Quicklook analysis of Titanic's Silent Room exploration
by Parks Stephenson

Copyright © 2001, Parks Stephenson


After exploring the Marconi Room, Jake entered the Silent Room at the place where the door used to be. The 5 kW motor-generator and other electrical equipment of the Silent Room remain in place. The motor-generator, with lifting rings on top and disc discharger mounted on the motor (aft) end, is oriented fore-and-aft and sits up against and just to port of a rare section of surviving wall. This wall evidently survived because of the large number of metallic objects affixed to it. The AC-DC double-panel switchboard and the field regulators for both the alternator and motor are still mounted to this wall (in Olympic, these units were originally next to the operator in the Marconi Room), just above the motor-generator, their handles still pointing to the last settings determined most likely by junior Marconi operator Harold Bride to produce an optimum "spark" as the power from the main generators faded.


Allow me to digress for a minute as I propose the following scenario based on the log of intercepted messages reconstructed for the Wreck Commission's Report on the Loss of the "Titanic" (S.S.): At approximately 2 a.m. (Titanic ship time), Virginian heard Titanic calling faintly and noted that the latter's output power was greatly reduced. Ten minutes later, Virginian heard two faint letter "V"s being transmitted in Titanic's distinct musical tone. Wireless operators of that time used the transmitted letter "V" to adjust their spark. Virginian continued to hear faint CQs from Titanic, the spark sounding "blurred or ragged," until the signals ended abruptly at approximately 2:18 a.m. One can imagine the problem faced by senior Marconi operator Jack Phillips as he continued to transmit Titanic's distress call to anyone within range. With power fluctuating, the motor and alternator would have begun to run at varying speeds, affecting the clarity and power of the transmitted spark. It's reasonable to assume that Phillips would have asked Bride to enter the Silent Room and readjust the regulators to accommodate the reduced power coming from the ship's mains. With the regulators varying the resistance applied to the motor sets, Bride would have been controlling the speed of the motor and the amount of current flowing through the alternator field, using the sound of Phillips's transmitted "V"s, which Phillips could not hear for himself in the adjacent Marconi Room, as an indicator of how well the spark was being formed. What we see on the fragment of wall illuminated by the ROV's lights, then, are the last settings chosen by a wireless operator desperate to optimize the spark as the ship's power began to fail. The image is sobering.


As Jake continued the exploration of the Silent Room, the condensers, Swiss commutator, choking coils, transformer, transmitting jigger, and other equipment cabinets are also in evidence. The heavy H.F. spiral inductance coil, wood mounting and all, has fallen from the wall and now lies on top of the commutator. Because the wall on which they were originally mounted has disappeared, the earth arrester spark gap and tuning lamp are suspended in space, held up by the thick wires which connected them into the receiver and earth circuits. Another earth arrester, used for transmission of the short wave, was found still connected but fallen from its original position. The tuning lamp and primary earth arrester, considered a part of the receiver circuit, were mounted in the Marconi Room in Olympic. It was therefore surprising to find them in the remains of the transmitter room in Titanic.

I have viewed all the footage shot in the remains of the Marconi suite, but my analysis is not yet complete. More updates will be forthcoming. What I can determine at this point is that the Marconi equipment layout in Titanic was radically different from that photographed in Olympic. Similar differences with the elder sister ship were found elsewhere in the ship, which came as a surprise to historians who have always used the extensively-photographed Olympic as a template for understanding how Titanic appeared internally.


For more information on Titanic's wireless, read the author's article,
"The Marconi Wireless Installation in R.M.S. Titanic"