Encyclopedia Titanica

Wireless Flashes Heard By Two Toronto Operators

The Toronto World

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Messages Sent by Ports Along the Atlantic Seaboard Are Often Caught at (sic) Local Station if the Night is Clear---Tapping of the Instrument Decipherable at Times Since the Wreck and Enquiries to Steamers Are Heard.

Alto [sic] Toronto is many hundreds of miles away, enquires by wireless from New York, Boston, Washington, Cape May, N. J., and several other ports along the Atlantic seaboard to steamers on the ocean, for further information on the wreck of the Titanic, were heard by two Toronto wireless operators last night.  There is only one station working here at the present time, which is at the Goodyear rubber works office, East Queen-street, connected by the Clark system of wireless with their factory at Bowmanville.

Fred B. Barton and Hunter MacLaren, the operators, ever since the first flash of the wreck have been on the alert, merely as an experiment, to see what could be done by the Toronto station, and they have had the satisfaction of at least hearing various ports transmitting to the steamers, but as the steamers are away out of range they could not hear replies.  Cape Race, Nfld., is also out of range of the local station's wave length.

Eaton's station has not yet been opened for the season, but had it been a successful experiment there also would have been achieved.

It is Noteworthy

To hear messages on the waves of ether [sic] from such a distance is noteworthy.  It was a remarkable distance for the enquiries to be readable in Toronto, but the night was comparatively clear and the intermittent dull tapping could be heard quite distinctly at times.  Now and then the sound of the "sparks" was blurred abruptly and cut off altogether.  Most of the enquiries were made of the steamer Carpathia for further advices, regarding survivors.  It is usually understood, however, that you can read much farther by wireless than you can send.

"Bulletins Heard".

Had it been a clear night on Sunday instead of rainy, it is possible that the two local wireless operators would have heard the bulletin that the steamer had struck an iceberg.  Very rarely a message from steamers to the Atlantic ports has been "caught" here, but not long ago when the operator on the Mauretania flashed a bulletin to Boston.  It was heard at the local station.  In some cases nothing is heard from the steamers but New York, Washington and the other cities are always within range.

Some Big Stunts.

Quite often when the operators "listen in" at night, when everything is clear and free from interference by small stations, they can hear Cape Batterns working with ships.  One night long ago it was exceptionally fine for receiving signals, and they "tuned in" to Key West, Florida, which was 1500 miles away.  Another happening that caused no little amazement among themselves was the National Electric Signalling Company's Station at Brant Rock, Mass., and they thought that the operator was working in communication with Machrihandish Bay, on the west coast of Scotland.  Operators have a code book showing the different "calls". [sic] which is always referred to when the dots and dashes are readable.  Another time [sic] Key West was heard talking to the naval station at Norfolk, Virginia.

The report that when J. G. Phillips of the Titanic had flashed the distress signal [sic] the operator of the doomed vessel could not hear the reply of "O.K." meaning that the signal had been received, is almost incredulous in the opinion of Mr. Barton, who is one of the best posted wireless men on the lokes. [sic]

How Did it Happen?

The giant steamer collided with the iceberg at 10.25 Sunday night.  Between the hour of 10 and 12 o'clock every night [sic] the Boston transatlantic station transmits the press despatches containing the news of-the day to all the ocean liners in order that the passengers may read the daily newspapers published on these boats.  Mr. Barton is inclined to believe that as the Titanic was "tuned in" to Boston to receive the press.  Phillips was unable to receive replies from the Virginian, Olympic or Baltic that aid was coming on account of being out of range.  He explained that in sending a message it may be picked up by steamers all around as far as the current will allow, but in receiving one it is necessary to adjust the intricate instrument in such way as to be enabled to catch replies.  Even if the Virginian had been only 20 miles away about nine operations of the different parts of the instrument on the Titanic were necessary to bring it into range and hear the transmissions.  It may have been that in the exciting moments following the terrible crash [sic] the operator did not make a proper adjustment of the wireless instrument so as to get the answer of aid coming and thus assure passengers [sic] and crew that boats were racing to their assistance.

Tapping From Far Off

When Mr. Barton was talking to The Toronto World, he was seated before the wireless instrument with the receiver clasped to his ears in an endeavor to catch any messages.  A question was being put to him, but he held up his hand for silence.  A message was being flashed from New York to some steamer on the Atlantic.

"Just a minute," he said, and then "Here put your ear to this."

The reporter placed the receiver on and then heard the dull tapping, which was nevertheless decipherable.  It was the continental code, which is slightly different from the Morse code, by the changing of eleven letters making the words easier to receive and transmit.

The tapping continued for a few moments, then ceased.  Only a second had elapsed, when another station chimed in.  This continued througout the entire night with the two Toronto operators catching signals now and then. 

Of course, messages that are sent by wireless are coached in secrecy by the operators just the same [sic] as in the case of telegraphers.  Wireless men are bound by the company and the government not to repeat any message they have heard or seen.                 

Related Places

Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Encyclopedia Titanica (2006) Wireless Flashes Heard By Two Toronto Operators (The Toronto World, Wednesday 17th April 1912, ref: #5031, published 1 May 2006, generated 15th October 2021 01:41:10 PM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/wireless-flashes-heard-two-toronto-operators.html