A judge deciding whether RMS Titanic Inc., can retrieve the radio used to call for help after the ship hit an iceberg needs more time before issuing a decision, said the company’s attorney David Concannon.
US District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith heard the proposal presented by Atlanta-based RMS Titanic Inc. — which has exclusive rights to salvage artifacts from the Titanic — in a Virginia federal court earlier this week.
The removal of the radio would require the company to remove a part of the historic ship’s deckhouse to access the room where the radio is. Known as “silent room,” it had soundproof walls and housed the wireless telegraph transmitter developed by the Marconi Company and operated by company employees.
The famous ship, which was deemed unsinkable before its April 1912 voyage, and its contents are now protected under the R.M.S. Titanic International Agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom. The ship rests about 12,000 feet below the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean 370 miles (600 km) off the coast of Canada’s Newfoundland province.
For the August planned expedition, RMS Titanic Inc. would need to obtain federal court approval to work inside the hull of the ship and remove the rust-covered radio, officials say.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says in court documents that RMS Titanic Inc. has recovered at least 5,000 artifacts from the ship’s debris field and that the government wants to protect the best interest of the public and the Titanic before the company can take additional artifacts. The agency said intrusive recovery activity must be evaluated based on whether there is a justified educational, scientific or cultural interest.
The company says its work includes educating the public through expeditions and artifacts.
Why does RMS Titanic Inc. want to get the radio now?
RMS Titanic Inc. argued in a court document filed last year that little was known about the most famous radio in history and that the company wanted to recover it before conditions deteriorated further and the piece of history was lost.
The company cited a report conducted by Titanic expert Parks Stephenson, who visited the wreck in 2005, 2010 and 2019, saying that large sections of the deckhouse have collapsed since 2005.
The radio was in what was known as the Marconi Suite. The suite, made of steel, consisted of three areas: sleeping accommodations, an operator’s room and the silent room that housed the radio. Each area was separated by wood walls that officials believe have dissolved, the documents say.
Company officials will revise their current plan to make it less intrusive, Concannon says. A motion will be filed to modify the July 2000 order that states nothing can be cut or detached from the wreck, and the government will have two weeks to respond to that motion.
The court will then set a hearing date to file on the motion, Concannon says. No one has seen the historic radio outside of the boat in 110 years and at least one expert working on its recovery believes it can be restored, Concannon says.
The final call made from the Marconi
According to the Senate report released on the Titanic, the final calls from the Marconi began around 10:25 p.m. ET on April 14, 1912. The call from the operator was a distress signal, or CQD.
The report said the Titanic had been struck by an iceberg. A half hour later, another message said the vessel was sinking by the head and women and children were being placed into lifeboats. The operator noted the weather was calm and clear.
The final message that was audible said, “Engine room getting flooded.” The signals were blurred and ended abruptly.
Although more than 1,500 passengers and crew perished in the disaster, the distress calls brought ships that rescued about 700 people.
CNN’s Isabelle Lee contributed to this report.