United States Senate Inquiry

Day 1

Testimony of Guglielmo Marconi, cont.

Senator SMITH.
I understand, Governor, from the officers that that is their disposition, but this being the president of the Marconi Co., I thought I would like to get into the record his affirmative promise that that should be done.

Mr. MARCONI.
Perhaps I should make one explanation. When I say I am the president of the Marconi Co. these operators are really in the employ of a subsidiary company of what we call the Marconi Co., but this company is controlled by the company of which I am the chairman.

Senator SMITH.
But it is sufficient to say that you feel that you have influence enough to carry out the wishes of the committee?

Mr. MARCONI.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
I want to know if you can tell me from your own knowledge whether there was any general interference from the time this collision occurred at sea on the part of experimental or rival service to the detriment of this service.

Mr. MARCONI.
I should say, if you will allow me, that I have only seen these operators for a few minutes; and not having been there, I can not give a very definite answer to that question. They, no doubt, will be able to reply to it fully, but in so far as my impression goes, it is that near New York there was some slight interference, but at a distance from New York, when the Carpathia was communicating with stations in Long Island and in Nova Scotia, there was practically no interference.

Senator SMITH.
Can you tell me how wide an area was communicated with from the Carpathia, generally speaking - considering, for instance, a wireless of the character you describe?

Mr. MARCONI.
Yes.

Senator SMITH.
And put them in communication with your office here. In the course of that message, how far from its original point of destination would a message of that kind extend?

Mr. MARCONI.
Of course, the message, I should say, does not come direct to our office.

Senator SMITH.
Well, to your -

Mr. MARCONI.
It is taken on a coast station.

Senator SMITH.
To your coast station, then.

Mr. MARCONI.
Then it is sent on by wire to the office.

Senator SMITH.
When I referred to your office, I meant coast station.

Mr. MARCONI.
The wireless message, or the waves of ships equipped in the way, that the Carpathia is equipped, would affect a space which is that contained in a circle of the diameter of three or four hundred miles. The radius of the station being 200 miles, it will affect a space of 200 miles all around. I am now talking about the maximum range.

Senator SMITH.
Then interference would be quite possible?

Mr. MARCONI.
Interference would be quite possible, assuming that interferent stations or parties were using the same wave length as the Carpathia. Fortunately they use different wave lengths; and you can not interfere while using different wave lengths.

Senator SMITH.
What wave length would be required on such a communication as the Carpathia first made to your shore stations?

Mr. MARCONI.
I should say they were using a 600-meter wave, which is one of the international convention waves. I have not the information in regard to that, but I assume it.

Senator SMITH.
Is that the minimum of the international convention?

Mr. MARCONI.
No; it is the longest.

Senator SMITH.
I mean the maximum.

Mr. MARCONI.
Yes, sir; the maximum. The shortest is 300.

Senator SMITH.
And the minimum is 300?

Mr. MARCONI.
Yes.

Senator SMITH.
This was the maximum wave length -

Mr. MARCONI.
Yes

Senator SMITH.
Prescribed by the international convention?

Mr. MARCONI.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Would the instrument of the Carpathia have been able to send a greater wave length than 600?

Mr. MARCONI.
I do not think so.

Senator SMITH.
Did you hear the captain of the Carpathia testify?

Mr. MARCONI.
I heard the end of his evidence; just the latter part.

Senator SMITH.
Did you hear him say that they caught this message from the Titanic providentially?

Mr. MARCONI.
I heard him say that.

Senator SMITH.
That the operator was removing his shoes and about to retire?

Mr. MARCONI.
Yes, sir; I quite admit that it was providential.

Senator SMITH.
And that in five minutes more communication would have been impossible?

Mr. MARCONI.
It was absolutely providential. I agree with the captain.

Senator SMITH.
If this operator is not at his post of duty, has the wireless message no signal to arouse him?

Mr. MARCONI.
Not the way it is installed on most boats.

Senator SMITH.
Did it have on this boat?

Mr. MARCONI.
It had not, so far as I am aware.

Senator SMITH.
Did it have it on the Titanic?

Mr. MARCONI.
I do not think so.

Senator SMITH.
So that it is absolutely necessary that the operator should be at his post all the time in order to facilitate or give effect to communications from ships or coast stations?

Mr. MARCONI.
Yes, sir; or ships in distress, I should say.

Senator SMITH.
Ships in distress and coast stations?

Mr. MARCONI.
And coast stations. Of course, if a coast station or ship calls another ship and the operator does not answer, he simply waits until later, till the operator is awake or until he has come back. I am referring to the ordinary commercial communications.

Senator SMITH.
Yes, but later in this instance would have probably meant that all these passengers and crew that were saved would have been lost.

Mr. MARCONI.
Yes, sir; I quite admit that.

Senator SMITH.
Do you recall any international regulations of the Berlin convention or any provision relating to that matter?

Mr. MARCONI.
I do not think there is any provision in regard to that matter.

Senator SMITH.
Ought it not be incumbent upon ships at sea who have the wireless apparatus to have an operator always at his key?

Mr. MARCONI.
I think it certainly should be. Of course, it might come rather hard on small ships. The shipowners will not like the expense of two men.

Senator SMITH.
On the English basis of wage it would not be very serious?

Mr. MARCONI.
No; it would not be, but it is very much a matter that affects the shipowners; they do not like to carry two operators when they can get along with one.

Senator SMITH.
On the Titanic, if you know, was there a constant relay?

Mr. MARCONI.
You mean a constant lookout? Constant attention?

Senator SMITH.
Yes.

Mr. MARCONI.
Yes; there should be and there was.

Senator SMITH.
That was the purpose of having two operators?

Mr. MARCONI.
That was the purpose of having two operators, and also for the purpose of handling the greater number of messages which come to a larger and more important ship.

Senator SMITH.
Are those men of equal skill?

Mr. MARCONI.
Usually there is one man in charge who is an experienced man, and the other man is also a telegraphist, but a junior man of less experience.

Senator SMITH.
And less remuneration?

Mr. MARCONI.
Yes, sir. I should, if you will allow me, to state that all the wireless telegraphists employed on British ships have to get a license of competency from the English Government, or they are not allowed to operate.

Senator SMITH.
Does that go to their competency as operators?

Mr. MARCONI.
I think it does.

Senator SMITH.
Does it include their character as man?

Mr. MARCONI.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
And general fitness?

Mr. MARCONI.
And general fitness.

Senator SMITH.
Do you have much difficulty in supplying your stations with operators?

Mr. MARCONI.
Sometimes we have. It takes some time to train them. We train them at a school of ours.

Senator SMITH.
Do you have any regulations that touch the question of their habits?

Mr. MARCONI.
They have to be subject to the discipline of the ship. They must obey the captain, as everyone aboard a ship has to do, and of course they have to behave in a decent manner on shore. They must not discredit the service in any way.

Senator SMITH.
I should like to ask whether, in your opinion, the amateur operators of wireless stations are calculated to minimize the effectiveness of practical work on land and sea?

Mr. MARCONI.
I think it does effectively minimize or hamper the useful communications, because on an occasion like this I was told - I always want confirmation from a man who was there - but, if I remember correctly, I was told last night that a great number of unknown stations called up the captain for news.

Senator SMITH.
Unknown stations?

Mr. MARCONI.
Yes, sir. Of course the ship would not reply except to the authorized stations sending traffic. That causes interference and causes trouble.

In England, of course, that is impossible, because stations are not allowed to do that.

Senator SMITH.
How long has wireless telegraphy been a practical science?

Mr. MARCONI.
I think it has been a practical science since - you mean in regard to shipping?

Senator SMITH.
In regard to shipping.

Mr. MARCONI.
I should say since 1900. Of course, great improvements have been made since.

Senator SMITH.
Who made the first successful experiment?

Mr. MARCONI.
On ships?

Senator SMITH.
Yes.

Mr. MARCONI.
I think I did myself.

Senator SMITH.
In what year?

Mr. MARCONI.
In 1897.

Senator SMITH.
Since that time have you have found it efficient in cases of a similar character?

Mr. MARCONI.
To that of the Titanic and Carpathia. Yes; I am very glad to say that it has been of paramount utility in a great number of cases.

Senator SMITH.
In what cases?

Mr. MARCONI.
The most important, looking backward, was the collision, which occurred between the Republic, of the White Star Line, and the Florida, near Nantucket; when assistance was summoned; and, fortunately, in that case practically everyone was saved.

Other cases have occurred with other ships. I remember a lightship in the English Channel which was run down over 10 years ago which obtained assistance by the same means; and one of the Cunard liners got into trouble some time ago - a long time ago - and summoned assistance by the same methods. Of course the two important and sensational cases in which it has proved of utility have been the wreck of the Republic, and this disaster to the Titanic.

Senator SMITH.
Do you regard the Berlin convention as a step in the direction of the international utility of wireless telegraphy?

Mr. MARCONI.
I think in regard to shipping and shore stations it is a good regulation. It is a means for regulating the working and preventing interference; provided, however, that it is administered in a fair manner by the Governments concerned.

Senator SMITH.
How many wireless stations are there now in the United States; do you know?

Mr. MARCONI.
I do not know exactly, but there is a fair number.

Senator SMITH.
What is the maximum distance over which communications may be accurately made?

Mr. MARCONI.
The longest distance I can recall is from Ireland to the Argentine Republic.

Senator SMITH.
From where?

Mr. MARCONI.
Ireland.

Senator SMITH.
From what point?

Mr. MARCONI.
Clifton, Ireland, to Buenos Aires.

Senator SMITH.
In the Argentine Republic?

Mr. MARCONI.
Yes; in the Argentine Republic. That is 6,000 miles.

Senator SMITH.
Have you personal knowledge of the correctness of that?

Mr. MARCONI.
I have personal knowledge, because I was at the receiving end when the message was received.

Senator SMITH.
You were at the receiving end?

Mr. MARCONI.
I was in South America, at Buenos Aires. My assistants were in Ireland.

Senator SMITH.
What wave length was used in that test?

Mr. MARCONI.
A wave length between 7,000 and 8,000 meters, 25,000 feet.

Senator SMITH.
In that test was there any mountainous obstructions?

Mr. MARCONI.
There was a part of the coast of Brazil intervening between the two.

Senator SMITH.
And that is mountainous?

Mr. MARCONI.
That is mountainous in that part.

Senator SMITH.
Was the Californian equipped with wireless?

Mr. MARCONI.
I do not know.

Senator SMITH.
It was not equipped by you?

Mr. MARCONI.
I could not say one way or the other. I should say that I travel about a great deal and ships are equipped in England when I am not there.

Senator SMITH.
Have you made any experiments in transoceanic service of that character?

Mr. MARCONI.
Yes, sir. It is employed at present for transmitting messages between Canada and Ireland, a place called Glace Bay in Canada, and another place called Clifton, in Ireland.

Senator SMITH.
Is that assuming a practical phase?

Mr. MARCONI.
That is on a practical and commercial basis, the distance being approximately 2,000 miles between the two points.

Senator SMITH.
What wave length is required?

Mr. MARCONI.
The wave length there is 7,000 meters.

Senator SMITH.
When was that communication between Ireland and Buenos Aires?

Mr. MARCONI.
It was in October, in 1910.

Senator SMITH.
Is there any proficiency test prescribed by any special board in England?

Mr. MARCONI.
Yes; the operators have to pass a proficiency test before the post office authorities, which control the telegraphs in England.

Senator SMITH.
Is there any in this country?

Mr. MARCONI.
I believe there is now.

Senator SMITH.
How recently?

Mr. MARCONI.
Since a law was passed compelling passenger carrying vessels to carry wireless telegraph apparatus.

Senator SMITH.
About two years ago?

Mr. MARCONI.
About two years ago.

Senator SMITH.
There seems to be a distinction between commercial business and distress or emergency business, ships business. Why should that be so?

Mr. MARCONI.
For this reason: The commercial business is paid for and accounted for between the ships and the shore stations and organizations working the telegraphs on land, whilst, of course, for distress messages and messages affecting the safety of ships no charge is made and is not in itself a commercial business.

Senator SMITH.
The Berlin convention, however, rather exalts the emergency phase of wireless telegraphy, giving to distress calls the precedence over all other calls, does it not?

Mr. MARCONI.
Yes, sir; it has copied us in that, because that was one of our provisions before there was any Berlin convention.

Senator SMITH.
It even takes precedence of Government business, does it not?

Mr. MARCONI.
Even of Government business; yes.

Senator SMITH.
Mr. Marconi, were any orders given by the Marconi Co., to the operators or the operator on the Carpathia, with reference to the receipt and answer of messages?

Mr. MARCONI.
None whatever.

Senator SMITH.
Do you know anything about the effort of the President of the United States to communicate with the Carpathia?

Mr. MARCONI.
Except what I have read in the newspapers.

Senator SMITH.
But, so far as you know, there was no disposition to censorize or control the operator of the Carpathia.

Mr. MARCONI.
There was none whatever; and further, I was very much surprised at the things that were stated in the press, that a reply had been refused or had not been transmitted.

Senator SMITH.
Do you know whether there was a reply refused?

Mr. MARCONI.
Only from what I saw in the press. I might say that the operator, of course, can speak for himself; but I asked him that question last night when I boarded the Carpathia and he told me that he never dreamed of refusing to reply to a message sent by the President.

Senator SMITH.
I think that is all. We are very much obliged to you.