Is the Titanic really found?

Salvage : The wreck of the Titanic opens for the first time

Berlin - It is one of the most famous radio messages in history: "41 ° 46'N 50 ° 14'W - sinking - need help immediately", the 25-year-old radio operator Jack Phillips moored on April 15, 1912 at 12:10 am from the Titanic. Half an hour earlier, the most modern passenger steamer of its time, considered unsinkable, had rammed a huge iceberg in the middle of the North Atlantic.

For almost two hours, Phillips and his radio colleague Harold Bride gave more and more urgent calls for help, in the end the water in their cabin was up to their knees. Then the power supply collapsed. Shortly thereafter, the Titanic sank and tore 1514 of the over 2200 passengers and crew on board to their death. Of the two radio operators, only the 22-year-old Bride survived the greatest catastrophe in civil shipping.

For 108 years the Titanic has been lying at a depth of 3800 meters around 645 kilometers southeast of Newfoundland. Virtually untouched, because no objects have so far been allowed to be recovered from inside the wreck. That is about to change: Last week, a district court in Norfolk (US state Virginia) approved the company R.M.S. Titanic Inc., in August, recovered parts of the radio system from the belly of the passenger liner, with which Phillips and Bride had muttered SOS calls into the vastness of the North Atlantic for two hours on the night of the disaster.

A taboo break for critics - they not only complain that the dead peace of the corpses trapped in the wreck is disturbed; they also fear that recovering the radio will set a precedent that could facilitate future dives into the shipwreck. 20 years ago R.M.S. Titanic want to penetrate the wreckage to look for diamonds supposedly hidden there. At that time, a court denied the application.

The wreck of the Titanic was only discovered in 1985. Nine years later, a US court ruled the American company R.M.S. Titanic Inc., a subsidiary of the exhibition organizer Premier Exhibitions, granted exclusive ownership and salvage rights to the wreck. However, every dive to the sunken ship must be approved by a court. To date, more than 5500 objects, mainly dishes, gold coins, silver cutlery and other artifacts, have been recovered. They all came from the deck of the ship or from the vicinity of the wreck.

In the now decided legal dispute, the company had expressly emphasized that the recovery of the radio should not be the prelude to further operations in the belly of the ship. But time was of the essence as the condition of the wreck continued to deteriorate. The structure could soon collapse and "forever bury the remains of the world's most famous radio," argued the company's lawyers.

In fact, the Titanic's radio system is a legendary piece of technical equipment. It was not until 1902 that radio stations existed on ships. The Italian Guglielmo Marconi (1874–1937), who also received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1909, is considered to be the inventor of wireless telegraphy. His company Marconi International Marine Communication Co. had also equipped the Titanic with a radio telegraph. The new type of extinguishing spark transmitter was by far the most powerful radio of its time. It guaranteed a range of 350 nautical miles regardless of the atmospheric conditions.

In fact, on that April night, 1912, twelve ships received the Titanic's emergency calls made with the Marconi apparatus. But they were too far away to be able to rush to help in time. Only the passenger steamer "Carpathia", which was cruising about 90 kilometers away at the time of the accident, came to the scene of the accident two hours after the sinking and was able to rescue the 705 people who had made it into the lifeboats.

The company R.M.S. Nevertheless, do not bring Titanic up from the depths. After all, it was a complex technical system that took up two rooms on board the Titanic. They were housed on the top deck, between the first and second chimneys of the steamer. The company only wants to recover individual components, including an installation with a motor, generator and a so-called disc unloader as well as a switchboard with controllers. R.M.S. Titanic then wants to restore the parts and add replicas so that it should even be possible to put the device back into operation.

The arguments of opponents of the project that opening the wreck would disturb the peace of the dead were countered by the company in court with the promise that they would only carry out a "surgical intervention" with which "the disturbances for the rest of the wreck and for the remains of the 1500 deceased to the bare minimum ”.

According to the plan, a remote-controlled diving robot should be positioned precisely on a light shaft on the top deck of the Titanic. In order to be able to get to the point where the radio room used to be, the robot will cut through the heavily rusted parts of the ceiling. The wooden dividing walls of the cabins are no longer an obstacle - they have dissolved in the sea water. After a small suction excavator has removed the mud, the robot is finally to be steered to the old radio room, where it grabs components of the system with its gripping arms, transports them out of the wreck and places them in a container that is then brought to the surface.

Should the radio one day be seen in exhibitions, its possibly decisive role in the Titanic disaster will be discussed again. Because until shortly before the collision with the iceberg, the two radio operators Phillips and Bride, as employees of the Marconi Society, were mainly busy sending telegrams over the radio system for the wealthy Titanic passengers.

A lucrative business for her employer, as a ten-word telegram cost twelve shillings, which is equivalent to 250 euros today. But because they were so busy with this activity, some suspect that the radio operators overlooked the weather reports that warned of icebergs or passed them on to the captain too late. So the catastrophe could no longer be stopped.