Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts has invited organizers of an Amateur Radio special event in April marking the 105th anniversary of the RMS Titanic disaster to set up at its Salt Pond Visitor Center. The Titanic/Marconi Memorial Radio Association of Cape Cod — W1MGY — is sponsoring the worldwide commemoration to honor the approximately 1,500 passengers and crew who died when the Titanic — thought to be unsinkable — struck an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage from England to the US. W1MGY operators have permission to operate from the national park for 3 days and 2 nights.
Sponsors point out that the 740 Titanic survivors were rescued by the Carpathia as a result of wireless messages sent from Marconi’s Wellfleet Station, today preserved within Cape Cod National Seashore as its “Marconi Beach” site. Between April 13 and April 22, the national park will host commemorative events, including the special event, centering on the Titanic disaster and the evolution of wireless communication, culminating in the worldwide International Marconi Day. All Titanic events will be held at the Salt Pond Visitors Center in Eastham. Events are free and open to the public.
“We will operate from there on April 13, 14, and 15 until 0527 UTC, the time the Titanic’s last radio message was heard by the Virginian. The vessel foundered 20 minutes later,” said Barry Hutchinson, KB1TLR — the new trustee of W1MGY, which itself recalls the Titanic’s MGY call sign. W1MGY, which has been on the air for past Titanic on-the-air events, will transmit a message at the time the ship foundered.
For more than a decade, W1MGY special operations have marked Titanic anniversaries. ARRL Lab staffer Mike Gruber, W1MG, became W1MGY’s trustee in 2003, and he and others operated Titanic special events in April from the Titanic Museum in Indian Orchard, a part of Springfield, Massachusetts.
“These events were always very special to me personally,” Gruber said. “I’m thrilled to see someone with Barry’s experience and enthusiasm now making it happen at Cape Cod National Seashore.”
W1MGY will set up two stations staffed by about two dozen volunteers and operate on CW, SSB, and possibly PSK31. All operating will be done in the General class band segments. As starting points, Hutchinson suggested 3.950 MHz, 7.270 MHz, and 14.285 MHz, adding that band conditions would dictate whether they try 15 and 10 meters. W1MGY will be on the air for a public demonstration on April 15, from 9:30 AM until about 2 PM EDT, when the Cape Cod National Seashore will show the movie Titanic to close out the event.
Hutchinson said park visitor center staffers have been enthusiastic and very supportive of the event, and he hopes the park will be willing to host future Titanic events.
The park is a sponsor of the Marconi Cape Cod Radio Club KM1CC. The Marconi Beach site, 6 miles north of the Salt Pond Visitor Center, features exhibits and displays of Marconi memorabilia, including a model of the old Marconi station near the site and a bust of Marconi.
“I expect W1MGY and KM1CC will partner for events in future Aprils, as the dates of the Titanic event are the beginning of the week of the annual International Marconi Day event that is very popular at the park,” said Barbara Dougan, N1NS, who is the current KM1CC trustee and a national park employee. “We average about 400 visitors to our operating location as well as make over 1000 on-the air contacts.”
The event will also feature stories of early marine wireless communication and a short film, The Voice of Cape Cod, which describes the building in 1901 of the Marconi Wireless Station in South Wellfleet and the first transatlantic transmission sent from the US to Europe on January 18, 1903.
On April 21, the longer film, Rescue at Sea, will be shown. It chronicles the collision of the Republic and the Florida off Nantucket in January 1909, and the role of Jack Binns, the Marconi radio man aboard the Republic, who stayed at his key as the ship was sinking. He became known as CQD Binns — the first hero of wireless, more than 1,500 passengers and crew were saved. In 1909 CQD was the Marconi signal used to call all ships in an emergency. Like the Titanic, the Republic, also hailed at the time as unsinkable, was owned by the White Star Line. Binns later turned down an offer to work on the Titanic.
On April 22, the Marconi Cape Cod Radio Club’s KM1CC will take part in International Marconi Day on April 22 from the Nauset Coast Guard Station in Eastham, Massachusetts.