A company with rights to remove artifacts from the Titanic asks court to allow it to recover famous radio

The White Star liner 'Titanic', which sank on its maiden voyage to America in 1912, seen here on trials in Belfast Lough. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

RMS Titanic Inc., a company that has exclusive rights to salvage artifacts from the Titanic, wants to retrieve the radio used to call for help after the ship hit an iceberg, according to documents filed in a Virginia federal court.

A hearing to discuss this matter is scheduled for Thursday, according to court documents.

The removal of the Marconi radio would require the company to remove a part of the historic ship’s deckhouse to access the “silent room,” an area with soundproof walls that housed the wireless radio.

The ship, which was deemed unsinkable before its April 1912 voyage, and its contents are now protected under the R.M.S. Titanic International Agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom.

RMS Titanic Inc. would need to obtain federal court approval to work inside the hull of the ship and remove the rust-covered radio, officials say.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says in court documents that RMS Titanic Inc. has recovered at least 5,000 artifacts from the ship debris field and that the government wants to protect the best interest of the public and the Titanic before the company can take additional artifacts. The agency said intrusive recover activity must be evaluated based on whether there is a justified educational, scientific or cultural interests.

The company says its work includes educating the public through expeditions and artifacts.

Why does RMS want to get the radio now?

RMS Titanic Inc. argued in a court document filed last year that little was known about the most famous radio in history and that the company wanted to recover it before conditions deteriorated further and the piece of history was lost.

RMS Titanic Inc. cited a report conducted by Titanic expert Parks Stephenson, who visited the wreck in 2005 and 2010, saying that large sections of the deckhouse have collapsed since 2005.

The famous ship, resting about 12,000 feet down in the North Atlantic Ocean, houses the transmitter in what was known as the Marconi Suite.

The suite, made of steel, consisted of three areas: sleeping accommodations, an operator’s room and the silent room that housed the radio. Each area was separated by wood walls that officials believe have now dissolved, the documents say.

The final call made from the Marconi

According to the Senate report released on the Titanic, the final calls from the Marconi began around 10:25 p.m. ET on April 14, 1912. The call from the operator was a distress signal, or CQD.

The report said the Titanic had been struck by an iceberg. A half hour later, another message said the vessel was sinking by the head and women and children were being placed into into lifeboats; the operator noted the weather was calm and clear.

The final message that was audible said, “Engine room getting flooded.” The signals were blurred and ended abruptly.

Although more than 1,500 passengers and crew perished in the disaster, the distress calls brought ships that rescued about 700 people.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.