A newly discovered distress telegram sent from the Titanic has shed new light on the luxury liner's last hours, revealing the ship owners knew of the disaster unfolding – something they vehemently refuted at that time.
The world's biggest passenger liner left Southampton, England, for New York on its maiden voyage on April 10, 1912. The RMS "unsinkable" Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic four days later, on the night of April 14. It sank within hours on April 15 with the loss of more than 1,500 lives.
In the inquiry that followed, Philip Franklin, the boss of shipping company White Star Line, swore on oath he had not received any word from the ship after it had hit the iceberg.
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Franklin declared in a U.S. Congressional hearing that there was not "a word or communication of any kind or description" from the ship.
He insisted he had only heard the news of the sinking from Bruce Ismay, general manager of White Star Line, who had been on board but was brought to safety aboard rescue ship the Carpathia.
Now a newly discovered telegram challenges Franklin's claim.
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It 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 telegram came through 103 years too late, when a seller put it on auction at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas.
Little is known of the Marconi message except that it belonged to a collector of antique radio and telegraphic equipment.
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Most likely, the telegram was part of a series of messages, about 15 telegrams, frantically sent out by Marconi operators throughout that dramatic night.
After the Titanic hit the iceberg, it issued a series of distress messages. It also notified the United States Postal Service and British Royal Mail to warn that the mail the liner was carrying would not be delivered.
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"It makes sense that they also notified the operator of the ship, the White Star Line but, until now, no evidence of that has surfaced," Heritage Auctions wrote.
"While it seems certain that the telegram was delivered (or the attempt made), we cannot say for sure whether Franklin saw it in a timely manner, or testified falsely before Congress," it added.
The company is certain the telegram is authentic and a new discovery.
"We have examined the telegram extensively and conclude that all characteristics are ‘right', including type of paper, method of printing, aging of the paper and look of the typed message," Heritage Auctions said.
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The telegram will go under the hammer on Saturday and is expected to fetch around $40,000.