, and archive that is unparalleled in anything that we know of today. These people have already demonstrated that they have a method of preserving paper and making it readable for people today.
Just imagine all of the day-to-day history that they could derive by retrieving all of those letters and all of the little packages that would have been placed in the mailbags. Each bag held 70 lb of mail and there are hundreds of these mailbags still on the Titanic about as far inside it as you could get without being unable to reach it.
Having retrieve all of that it would take a large full-time staff decades to go through everything conserving opening reviewing and scanning all of the mail that’s been left at the ocean floor.
That is the real treasure on the Titanic.
Paper is wood, unfortunately they more than likly got ate by the wildlife
Even if the mail survived, it’s not up for grabs. It’s only 108 years in the past. nothing will be revealed, except secrets that the owners wouldn’t want shared. It’s so recent that there may be a few people alive from 1912, certainly some children.
Mail belongs to the sender, or receiver. the
Everyone keeps using words like “looting” and “grave”. The Titanic is no more of a grave than a wrecked car is after a fatal accident! One could argue that unlike a car accident the bodies remained on board. True, but only for a time. According to a NatGeo show I watched, the bodies have long since completely disintegrated, even the bones. So if the bodies are no longer there, there’s no good argument to prevent people from preserving the few remaining artifacts from what is literally the most famous ship in history.
Throwing away historical opportunities because of the hand-wringing of a few misguided people would be wasteful and sad. Those precious artifacts won’t be retrievable for much longer. We should retrieve as many as possible and distribute them to museums.
Who cares if people feel that it is a grave or not. Plus think of all we can learn from this. It is not like we actually know what the radio room looked liked or how the radios worked….. Oh wait we would learn nothing from doing this… SO don’t bother doing it.
Well we do know what the radio room looked like from the one photo taken of it by a priest who disembarked in ireland. And from the sister ship, the Olympic, which was built at the same time and had the same radio equipment in it and there are several pictures of it including the main transmitter room adjacent to the the radio room the operators used. The only notable difference was the window in the Olympic radio room that the Titanic did not have. And the Marconi company, who built and owned the equipment and employed the operators, had very detailed plans for all of it. From the images taken on the wreck there would be nothing recognizable if you did not already know what it was supposed to be.
I say it is both a grave and an archeological dig both need to be treated with respect and tact. The only thing to realy gain here is the keeping of a few artifacts while most everything else will be eaten away by both the wildlife (most likly what happend to the bodys) and the bacteria ( rust plumes) that is down their. The decision is what do we want to remember
I don’t get this, the White Star line branded porcelain would be better to salvage
how much would the 1% pay for a dinner set from the Titanic???
The perfect accessory for one of Betsy DeVos’s yachts!
Leave it be. This is more mysterious, interesting and of greater historical value as it sits. Instead of spending big bucks on resurrection or reconstruction, put the money toward making radio and broadcasting more exciting to newcomers through education and the use of today’s technology.
As it sits, every last atom will be dissolved in the ocean before the next millennium. Just what is the great historical value in that?
But what ‘s the value of bringing up the radio shack?
It’s only a bit over a hundred years old, this house is 97 years old. The stuff is not a mystery, unlike the Ancient One (ie the Kenniwick Man) or even spanish galleons. Very little will be gained, and the knowledge we have already would be there way into the future. If it disappears, so will any relics brought up from the Titanic.
Finding the Titanic had value, requiring advancement to go that deep, and nobody seemed to know exactly where it was. Plus footage should satisfy most curiosity. But then it opens doors, so some aren’t satisfied, wanting more. This latest is more about “because we can” than any real need.
They can go nuts with this recovery, as long as it’s private money paying for it.
It’s main value is sentimental, like anything from the Titanic. Its technical value is questionable, especially if other better examples of this type of radio exist. It was pretty crude radio at that time.
Privet or family. No different than the pyramids. Remember when Titanic came out but watched the clamor as a similar story came out about Pearl Harbor.
It is relatively easy to reconstruct the equipment. I have already done some of that for display purposes. (Visited by about 60,000 people). To make it work as it did originally is somewhat harder but certainly less costly than salvage. There are several places that have period pieces that make up the operators station and small transmitter. (National Electronics Museum in Baltimore, MD; Antique Wireless Association in Rochester,NY; Spark Museum in Bellingham, WA among others).
These are not 100% exact but close because they have budget constraints. The sister ship, the Olympic, had the same equipment and is well documented. That is what the room in the movie was based on. Except it had a window which the Titanic room did not. There is only 1 picture of the actual Titanic room.
I think it would be better to build a new replica that really worked than to bring up rotted decayed pieces of wood and metal. The brass parts are the most likely to be salvageable and there were not many of them.
Having done extensive research into this, I would be glad to consult with someone trying to build an accurate replica.
You actually misspoke their were two “radio” rooms, the noise insulated transmitter room and the receiver room, which was in the photo.
Absolutely right. The main transmitter room was very noisy and located immediately adjacent to the equipment room. But was somewhat soundproofed to make it possible to hear the equipment room. The main transmitter room contained large coils that generated the loud spark gap noise. When the sink was sinking, it flooded and shorted out first. There was a smaller spark gap transmitter in the radio equipment room (on the right side of the desktop) which continued to be use to send distress calls up to the last.
Yes, that’s the reason I see the effort as useless. But not because of some sentimental “grave” arguments – the bodies are long gone.
What in the world is a “variable coupling jigger”?
A variometer, perhaps?
More like a varo-coupler. Similar but pri. and sec., not connected
In the bad old days I worked for a radio repair shop. Two kinds of sets we wouldn’t touch: Hit by lightning and dropped under salt water. We would offer the customer a new set at cost instead. These folks should follow the same plan. Build a new set as an exact replacement for the old.
have you seen through hole components have the leads eaten through?
with just the solder left behind?
tried a few of those, never got them to work again
This is more electrical than sensitive electronics, Also note that i have heard that old components sometimes had steel leads. A possible cause for the lead issue encountered above. Havent come acrossed it myself but worth taking note.
“an act of grave robbery”
Like the dead will mind if they take the radio… Hey, that reminds me, my relatives never got that Marconigram!
Yep most of us are probably aware that dead people don’t have strong opinions about things. But that’s not the point. What can happen, is that you have wishes, while alive, about what you want to happen to you once you’re dead. That’s what funerals are for, and basically every group of humans ever has had funeral rites. There are also the remaining living who identify with the deceased in some ways, who were people just like them, til not so long ago.
Hence why there are rules against abusing corpses and robbing the dead, in most societies, probably every society.
Yup! And that’s exactly what the Titanic’s passengers and crew wanted. To be left at the cold, dark and muddy bottom of the Atlantic! That’s why they all chose the ship that claimed to be unsinkable!
Yah. If I’m ever on a boat. And if that boat sinks. Feel free to dredge up as much as you can. If my body, or even some speck of wet dust that used to be part of my body ends up back on land as a result my ghost will not haunt you. It will thank you!
Yup! Mine will float around invisibly, doing you favours like some never-greenlit ’60s sitcom pilot.
This is a uniquely historical radio- in the hands of heroes, it saved 700 lives. Retrieving and conserving it for display is entirely appropriate. Few museum exhibits deserve it as much!
Full restoration is a pipedream, but what is left may inspire a tech interest in the young, much as my Remco Crystal Radio did for me.
This has already done it for me just looking at written doc’s. It instilled a want to at least document the past not just for the nubee’s but for old timers as well. Especially, since i am a nubee in an OT’s hobby. Tired of watching the increseing silent keys in QST.
Video title says “(FULL HD)”….. clicks link…. max res of 360p.
5W for transmition to New York, today cell phone need 210 percent more to transmit data 5G to 200m BTS.
;( what a waste energy!
Think band, LF bends near the transmitter and passes though the planet. 5G uses microwave energy which is only line of sight and has more or less the attributes of light with which it is a close relative.
I vote go for it. Future generations in say, 100 years will have only photos and text to learn about this event. Why would it be any different than what we already do with tombs in Egypt, hoping for at least a minuscule idea of what really happened so many years ago? I think it’s almost unethical to NOT salvage and preserve as much as we can before the sea consumes it, and its knowledge data is ultimately skewed or entirely forgotten.
The Ancient One was found in 1996, and reburied quietly three years ago. Carbon dated to nearly 10,000. Some of my family has been on this continent that long.
It was shortly before that they compared its DNA with the distant cousins on the Colvilke Reservation, and there was a match.
108 years is less than twice my life so far. The Titanic is way too recent.
“It will rust away” they say. But 10,000 years from now it will be dust if brought up. It also will be a minor footnote in history, if remembered then.
The only reason this is being considered is because it can. The pyramids lasted because of the way they were constructed. Most things were never built to last.
It is a classic demonstration of technology.
The deginers of the State-of-the-art Vessel
might have not put their mind on Communication
Equipment as it is thought to-day.
Even the navigators not given much importance
to Binoculars which is very important for the task.
It is a good exercise, not to repeat such mistakes
I’m the guy who put forward the whole argument to recover the Marconi transmitting apparatus. It survived the sinking intact, is in relatively good condition after over a century underwater, but it is now threatened to extinction by a disintegrating deckhouse that no longer protects it from the relentless currents at that depth. In court documents, I described its worth as both the world’s most famous “radio” (actually a wireless telegraph, but “radio” is more recognisable to laymen) and the sole surviving 5kW marine telegraph station in the world (the wreck of sister ship Britannic may still have hers but it has yet to be seen) and the rationale for recovery at this time.
This artefact has already, in images, taught us more than we knew about the apparatus that was used to transmit Titanic’s death calls. Each Marconi telegraph installation was unique (the Marconi Co. archives had no information specific to Titanic) and Titanic was the first marine telegraph station to carry a rotary spark discharger, which made her signals stand out from all the others afloat at that time. The Marconi Room set made for the 1997 film “Titanic” was patterned after sister ship Olympic; therefore, it was a surprise when James Cameron explored the Marconi Room inside the Titanic wreck a few years later and found it different from Olympic. Today, the surviving components sit in about a foot or two of sediment…whatever might be buried underneath the accumulated silt (the telegraph key, perhaps?) cannot be determined through remote imaging alone. More importantly, though, it is certain to be lost to history if we do nothing while the structure around it continues to deteriorate. Over the past 20 years, I have monitored the degradation of the deckhouse in which it sits. I saw it with my own eyes during a dive to the wreck just last year. The roof that once protected the apparatus is about to cave in and bury the room underneath forever, just as it did the Captain’s bathtub (which we saw for the first time this past year). I would hate to see that happen.
Why? Because we are privileged to live in a time when the wreck is explorable, where artefacts like the Marconi transmitter can be imaged and studied. Future generations of Titanic enthusiasts will not have that luxury as Titanic becomes more and more recycled back to Nature. What tangible link will be left for them to connect with the ship, her story and the histories of those 1500-some people who died during the disaster? I can think of no greater responsibility as someone who has been to and studied the wreck than to preserve some of it for the future. I coined the phrase, “voice of Titanic” in describing the apparatus. It created, after all, the last messages the outside world heard from the ship as she lived her final moments. It was as much her voice as the texts sent from your smartphone is yours. I want to save that “voice” forever. For those who may not know, Titanic’s transmitter did not actually transmit or receive voice messages, only telegraphic Morse code, so I use the term “voice” a bit dramatically.
It does not matter to me whether or not the apparatus can be restored to working condition, so that we could generate Titanic’s “spark” again. If we don’t save it now, the argument becomes moot, anyway. Can it be restored? I think so, after a complete rebuild of the working components. Or maybe we leave it as is or the moment. Future generations and technologies might someday be able to create wonders with the device that we cannot consider now…no one will never know if we don’t leave them that option.
That, in essence, describes my motivation behind arguing for its recovery. I am currently not involved in the physical recovery of the apparatus because I cannot endorse any plan that would cause an unacceptable amount of collateral damage. In that, I am in agreement with the Court’s current ruling that favours responsible retrieval. Like the Court, I am waiting to see a plan that uses more laparoscopic methods of extraction, even if that means waiting a bit longer for the right technologies to be developed. We can’t wait forever, though, because the wreck’s biological clock is ticking.
I love the film titanic
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