"He has to tell the same story: 'We ran into an iceberg, we're sinking, we need immediate assistance.' Apparently a lot of them don't understand what's going on," Emery said.
Unlike modern communications where it's possible to dial a phone number and reach one person, during the Titanic disaster everyone is signaling at the same time. "With the wireless, essentially it's a party line," Hayes said. Communications chaos ensued.
The answer to one question might be the opposite from the answer to another ship's question, but the messages are all being transmitted at once.
The Titanic's exact position was also unclear. During emergency communication with other ships at the time, the position is given out numerous times and then corrected. Even the corrected position was about a dozen nautical miles from where the wreck would be uncovered in 1985.
"The technology was there, but the records and the standards of having people monitoring the radio weren't in place," Cushing said.
Books have been written about the Californian, one of the ships closest to the Titanic when it sank. The Californian's radio operator, Cyril Evans, didn't send his ship's position in the message about encountering ice, nor was the message prefaced by "MSG," which would have indicated that it needed to go to the Titanic's captain. After being told to shut up, Evans simply turned off his transmitter and went to sleep.