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Judge OK’s plan to recover Marconi telegraph, ‘world’s most famous radio,’ from the Titanic

Court documents filed by RMS Titanic, Inc. illustrate the company's plans to recover the Marconi wireless telegraph equipment from inside the wreck of the Titanic.
Court documents filed by RMS Titanic, Inc. illustrate the company's plans to recover the Marconi wireless telegraph equipment from inside the wreck of the Titanic.Court records filed by RMS Titanic, Inc.

A federal judge has given the green light for an expedition team to recover the Marconi wireless telegraph from inside the wreck of the Titanic.

US District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith ruled this month that the telegraph could soon be lost within the rapidly deteriorating shipwreck and saving it "will contribute to the legacy left by the indelible loss of the Titanic, those who survived, and those who gave their lives in the sinking.’’

David Gallo, a renowned oceanographer and Titanic expert who retired from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and now serves as a consultant to the RMS Titanic Inc., the company that plans to retrieve the telegraph from the wreck, applauded the judge’s decision.

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Gallo said the ruling is significant because it gives the expedition team permission to “surgically remove” the telegraph from the ship’s hull. An expedition is planned in August.

“Previously entering the hull of Titanic, cutting into the hull, or removing items from the hull were strictly prohibited,” he said.

The Marconi wireless radio system played an important role on the Titanic. After the ship struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912, the system was used to send out distress signals to other ships. The messages in Morse code included: “We require immediate assistance” ... “Have struck iceberg and sinking” ... “We are putting women off in boats.”

The ship, which was heading to New York, sank about 400 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia in the Atlantic Ocean.

Gallo said the expedition team plans to evaluate the current conditions of the Titanic wreck and “have a very close look at the present situation of the Marconi telegraph,” he said. “If we agree that the telegraph is in imminent danger of being lost forever, and if we agree that the telegraph can be extracted surgically without unnecessary damage to the Titanic, we will be prepared to do so.”

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Gallo said the ultimate goal would be to restore the Marconi telegraph to a condition that it can exhibited to the public.

RMS Titanic Inc. owns more than 5,000 artifacts from the Titanic.

According to documents filed in US District Court in Alexandria, Va., lawyers for the company said RMS Titanic Inc. is “dedicated to sharing the legacy of the ship and her passengers with the public,” and “without the recovery, conservation and display of these artifacts, the ability to experience first-hand additional historic treasures would be limited to only an exclusive group who has the privilege and means to travel to the wreck site."

The court documents show that the company wants to use a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to enter the ship and retrieve the Marconi telegraph equipment. The plan calls for cutting into the deck plating and removing a piece so the ROV can access the interior of the ship and the so-called “silent room” where the Marconi equipment is located.

In the court documents, the company argued that the Marconi wireless telegraph should be salvaged because it’s only a matter of time before it will be inaccessible.

“In the next few years," the court documents state, “the overhead for the Silent Cabin is expected to collapse, potentially burying forever the remains of the world’s most famous radio.”



Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.