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His name was Jack Phillips and he sent the most famous radio message in history. Well, if not the most famous, it was at least among the most infamous. At the tender age of 25, he was the senior radio operator and had already amassed years of experience.
The night his message became famous (April 15, 1912), Jack operated a 600 meter rig running 5 kW, although only about 500 W actually made it to the Twin T antenna array. His spark gap transmitter wasn’t all that efficient, you see.
He operated using the call MGY, the callsign designation for the ship he served on. As an employee of the Marconi International Marine Communication Company, Jack Phillips was well versed in the Marconi radio procedures – including the usage of CQD (meaning – All Stations Distress). So when his ship, the Titanic, collided with an ice berg and began taking on water, Jack signaled to anyone who had a receiver CQD de MGY.
Following the collision, Harold Bride (the junior wireless operator) reported to the radio room. As the ship was sinking, Harold suggested Jack use the newer internationally recognized distress call, <SOS>. Half joking, Harold added, “This may be your last chance to use it.”
Although the Titanic was not the first ship to use the prosign <SOS>, it was the first (and last) to use both distress signals. Unlike Jack Phillips, Harold Bride was one of the survivors of the disaster.
This is a link to a facsimile of what the CQD/<SOS> call from the Titanic probably sounded like:
By the way, as an historical side note, the ham radio operators on the eastern US seaboard spontaneously stayed off the air the night the Titanic sunk. They, instead, copied the rescue traffic as it happened in the North Atlantic. The next morning, thanks to the hams copying the names of the survivors as they were transmitted throughout the night, the newspapers were able to publish a survivors list.

jack phillips.jpg

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