Newly discovered SOS distress telegram from Titanic proves owners knew ship was in distress and sinking

// November 6th, 2015 // News

The Titanic

The corpse of the Titanic discovered by diversWhite Star Line, owners of the Titanic ship, have long refuted hearing anything from the sinking Titanic on the day it sank. In fact, Philip Franklin, the head of White Star Line, swore an oath to a US Congressional hearing swearing he had not received any word from the ship after it struck an iceberg that drove it to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean claiming the lives of 1,523 passengers and crew. Today a distress telegram from the Titanic has been revealed (and is up for auction). The desperate message, sent via communications company Western Union, reads:

“To Mr. P.A. Franklin, White Star Steamship Co. 9 Broadway, NYC. CQD, CQD SOS SOS= From MGY (RMS Titanic). We have struck iceberg. Sinking fast. Come to our assistance. Position: Lat 41.46 N. Lon 50.14 W. MGY.”

The historic document has been unknown for 103 years until it was listed for auction by a seller who inherited it from his cousin (a collector of antique radio and telegraphic equipment). The documentation that came with the telegram only goes back 20 years; it was found in an envelope from 1988 bearing the written message: “This is 86 years old.” Heritage Auctions has verified the authenticity of the document.

It is not known when the SOS telegram was sent but experts have long believed that White Star Line bosses would have known that the Titanic was sinking. Previously, Franklin had vehemently claimed that the only news he received came from Bruce Ismay, the general manager of the White Star Line who had been onboard the Titanic but was saved by the rescue ship the Carpathia. According to one expert,

“We can’t 100 per cent say that Franklin saw this telegram but its emergence challenges his claim that no message was sent to White Star Line.”

The “unsinkable” Titanic, the world’s biggest passenger liner at the time, left Southhampton, England for New York on its maiden voyage on April 10, 1912. It struck the iceberg near Newfoundland at 11:40 PM on April 14, 1912 and sank around 2:20 AM on April 15. It is not known exactly how many telegrams were sent from the Titanic after it struck the iceberg because the log was destroyed when the liner sank. However, it’s known that at the very least, they sent out telegrams to the different postal services once they realized that the mail they were carrying would be delayed or undelivered. There are believed to be about a dozen authentic telegrams in existence but this is the only known one sent from Titanic directly to White Star Line.

Newly discovered SOS distress telegram from Titanic proves owners knew ship was in distress and sinking

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