The Titanic’s last desperate SOS messages sent as the ship was sinking (1912)

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Last known photo of the Titanic before it sank

Wireless aids in rescue works – Repeated calls heard by half score ships which hasten to scene – the Titanic, the biggest most luxurious ship in world, now lies at bottom of the sea

“Sinking by the head and women are being rushed into the life-boats!” were the last words that sputtered into the wireless room of the Virginian from the Titanic.

Last known photo of the Titanic before it sank
Last known photo of the Titanic before it sank
Wireless sounds distress cry

All through the night and until her wireless station was silenced, over hundreds of miles of sea from the antennae of the giant liner flashed the mystic and magic “SOS,” — the worldwide cry of distress on the ocean. Every wireless operator within range of the maimed vessel dropped her other message to locate her and meanwhile relayed the fatal message to the world.

The collision occurred in latitude 41.46 north and longitude 50.14 west, 1,150 miles east of New York and 450 miles south of Cape Race, the most westerly point of New Foundland.

Titanic: Newspaper front pages with the first stories of the disaster on April 15, 1912

No storm prevails

Contrary to earlier dispatches there was no storm when the vessel struck. The weather was clear and calm.

Almost as soon as the Virginian picked up the distress signal, it was recorded by the operator on the Olympic, the Titanic’s sister ship. and next to her the largest vessel afloat. This was at midnight. At that hour, the Olympic was 200 miles from New York en route to Southampton.

The Olympia forged ahead under full steam, but wireless dispatches indicate that she reached the scene too late to be of any assistance.

Titanic sinking - Wireless operator on the Republic 1912

Titanic SOS messages: Story in picture of how wireless waked the midnight sea

Although the steamer Titanic sank before help arrived, one of the most remarkable features of the disaster was how the great liner’s dying call for help by wireless telegraphy awakened the midnight sea. “S. O. S.” (Send out Succor) flashed out over the silent wastes shortly before 11 o’clock.

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MORE: Wireless hero died right after Titanic sank (1912)

Every few minutes, the airwaves carried “S. O. S.” until 12:17, when it stopped. But in that hour and a half, the cry for help was picked up by a dozen ships — ships that turned from their courses and sped under forced draught to the spot in old ocean where grim tragedy was at work. The picture illustrates how the sea responded:

Titanic - How the wireless distress call woke up the midnight sea - 1912

1,492 go down to their death in loss of the Titanic (1912)

Titanic SOS messages: The last wireless messages: CQD & SOS

Here are some of the wireless messages sent and received by the Titanic after the iceberg was hit, and up until a few minutes before she sank. Note: CQD is a distress call — not actually an acronym for “Come quick – Disaster” or anything else.

All of these messages were sent on April 15, 1912, and began shortly after midnight.

Message sent from Titanic, as received by Celtic

12:17 am — Titanic to Any Ship: “CQD CQD SOS Titanic Position 41.44 N 50.24 W. Require immediate assistance. Come at once. We struck an iceberg. Sinking.”

12:20 am — Titanic to Carpathia: “Come at once. We have struck a berg. It’s a CQD, old man. Position 41.46 N 50.14 W”

12:25 am — Carpathia to Titanic: “Shall I tell my captain? Do you require assistance?”

12:26 am — Titanic to Carpathia: “Yes, come quick!”

12:32 am — Carpathia to Titanic: “Putting about and heading for you”

12:40 am — Titanic to Carpathia: “SOS Titanic sinking by the head. We are about all down. Sinking. . .”

12:50 am — Titanic calls CQD — “I require immediate assistance. Position 41.46 N. 50.14 W.”

1:30 am — Titanic tells Olympic, “We are putting passengers off in small boats.” “Women and children in boats, can not last much longer”

1:35 am — Olympic asks Titanic what weather she had. Titanic: “Clear and calm”

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Between 2:15 am and 2:25 am — Titanic to Carpathia: “SOS SOS CQD CQD Titanic. We are sinking fast. Passengers are being put into boats. Titanic.”

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