Cape Cod National Seashore to Commemorate 100th Anniversary of the First Marconi Distress Message

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Date: January 6, 2009
Contact: Barbara Dougan, Education Specialist, 508-255-3421 x16

On a cold January night in 1909, in a deep fog, two ships collided off Nantucket. The Republic, was a luxury liner, headed out from New York City for a leisurely cruise around the Mediterranean. The Florida, was filled with impoverished people fleeing the consequences of an earthquake in Messina, Italy, in the hope of a better life in America.

After the collision, Jack Binns, the Marconi wireless operator on board the sinking Republic, tapped out a Morse code message, “CQD CQD here is MKC MKC shipwrecked." This message initiated the first major rescue at sea accomplished by means of wireless.  In 1909 CQD was the Marconi signal used to call all stations in an emergency, and MKC were the letters for the Republic, which was rammed by the Florida. After all 1500 passengers and crew were rescued, Binns became known as “CQD Binns,” the first hero of wireless.

On January 23 and 24 Cape Cod National Seashore will host two programs to commemorate this historic event. On Friday, January 23 at 8:30 AM the seashore’s radio club, KM1CC, will resend Jack Binns’ 1909 message in the presence of the Binns Family. Amateur radio operators, shortwave, and 2 meter band radio listeners can tune in to hear the message. On Saturday, January 24 at 1 PM at the seashore’s Salt Pond Visitor Center, Jack Binns’ eldest grandchild, Dr. Virginia Utermohlen Lovelace, will present a one-hour program focused on ship-to-shore communication in 1909, her grandfather, and the surprising connection between the 1909 wreck and the sinking of the Titanic three years later. The program is free and open to the public. Salt Pond Visitor Center is located at Route 6 and Nauset Road in Eastham.

Program Details:

Friday, January 23, 2009:

Cape Cod National Seashore’s KM1CC On-the-Air: A Wireless Hero Remembered
Amateur radio operators, shortwave, and 2 meter band radio listeners can tune to Cape Cod National Seashore’s radio club, KM1CC, as they resend Jack Binns’ message in the presence of the Binns family. KM1CC has scheduled contacts with GB100MSC, the Lizard Station, Great Britain and other 100th Anniversary participants starting at 8:30 AM ET, followed by contacts with Nantucket on 2 meters.

  • CW contacts 14.048 kHz plus or minus QRM
  • SSB 14.330 kHz
  • 2 M contacts with Nantucket on K1PBO Rptr. 146.955- PL 88.5, Barnstable Club Repeater

Saturday, January 24, 2009:

“CQD! CQD! Here is MKC! MKC! Shipwrecked!"

Location: Salt Pond Visitor Center at 1 PM, 1 hour

Dr. Virginia Utermohlen Lovelace, Jack Binns' eldest grandchild, will present a program about this true life traumatic story at Cape Cod National Seashore's Salt Pond Visitor Center, Eastham on Saturday, January 24 at 1 PM.

Dr. Lovelace's presentation will include the various means ships had for communicating with each other and with the shore, and how Marconi and his wireless apparatus changed the very meaning of communication at sea.  The program will describe the apparatus on the Republic, how it worked to bring alongside rescue ships, and the slow sinking of the Republic as witnessed by wireless, as well as the hard work and heroism of all the sailors involved. Dr. Lovelace will share how her grandfather came to be a Marconi man and how he found himself fêted as a hero, simply for doing his duty and for being very skilled at it. Finally she will mention the surprising and ultimately tragic aftermath of this event, for it led almost directly to the sinking of the Titanic.

For more information about Jack Binns visit:


Last updated: February 26, 2015

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