Titanic was regarded as "state of the art" in terms of engineering. The Marconi wireless equipment on board was powered by a 5 kilowatt motor generator in the engine room and backed up with an emergency generator elsewhere in case the engine room flooded. An additional source of power was storage batteries in the Marconi room itself. It had a guaranteed working range of 250 miles but communications could be maintained for up to 400 miles during daylight and up to 2000 miles at night (16). The "Marconi room" was located on the boat deck, the same as the bridge, at the afterend of a superstructure containing the bridge and the officers' accommodations. The wireless cabin contained a sleeping room, a dynamo room, and an operating room. Although Titanic had 50 telephone lines, no line connected the wireless room with the bridge. On Titanic the two wireless crew, First Wireless Operator John (Jack) G. Phillips, 25, and Second Wireless Officer Harold Bride, 21, were considered part of the Victualing staff along with the waiters.
A Timeline of Wireless Interactions on Titanic
Thursday April 12. The French liner La Touraine sends a message warning of ice but it is 1,000 miles away. This message is given to Captain Smith who then gives the position to Fourth Officer Boxhall who notes it on the map in the chart room.
Friday April 13. Titanic and Rappahannock pass each other and Titanic is warned of heavy ice pack. Also on April 13 there were some problems with equipment but they were fixed by 5 AM. This resulted in wireless operators Bride and Phillips being very busy trying to catch up with passenger messages to be sent.
Saturday morning at April 14 at 9 AM. Caronia reports "bergs, growlers, and field ice". This message is put into a frame above the chart room table and later shown by Captain Smith to Second Officer Lightholler. After lunch at 1:42 the Baltic transmits a message reporting ice 250 miles ahead of Titanic. This message is shown to Bruce Ismay, managing director of the White Star Line, by Captain Smith. Ismay later shows this news with two socially prominent ladies. This message was never noted on the bridge. At 1:45 Amerika reports passing two large icebergs at 41.27N,50.8W. This message was addressed to the U.S. Hydrographic Office in Washington, D.C. but it was beyond her own range; as was the custom, Titanic forwarded it. This message is not sent to Captain Smith.
Saturday evening at 7:30. Californian reports ice 50 miles ahead at 42.3'N,49.9W. This message was addressed to the liner Antillian and Bride just happened to catch it. At 9:40 Mesaba reports a huge ice field, latitude 42N to 41.25”N, longitude 40W to 50.30”W: "much heavy pack ice and great number large icebergs, also field ice". This message indicated there was a wide belt of ice some 78 miles directly across the ship's path. Titanic was already in the rectangle blocked out by this warning. It is a mystery what happened to this message.
11:00 PM. The freighter Californian states "We are stopped and surrounded by ice", but doesn't give position; later it is discovered that this ship is only ten miles away from where Titanic sank.
By this time Titanic is within range of the land-based Marconi station in Cape Race, Newfoundland and Operator Phillips is trying to transmit many personal messages about arrival times and hotel reservations. He is also relaying messages to ships no longer in direct contact with land. He responds to the California message by saying: "Shut up. Shut up. I am busy I am working Cape Race."
11:30 PM. California Wireless Operator Cyril F. Evans closes down his set by going off duty at his regular time. He is being visited by Third Officer Groves who likes to visit when off duty. Evans says that Titanic is nearby. Groves puts on head phones. He has some basic skills that enable him to to read simple messages but doesn't know much about equipment. He does not wind up the magnetic detector so can't hear anything; he puts headset down at 12:15.
11:40 PM. Titanic strikes a massive iceberg.
12:15 AM The first Morse code message from the doomed passenger ship is sent out when First Wireless Operator Phillips transmitted “CDG - MGY” along with the ship's coordinates. Cunard lines Carpathia operator, Harold Thomas Cottam, who was on the bridge when the distress signal was first sent, is now back at his wireless station and sends a casual message that there were private messages waiting for Titanic at Cape Race. Phillips responds: "Come at once. We have struck a berg. It's a CQD, old man. Position 41.46N 50.14W."
Sixty-eight miles away Carpathia hears the call for help and responds. Other ships within range hear the distress call and turn to help while also relaying the message to others. The land-based Marconi wireless station at Cape Race on the far eastern end of Newfoundland passes the message onto the newly installed wireless station on the roof of Wannamaker's Department Store in New York City where David Sarnoff, a young operator, catches the faint signal. The word is spreading to the whole world.
12:34 AM. Frankfurt is 50 miles away. Phillips asks if they are coming to assist and gets the question "What's the matter?" Phillips responds: "Tell your captain to come to our help. We are on the ice". Olympic, Titanic's sister ship is 500 miles away but with a powerful wireless set. She keeps in touch and urges closer ship to assist.
12:45 AM. First Wireless Operator Jack Phillips taps out a new distress signal that had just been adopted at an international convention because it would be easier for amateurs to use and to pick up. Watching is Captain Edward J. Smith and Second Officer Bride who had said: "Send SOS. It's the new call, and it may be your last time to send it." Rockets are also set off. Wireless messages continue to be sent out.
1:25 AM. Olympic asks "Are you steering south to meet us?" Phillips replies: "We are putting women off on boats." A message comes in from Frankfurt:: "Are there any ships around you already?" From time to time Captain Smith stops by to warn that power is fading.
1:45 AM. Phillips sends another message to Carpathia: "Come as quickly as possible, old man; engine room filling up to the boilers." As Phillips continues to send messages, Bride drapes overcoat on Phillips's shoulders and straps on his own life belt.
2:10 AM. The last wireless message from Titanic is sent as Phillips struggles to keep the set going. The last message sounds two v's which were heard faintly by Virginian as he tries to adjust spark for better results. Bride makes final inspection tour. A stoker comes in and tries to take Phillips' life jacket. A fight breaks out and the Bride grabs his arms and Phillips hits him again and again until the stoker becomes unconscious.
At the sound of sea gurgling up the A Deck companionway and washing over the bridge the men run out. Phillips disappears aft. Bride joins others on the roof of the officers' quarters where there are collapsible boats. Bride grabs an oarlock from a collapsible lying upside down and is washed overboard, under collapsible B as the falling funnel washed boats clear of the crowd. Swimmers make their way to these boats. The collapsible is still upside down with Bride floating on his back and breathing stuffy air. With a dozen men on top of the boat, Bride dives out from under and climbs on.
2:17 AM. All power is lost.
2:20 AM Sunday April 15, 1912. Titanic goes down.
3:30 AM. The rockets of Carpathia are first seen by lifeboats and at 4:10 the first lifeboats arrive at Carpathia. One of the survivors is Second Wireless Officer Bride.
8:50 April 15, 1912. Carpathia heads to New York with survivors.
Over the next three days no news was wired from Carpathia to shore except for private personal messages
Thursday April 18: Titanic arrives in New York City with 745 survivors including 206 crewman and four officers.
Wireless Operator Bride is interviewed by reporter Jim Speer who went onto Carpathia a with Guglielmo Marconi. His survival story is published by New York Times under headline: Thrilling Story by Titanic's Surviving Wireless Man" . Friday's papers had a flood of misinformation from passengers as less scrupulous reporters write stories which they knew would not be checked
April 19-May 25: Senate hearings begin with the testimony of crew and passengers.
May 2-July 3: British Board of Trade Inquiry is held.