Re Distress call picked up by shortwave radios


Oct 15, 2007
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Hi! I'm posting this because maybe somebody else has a family member that also picked up Titanic's SOS.My family has a story that has been passed from generation to generation.My grandmother had a brother that I called a "Genius."He could build a lot of things. One day he built a shortwave radio and actually picked up the SOS to the Titanic.He wrote down the time and date. When he told the family they laughed at him and said it was "unsinkable." They told him there was no way it could go down. My family found out the grim news a few days that the "unsinkable turned into the unthinkable." My mother said my grandmother never really mentioned much about him,and I do know he turned the radio over to the government. Probably thinking it would help the investigation. It's too bad he couldn't testify at the American inquiry. I wanted to know how popular shortwave radios were back in those days? What are the chances of intercepting the SOS's of ships? As far as I know I don't have any family ties to anybody on Titanic. I'm not related to Catherine Manning. But my middle name is Catherine and of course my last name is Manning. If anybody can respond to this it would be greatly appreciated!!! Thanks
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
>>I wanted to know how popular shortwave radios were back in those days?<<

I don't know how popular it was, but it wouldn't have been all that difficult for somebody to either buy or build a set and not only listen in, but take part in the conversation. Radio was a largely unregulated medium back then.

>>What are the chances of intercepting the SOS's of ships?<<

A lot would depend on the atmospherics. They didn't have much trouble picking it up in New York City. If the conditions were right, that signal could go quite a distance by way of bouncing off the ionosphere.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Parks Stephenson would be better able to explain this, but as I understand it shortwave radio would not have picked up Titanic's signals. Titanic used the 600 metre wavelength, which is far from shortwave. Marconi spent years barking up the wrong technological tree, using long wavelengths and high power outputs.

It's true that amateur operators picked up signals, at least from Carpathia and other ships, if not from Titanic. Worse still, they sent signals of their own, confusing the situation. They were heavily criticised for this. An ironic effect of the Titanic affair was that amateur radio operators were forced to abandon frequencies used by ships and restrict themselves to shortwave. This turned out to be just what was needed for communication over long distance and soon hams were sending signals across the world, using low power.

If your relative did what was claimed, he didn't do it on shortwave. If he lived on the US or Canadian coast, the story is just possible, assuming he had the right set and a very large antenna.
 
Oct 15, 2007
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That's what my family said. He did live in the US. I'm wondering what it looked like and how he would get it to pick up the signal that far from Illinois? I'm hoping Parks Stephenson reads this. I'm just curios about this. I'm sure that if he turned the radio over to the governmenthe probably didn't pursue money,because he didn't want to profit off of the disaster like so many do.Another question that I have it what time was it in the US when Titanic sank? I know it was 2:20AM when Titanic went down.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Chicago, IL, USA
www.titanicology.com
The frequency band that was used is known today as the Medium Frequency (MF) band. 600 meter wavelength corresponded to 500 KHz, or 500,000 cycles per second frequency. This is far from being shortwave radio which runs in the High Frequency (HF) band from 10 to 100 meter wavelength. If it were a shortwave radio that he built, it wasn't Titanic's signals that he picked up. You may have to consider that it may have been just a story he told to get the government interested in his invention?

Regarding your question about time Shannon, time in New York was about two hour behind time on the Titanic.
 
Oct 15, 2007
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I'm wondering if it was another type of radio that he made and not that? My mother says they have proof of it. You know you can tell people about this and by the time it gets down the line there's a different story being told about that person. Perhaps maybe that's what my family has been doing. If this is really true,he should've gotten a patent for it instead of turning it over to the government. My mom said he didn't get anything in return and his family suffered bad financially because of it.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
>>I'm wondering if it was another type of radio that he made and not that?<<

I suppose somebody well versed in radio technology would have to take a look at the rig to tell you that one way or another. Keep in mind that being able to recieve a signal is a matter of being tuned to the right frequency to begin with, after which there is the question of the antennea being the right length to pick it up.

The Titanic's antennea extended the length of the ship so that should tell you something right there. If your ancestor didn't have an antennea of similar length, it's not at all likely that he would have heard a thing.
 
May 3, 2005
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>>This turned out to be just what was needed for communication over long distance and soon hams were sending signals across the world, using low power.<<

A book was written about how the amateur radio operators were forced to operate on what was then considered "the useless shortwaves" spectrum Entitled "200 Meters and Down", the book traces the development of radio above 1500 KHZ. (The broadcast band is from 550 to 1700 KHZ or about 600 to 200 Meters).

I'm not much in the way of fiction, but I once wrote sort of a sci-fi story in which teen-aged Benjamin Franklin "Ben" Calvert (Rose's future hubby and Lizzie's Grandfather ) picked up Titanic's CQD/SOS in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on 14 January 1912. Of course
Ben had a "long wire antenna."

I was going to write Art Collins into the story, but he would have been only three years old in 1912 and that's stretching the "child prodigy" story a bit. ;-)

Considering the low frequency (500 KHZ) "skip" might or might not have been possible. From my experience in ham radio, just about anything is possible on the higher frequency HF bands (3-30 MHZ )and even on UHF and VHF (30-300 MHZ and upwards).

Building a receiver would have been a fairly simple and easy way to listen, but building a high power transmitter would have been another thing. (IMHO). Some amateurs built low power transmitters using Model T Ford spark coils.

73 es vy best dx,
"Bob" , W5TBC
 
May 3, 2005
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Shannon-

This website has some pictures of what the receiver might have looked like.:

http://www.crystalradio.net/beginners/index.shtml

Since the fictional "Ben" Calvert was the son of the fictional CEO of "Shaker Oats" (which later merged with Quaker Oats) and later took over from his father after he married Rose, he would have had easy access to oatmeal boxes. LOL.
 

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