The RMS Titanic and the Marconi wireless station on Cape Cod crossed paths a century ago on a dark day for history. At Cape Cod National Seashore, where the site of that wireless station remains, the sinking of the Titanic will be commemorated during a weeklong affair.
The Titanic with her 2,240 passengers and crew set out from Southhampton, England, for what was expected to be a five-day crossing of the Atlantic to the Port of New York. But four days after departing on April 11, 1912, the Titanic plunged to the ocean floor after striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic.
The fate of the steamship and the 1,500 souls lost is ingrained in the American memory, and has inspired countless books and films. A fact that surprises many is that Marconi's wireless station in Wellfleet played a significant role in the rescue of 740 survivors.
Titanic 100 Years Later and Marconi's Wireless Technology is a week-long commemoration featuring programs by Cape Cod National Seashore, the Falmouth Amateur Radio Association, and the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center to remember the souls lost and interpret wireless communication. All activities are free and open to the public.
In addition to films and special commemorative activities throughout the week, on certain days radio operators will communicate with others around the world to honor the role that Marconi's technology played in the rescue. Seven-hundred-and-forty passengers and crew were rescued by the Carpathia as a result of wireless messages sent from the Marconi Station. Today, the station site is preserved within Cape Cod National Seashore.
This year's commemoration of the Titanic tragedy will transition into the annual International Marconi Day, which is on April 21.
April 12 to 15, Chatham Marconi Maritime Museum, 847 Orleans Rd (Route 28) in North Chatham
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday April 12-Saturday, April 14, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday April 15 : Wireless radio event and museum open to the public. Free.
April 14-15, Cape Cod National Seashore, Wellfleet, MA
9 a.m. April 14- 12 p.m. April 15, weather permitting: The National Seashore and the Falmouth Radio Club will establish a temporary wireless station at the historic Marconi Station Site. This is the original location where messages were sent, resulting in the Carpathia's rescue of Titanic victims. Radio operators will communicate in Morse Code, the mode of radio in 1912, to contact other stations around the world that are commemorating the event. Off Route 6, Wellfleet.
1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.: Visit Cape Cod National Seashore headquarters to view Marconi models, view 1/8 model of the Marconi transmitter, and contemporary bronze bust of Marconi. Off Route 6, Wellfleet.
2 p.m.: Wreath-Laying Ceremony, historic Marconi Wireless Station Site. Off Route 6, Wellfleet. The location of this ceremony is the coastal bluffs overlooking the Atlantic, where the sparks from the Marconi Wireless sent messages to the Titanic its fateful night. Bagpipe music will lead up to a ceremony that includes speakers that will share why the Titanic story is everlasting and what is being done to preserve and protect the Titanic's remains. Speakers include George Price, superintendent of Cape Cod National Seashore; Deborah Marx, marine archeologist from National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and Mark Wilkins, maritime historian from Mystic Seaport - The Museum of America and the Sea.
Uniformed cadets from Massachusetts Maritime Academy will participate in the ceremony, the United States Coast Guard will lay a wreath offshore. Please join us to participate in this commemorative ceremony. Alternate bad weather location will be the park headquarters building also in the Marconi Station Area off Route 6, Wellfleet.
April 14, Cape Cod National Seashore, Eastham, MA
10 a.m. to 4 p.m., on the hour: The Voice of Cape Cod, a 12-minute film about the building of Marconi's Wireless Station in 1901 in South Wellfleet Massachusetts, and the historic first transatlantic transmission sent from the United States to Europe on January 18, 1903. Salt Pond Visitor Center, Route 6 and Nauset Road, Eastham.
6 p.m.: A Night to Remember, 1958 black-and-white film docudrama (123 minutes) about the Titanic, based on Walter Lord's book of the same name. A short demonstration of a "spark gap" transmitter will precede the film. Salt Pond Visitor Center, Route 6 and Nauset Road, Eastham.
April 15, Cape Cod National Seashore, Eastham, Massachusetts
10 a.m. to 4 p.m., on the hour: The Voice of Cape Cod, a 12-minute film about the building of Marconi's Wireless Station in 1901 in South Wellfleet, Massachusetts, and the historic first transatlantic transmission sent from the USA to Europe on January 18, 1903. Salt Pond Visitor Center, Route 6 and Nauset Road, Eastham.
April 19, Cape Cod National Seashore, Eastham, Massachusetts
3 p.m.: Rescue at Sea, a one-hour film that chronicles the collision of two ships off Nantucket in January 1909, and role of Jack Binns, the Marconi radio man aboard one of the ships, who stayed at his key as the ship was sinking. He became known as CDQ Binns, the first hero of wireless, responsible for the saving of 1,500 people. Salt Pond Visitor Center, Route 6 and Nauset Road, Eastham.
April 21, Cape Cod National Seashore, Eastham, Massachusetts
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.: International Marconi Day, annual public event honors Guglielmo Marconi. The Cape Cod Marconi Radio Club communicates with radio operators around the globe in voice and Morse code. Visitors can test their global geography knowledge as they listen to operators making contact with stations from many other countries. Those who can't visit in person are invited to tune in via shortwave radio. The former Nauset Coast Guard Station, Coast Guard Beach, off Nauset-Doane Roads, Eastham.
10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.: Junior ranger activities related to Marconi's wireless technology will be offered at Salt Pond Visitor Center. Kids can use use telegraph keys to learn and practice Morse Code; use walkie-talkies to pass messages; and learn about other signaling methods and codes for rescues. Salt Pond Visitor Center, Route 6 and Nauset Road, Eastham.
1 p.m. to 3 p.m.: Junior rangers can meet with a ranger to learn about a modern use of wireless technology- GPS. Meet at the historic Marconi Wireless Station Site. Off Route 6, Wellfleet.
Noon to 4 p.m., on the hour: The Voice of Cape Cod, a 12-minute film about the building of Marconi's Wireless Station in 1901 in South Wellfleet MA and the historic first transatlantic transmission sent from the USA to Europe on January 18, 1903. Salt Pond Visitor Center, Route 6 and Nauset Road, Eastham.
If you go: The Marconi Station Site is located off Route 6 in Wellfleet. Salt Pond Visitor Center is located at the intersection of Route 6 and Nauset Road in Eastham and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. The center includes a lobby with expansive views of Salt Pond, Nauset Marsh, and the Atlantic; a museum featuring the park's natural and cultural stories; staff to assist with trip planning, and a store with books, maps, puzzles, games, apparel, and other interpretive items.
There are short films shown throughout the day. The Buttonbush and Nauset Marsh Trails, and the Nauset Bike Trail are located nearby. For more information on Cape Cod National Seashore programs, check the park's website.
The Chatham Marconi Maritime Museum is located at 847 Orleans Rd (Route 28) in North Chatham MA 02650.
A fact that surprises many is that Marconi's historic wireless station in Wellfleet played a role in the rescue. In a published New York Times interview with Harold Cottam, the sole Marconi wireless man onboard the rescue ship, Cottam recounted his purpose in making radio contact with the Titanic that fateful night. It was to inform the Titanic's Marconi wireless men that Marconi's long-distance Cape Cod Station was sending a batch of messages to them. However, after giving the message about Cape Cod, the Titanic's Marconi wireless man instantly replied with, "Come at once. We have struck a berg." Thus the rescue of survivors began.