News Why Titanic’s first call for help wasn’t an SOS signal - National Geographic UK


Nov 14, 2005
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Pre radio days did the shipping lines have a way of keeping track of their ships? As in did the ships know where the others were supposed to be on their schedule so they could signal each other? Or were they just reported overdue and then people would go looking for them?
 

Julian Atkins

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Sep 23, 2017
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Hi Steven,

I didn't understand your question/post!

I read the National Geographic article which is rather superficial. As is known on here I'm quite damning of Bride and Phillips. And this article provides another slant on why Phillips' behaviour was reprehensible IMHO over the messages with the Frankfurt's operated Zippel on the German system.

You don't have to take my word for it; it is all in the questioning of Bride and Marconi at the USA Inquiry in their testimonies.

This might be a matter for a separate thread or an add on to those that I have commented upon re Bride and Phillips, but the reports at the time of Captain Harttorff of the Frankfurt contradict what Bride recalled. George Behe has investigated all this exhaustively.

What is also perhaps significant is that Captain Lord and Evans testified in the USA Inquiry they heard of the disaster from the Frankfurt first that morning and not a mention at all of Durrant of the Mount Temple telling them at 5.15am The Californian time (5.11am Mount Temple time) that Titanic had sunk.

The Frankfurt was never going to get to Titanic in time - it was too far away like the Birma - but both arrived at the scene or the proximity of it far too late to be of any assistance later that morning. The Frankfurt seems to have ploughed on regardless late in the morning of the 15th perhaps not having received the Carpathia's message around 8.30am to other vessels to 'give up' as all had been done to rescue survivors (though I haven't checked this, this evening).

The Californian saw the Frankfurt as it exited the Western side of the ice field around Noon on the 15th April and saw the Frankfurt then use the route through the ice field that The Californian had used. There is no record I'm aware of The Californian messaging the Frankfurt 'Go back on your course, Carpathia has reported all survivors rescued and on board'.

At the time of this midday encounter, Evans might have gone for his lunch; the lad had to eat after all!

(Apologies, this reply is much longer than intended; for the USA Inquiry on the Marconi -v- German system have a look at Wyn Craig Wade's book on the USA Inquiry).

Cheers,

Julian
 
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Nov 14, 2005
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Yes maybe that was not the best worded question so I'll try again. What I was asking was before ships had radio's. Say that Oceanic was sailing to New York and the Cedric was sailing to Southampton. Did they know each others schedule and were they supposed to signal each other with signal lamps or whatever method to report all was well if they came into sight of each other to let the company know. That either ship should arrive in X amount of days. Or did they not worry about it. I was wondering because if Titanic had not sent her distress signal and no one knew, how long would it be before they went looking for survivors? Hope that is clearer. Was just wondering if there was a procedure.
Also another question...did Titanic receive any ice warnings from ships that had no radio via morse lamp or semaphore?
 

Dave Gittins

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Steven, the Marconi company produced charts that showed in diagrammatic form where Marconi equipped ships were during their voyages. You looked up the position of your ship and you could see on the diagram which ships were within radio range. There are samples online from various periods, including one as carried by Titanic. Google and ye shall find.
 

Julian Atkins

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Sep 23, 2017
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Hello Steven,

I'm still not clear that I understand your amended question.

2 ships of the same Line or any Line would not see each other on the Atlantic tracks going in different directions.

You do not fire socket signal distress signals mid Atlantic or anywhere in the Atlantic other than to signal distress (apart from Captain Rostron in exceptional circumstances; and with a prior radio warning on his part - which supports Dave Gittins' timings - rather than those of Rostron).

Company signals were extremely rare; and not for the 'high seas'.

Why would any other ship of the same Line be that bothered about where it's other ships of the same Line were? (Which I presume to be the premise of your question). It wouldn't matter a jot, unless you were in trouble.

Like Dave, I've looked at the Marconi Chart for the period issued to the Marconi Operators. (Evans apparently had the wrong one for The Californian at the time - such an idiot!) I've examined the correct Marconi Chart in detail, and it is only a rough guide, especially as lots of ships were off their course to avoid the ice. I hope Dave will agree with me that it was merely a guide to being in range to wireless other ships...

This was pretty much irrelevant as every 2 hours a Marconi wireless operator on a ship would send a "CQ" if on duty, then if it got a reply to a new ship in contact with would exchange "TR''s.

There was no need to resort to firing off any form of rocket between Oceanic and Cedric, and they wouldn't have been seen anyway if they were on different tracks going in opposite directions.

This why Captain Lord asking Stone "were they 'company signals' " just has never made any sense to me - Captain Lord hadn't seen 'company signals' since 1904 on the Darien and that was in estuary waters not on the high sea. Stone had never seen 'company signals' before, and saw 8 white rockets.

Cheers,

Julian
 
Nov 14, 2005
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Well I guess I cant make clear what I'm asking so I'll just drop the question. My question is really a mute point after ships radios became common. Was just wondering how they did things before radio's.
 

Julian Atkins

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Sep 23, 2017
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Hi Steve,

I stand to be corrected but before radio you didn't do anything...

You left the home port, and relied on navigation to get to your destination. What other ships were of your Line and where was of no consequence and totally irrelevant.

Cheers,

Julian
 
Nov 14, 2005
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Hi Steve,

I stand to be corrected but before radio you didn't do anything...

You left the home port, and relied on navigation to get to your destination. What other ships were of your Line and where was of no consequence and totally irrelevant.

Cheers,

Julian
Ok thanks for the reply.
 

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