|Italian liner Florida (simplonpc.co.uk)|
The most notable shipping disaster in association with the usage of the CQD distress signal took place early in the year 1909, on January 24, when the Italian liner “Florida” struck the White Star liner “Republic” out in the Atlantic off the American east coast near the Nantucket Lightship. Jack Binns was the wireless operator at station MKC aboard the stricken “Republic” and over the course of time he transmitted some 200 emergency messages in Morse Code.
Two other ships came to the scene of this maritime accident; another White Star liner the “Baltic”, and a Revenue Cutter the “Gresham”. A total of 1500 people were successfully transferred, with the loss of only six people in the collision itself. The “Baltic” sank at sea, and the “Florida” limped into port at New York.
On June 10 the Cunard liner “Slavonia”, callsign MVA, became stranded near the Azores Islands off the edge of Africa when she struck the rocks off Flores Island. Two German ships, the “Princess Irene” and the “Batavia” heeded the call and rescued all 597 people off the “Slavonia” before she sank. Some of the wreckage of the “Slavonia” is still visible to this day at the islet, Lower Rasa.
It is reported that the first double usage of the distress signals, both CQD & SOS, was sent by the American ship “Arapoe” in August 1909 when it lost its propeller near Diamond Shoals off the American Atlantic Coast.
Two other ships lost a propeller during this year 1909, and aid was summoned by Morse Code telegraphy. These ships were the “City of Racine”, callsign JC, out from Chicago on Lake Michigan and the “Georgia” GC also on Lake Michigan.
The coastal steamer “Ohio” struck a submerged rock off the coast of Alaska on August 9, and Operator George Eccles at the ship transmitter AO continued sending out a Morse call for help even as the ship was sinking. Eccles lost his life, though two nearby ships came to the rescue and picked up the nearly 200 passengers and crew.
Down in the South Pacific, the Norwegian freight and passenger steamer “Ocean Queen’ was on a voyage from Tahiti to the small phosphate mining island of Makatea. As the ship was entering the bay at Makatea, the engines broke down and the ship was driven onto the coral reef. The passenger liner “Mariposa” HK heard the emergency call and took off all personnel before the “Ocean Queen” slid off the reef and sank.
During the early part of the year 1909, explorer Robert Peary led an expedition to visit the North Pole. On the return journey back to the United States, his ship called in to Indian Harbour in Labrador, Canada. He had a message sent to the newspaper New York Times from the Marconi wireless station NR at Indian Harbour, stating “I have found the Pole”. He claimed to have located the North Pole earlier, on April 6.
In Denmark, Einer Dessau communicated with a government wireless station six miles distant on March 18; and in England the PMG Department took over all of the Marconi wireless stations on September 29. In Australia there were just two active licensees on the air; Mr. L. C. Jones in suburban Adelaide and Mr. C. P. Bartholomew in suburban Sydney. In New Zealand, the government complained that local amateur wireless operators were interfering with shipping communications.
In the United States, the Junior Wireless Club was formed in New York on January 2. Many more wireless clubs were formed throughout the country during the year, though this New York club, which later widened its activities as the Radio Club of America, claims to be the very first in the world.
In 1909 the famous maritime wireless station PH moved its operations from Russian Hill in South San Francisco to Hillcrest, which became known as Radio Ridge. During the transfer, station CH in the Chronicle Building filled in and operated the maritime service.
In February, Dr. Lee de Forest installed his new Arcphone radio transmitter in the Terminal Building and a receiver in the Metropolitan Life Building, both in New York City. His mother-in-law, Harriet Stanton Blatch, made a broadcast promoting Women’s Rights which was heard by an audience of senior students from two nearby schools.
In April, the now famous Doc Herrold began a regular broadcasting service over his spark wireless station in San Jose, California. This station was located at his College of Engineering and Wireless in the Garden City Bank Building on 1st & West San Fernando Streets and the antenna system consisted of more than two miles of bronze wire stretched out over four city buildings. The 15 watt transmitter, with a microphone and a battery, operated on long wave at 40 kHz.
On June 21, William Dubilier made a public demonstration of radio broadcasting at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle WA in which he transmitted both music and speech. He was the first to use small sheets of mica to provide a stable capacitance in the radio transmitter.
We should also mention that the Great White Fleet, the American naval flotilla, made further radio broadcasts in January and February, in the Mediterranean and into the Atlantic.
By the end of the year 1909, there were close to a thousand wireless stations on the air in 70 countries throughout the world, on land and on ship. Amateur wireless operators were on the air in many different countries, including the world’s number one radio amateur Don Wallace in Los Angeles, who made his earliest beginnings in 1909 with a Model T spark coil and his own self-assigned callsign WU.
(AWR Wavescan/NWS 302)