Thursday, January 05, 2023

They wouldn’t believe him!

Late on the night of the 14th of April 1912, the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic - the largest ship then afloat - was steaming at almost full speed across the Atlantic when it collided with an iceberg. The damage caused by the collision was so extensive that in less than three hours the ship had broken in half and sunk. This ‘the Ship of Dreams’ became a nightmare, and over 1500 passengers and crew drowned in the dark freezing water, with only just over 700 being saved. 

The ship was equipped with the latest radios, operated by the Marconi International Marine Communication Company. These radios had a daytime range of 250 miles, but at night up to 2000 miles. The Marconi wireless operators on board - Jack Phillips and Harold Bride - began sending out desperate Morse code SOS radio messages to passing ships pleading with them to come and help.  

Meanwhile, 3000 miles away in the loft of his family’s water-powered corn mill in Pontllanfraith near Blackwood in south Wales, UK, 25-year-old Arthur Moore – Artie to his family and friends - was using his homemade, crude radio equipment, operated by a generator attached to the mill’s water wheel. Artie was already well known by the public because six months earlier he had picked up the Italian government’s Declaration Of War on Libya on his radio, and this had made the front page of the national newspaper The Daily Sketch. Artie was listening to his radio early on the fateful morning of the 15th of April when around 5 a.m. he picked up faint Morse code radio signals from the Titanic: ‘Require immediate assistance. Come at once we have struck an iceberg. Sinking, we are putting the women off in the boats’. He continued decoding and writing down the signals he was receiving, hardly believing the words he was writing. 

When the signals ended, Artie raced off to the local police station to inform the officers of the terrible news, but nobody there believed him! After all, Edward Smith the Titanic’s captain, and the most senior captain of the White Star Line, had proudly claimed that he could not ‘imagine any condition which would cause [this] ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that'. Also, how could an amateur like Artie have possibly picked up a signal from a ship 3000 miles away? 


Positive news of the ship’s loss eventually got through to the ship-owners’ headquarters in Liverpool via the transatlantic telegraph cable on the 16th of April, and the sad news filled the national press on the 17th. The whole story was then told of how the radio messages had reached nearby ships, but by the time they arrived at the scene, the Titanic had sunk, and over a thousand had gone down with it.


For those who rejected Artie’s message, the worst outcome was an eventual embarrassment; however, rejecting God’s gospel has eternal consequences. Although Artie Moore’s message was not believed by many people at the time, eventually, he was proved right. If the message had been believed and passed on, people would have known the sad news sooner, and preparations could have been made to help the survivors and their families. 


The Morse code that Artie picked up that night is very rarely used today, but its emergency SOS message was very simple,  ··· – – – ···, i.e., dot-dot-dot; dash-dash-dash; dot-dot-dot. Originally it had no meaning but was chosen for its simplicity. As time went on meanings such as ‘save our souls’ were invented. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is like that: we realize our desperate need and simply call out – ‘Lord save me’. He alone can ‘save our souls’!


‘See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven’, Heb. 12. 25.  God’s message has come all the way from heaven.  It has come through very clearly, will you believe it?


Footnote: What happened to Artie Moore? He worked as a Marconi Radio Company manager in Liverpool and elsewhere. In 1932, he patented the Echo-meter - an early form of underwater sonar. He died in 1949.


Howard Barnes


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