This Latest Marvel of Science

To many, the string of inventions that came together as ‘wireless’ seemed like a piling of miracle upon miracle. Those who marvelled that etheric vibrations could somehow dart through empty space were further astonished to learn that on a clear, still night a message could skip lightly across the domed roof of the world. And how was it possible that a jumble of messages sent simultaneously could be picked apart by a wireless receiver, permitting a lone voice to be lifted from a crowd?[1] All the while, Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company, masters of careful attunement, dazzled the public with announcements and confident predictions.

On March 11th, 1905, South Australian newspaper The Register joined the chorus of praise. Its editorial began:


The way in which Mr. Marconi has kept his promises in the past justifies the assumption that he was not ‘romancing’ the other evening. He told his audience at the Royal Institution that he is confident that before long he will be able to transmit messages to the antipodes more economically than is now done by means of cables stretched across the bed of the ocean! This seems too wonderful to be true, and yet it merely means an extension of a system which has not only stood every scientific test, but has firmly established its claims to recognition, for employment for commercial purposes and other everyday requirements.[2]

Across the northern hemisphere, the spread of the new technology had indeed been remarkable. Wireless stations had sprung up in England, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, and Montenegro; even the Congo Free State could boast two. And in America, the De Forest Company had announced plans for a grand network of transmitters, spanning all of North America and reaching across the Pacific.[3]

p74In part, The Register hailed the achievements in Europe and America to highlight the lack of progress in Australia, where distance and isolation marked the way of life, and where the value of the new technology was plain for all to see. It wondered about the government’s failure to act:

It has been hinted that there has been a scepticism born of jealousy on the part of the Federal Telegraphic Department towards the “wireless” system—a fear that the days of the ocean cable and overhead wires on land are numbered, and an idea that the new invention ought to be as rigidly excluded from this “exclusive” continent as are sunburnt or otherwise tinted immigrants.[4]

By 1905, many trans-Atlantic liners carried wireless telegraphy equipment. Shipmasters received weather forecasts and predicted their arrival times, operators exchanged news with vessels within range, and First Class passengers received printed news bulletins with their breakfast. Increasingly, the Marconi rooms of ships looked and functioned like the familiar telegraph offices, with passengers sending “Marconigrams” almost as freely as they despatched cablegrams on land.[5] Perhaps surprisingly, another four years would pass before wireless telegraphy placed its life-saving credentials beyond doubt, and staked its claim for universal adoption by ships at sea.

* * *

On Friday, January 22nd, 1909, the White Star liner Republic left New York for Gibraltar and Mediterranean ports. Early the next morning Captain Sealby was at the helm, proceeding slowly through a thick fog that had settled like a blanket over Nantucket Island and the sea to the south. Suddenly, a dozen blasts of a fog siren came in quick succession. Before Sealby had even ascertained the direction from which the sounds had come, a steamship reared out of the fog to starboard and struck Republic amidships. The impact was sickening; the sharp prow of the other ship sliced through Republic’s steel-plate hull and into the engine room. According to one description, the intruder then “pulled away, righted herself, and staggered off into the fog.” Seawater rushed through the gaping hole left behind; in a matter of seconds, Republic’s fires were out.[6]

Republic’s ‘Marconi man’ was 24-year-old Jack Binns. He had been at his desk sending a message when the collision occurred. By the time the captain called him to the bridge, the first “CQD”[7] distress message had already been sent. It had been caught by the land station at Siasconset, on the eastern tip of Nantucket Island; the operator then stood by until Binns returned with his captain’s instructions.

Binns: “The Republic. We are shipwrecked. Stand by for captain’s message.”

Siasconset: “All right, old man. Where are you?”

p75Binns: “Report Republic rammed by unknown steamer 26 miles N.W. Nantucket lightship; badly in need of assistance but no danger of life. Sealby.”[8]

Within minutes, Siasconset had made contact with three wireless-equipped ships within easy steam of the accident. Republic’s White Star stablemate Baltic had also picked up the transmissions; her master J. B. Ranson had turned his ship around without waiting for a specific request. Binns, now on emergency power, remained at his post, guiding rescue vessels through the fog to the scene of the accident, while Sealby on deck prepared for the evacuation of his passengers and crew.

The ship that had crashed into Republic’s side was the incoming Lloyd Italiano liner Florida. She soon re-emerged from the fog to declare herself ready and able to receive Republic’s passengers.

There was some doubt that the much smaller Florida could safely accommodate 700 evacuees, but the rescue flotilla certainly could. The evacuation commenced immediately.

Although four passengers had died in their cabins at the moment of impact, the evacuation was completed without further casualty. The New York Times concluded its first report by declaring:

This was the news which reached this city in a series of fragmentary wireless messages yesterday and last night. Seafaring men declare that had it not been for the same wireless the story of the accident, when it finally reached this city, might have been far different.[9]

The Republic sank very slowly; indeed, Captain Sealby was not convinced that her loss was inevitable. Once his passengers and crew were secure he proposed that Jack Binns and several officers return with him to the ship, to work out if and how the ship might be saved. Although the late salvage attempt ultimately failed,[10] the rescue of the ship’s complement was hailed a spectacular success. Significantly, it was Jack Binns rather than Captain Sealby who enjoyed the greater acclaim. That wireless telegraphy could be used to declare an emergency had long been recognised; that it could be used so effectively to manage an emergency was a revelation.

Just eight days after the celebrated rescue, Reuters reported that a bill to make “ethergraphs” compulsory had been introduced to the United States Congress.[11] Eighteen months later, on June 24th, 1910, Congress approved “An Act to require apparatus and operators for radio communication on certain ocean steamers.” The Wireless Ship Act, as it came to be known, declared that from July 1st, 1911, at all U.S. ports, wireless telegraphy equipment would be compulsory for all vessels carrying fifty or more passengers. Similar legislation was introduced in France and elsewhere,[12] but Great Britain proceeded more cautiously. Replying to a question in the House of Commons on September 7th, 1909, a young Winston Churchill (in his capacity as President of the Board of Trade) said p76that he did not think that the time had come for the equipment to be made obligatory, though he would be pleased to see it more widely used.[13]

* * *

On the day the Wireless Ship Act passed into law, the Orient liner Otranto, newly equipped with Marconi apparatus, was passing through the Suez Canal on her way to Australia. Although wireless-equipped vessels both military and mercantile had been visiting Australian ports for a few years, Otranto’s arrival was destined to be remembered. The Marconi company had decided that the time was right to extend its southern-hemisphere influence, and the Orient Line was determined to extract full market advantage from its recent decision to equip all of its liners. Otranto became the flagship for the initiative, and her 23-year-old wireless operator, Ernest Fisk, became its unofficial ambassador. Fisk was a careful choice: both a capable technician and a natural spruiker, as comfortable with the business as with the science. At Fremantle, Port Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, he entertained members of the press in his ‘high office’ fifty feet above the sea on Otranto’s boat deck.

In his first Australian interview, at Fremantle on July 12th, 1910, Fisk waxed lyrical about the rise of the new medium. Two days later, The West Australian responded in kind.

At the time when all good people had resigned their cares to the keeping of Morpheus on Sunday night, the Marconi operator on the Orient liner Otranto was consulting his Marconi chart—a confusion of latitudinal and longitudinal lines, intersected by oblique dotted tracks. To a layman it might represent some abstruse problem in trigonometry, but to his practical eye, it showed him the positions of various vessels fitted with wireless apparatus from day to day, and the radius in which their messages could be detected. For some days his transmitter had been speaking in monosyllables to the vast unhearing ocean, but the lines on the chart told him that the “voice” of his transmitter would soon be audible. A little later and the powerful induction coil of his transmitter was emitting a torrent of sparks causing the etheric waves to radiate to a distance of some 900 miles. Within that radius were the P. and O. liner Macedonia, and the White Star liner Persic and almost in an instant the presence of some unusual disturbance in the ether was communicated to the operators of both vessels by means of the receiver. Much as the eye intercepts the etheric vibrations we call light, so the receiver detects the etheric vibrations peculiar to wireless phenomena.[14]

Fisk told the reporters that Otranto, since London, had been in contact with no less than 23 shore stations and 45 steamers. He did not need to hint that Australia was being left behind; the newsmen were left to draw that conclusion for themselves.


An early Marconi marine installation.

In the course of his first interviews, Fisk found it necessary to explain that he was not an employee of the Orient Line. He was, rather, an employee of Marconi International Marine,[15] assigned to a particular company and ship as part of a comprehensive service agreement. To illustrate, he outlined the progress of his own career. In the course of five years, he had been deployed to several ships in different parts of the world. Indeed, before joining Otranto, he had been sent to the Arctic to participate in the annual seal hunt. Noting the interest of his audience, Fisk did not miss the opportunity to explain how wireless had proven its worth among the ice floes of the Arctic. Of the nineteen vessels that had ranged the pack ice, he said, only two were wireless-equipped. Not only had wireless messages been critical to reaching a vessel caught and crushed by the ice, the wireless-equipped vessels had outperformed all others in hunting success. Of the 603,000 seals taken by the fleet, his own ship Florizel had secured 46,000! Clearly impressed, The West Australian’s reporter wrote: “Despite the extreme cold, Mr. Fisk spent a most enjoyable and interesting time, and he has now in his possession a splendid series of photographs depicting the denizens of the icy regions in their natural habitat.”[16]

At each Australian port, Fisk refined his promotional pitch. There was always a simplified explanation of the equipment and its capabilities, and p78some reference to the celebrated Republic rescue. But the Marconi man understood, as did the newsmen, that it was only in the aftermath of disaster or near-disaster that safety devices became newsworthy. In good times it was the non-emergency uses of wireless that would carry the readers of the dailies to a second column of print. From this standpoint, the timing of Otranto’s arrival was perfect. Fisk was able to tell reporters that the highlight for passengers on the trip out had been the blow-by-blow reporting of the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship contest between Jim Jeffries and Jack Johnson. Not only had the result of the contest been received, he said, but reports of each round had been posted on noticeboards at three-minute intervals, to great excitement and acclaim.

The young Englishman was probably surprised by the intensity of Australian interest in this American contest. Three ports and several interviews later, he knew a little more of Australia’s early, keen interest in the rise of Jack Johnson.

* * *

On the last day of November 1908, manager Jim Ronan left the West Kimberley cattle station Napier Downs to take a well-earned holiday. After the 100-mile overland run into Derby, he boarded the old cattle steamer Minilya for the 1,600-mile voyage south to Fremantle. He had written to his wife in Melbourne, telling her that he would see her and the children before Christmas. From the ports of the Nor’-West, he sent short telegrams so that she could track his progress south and east. She learned that he would, of necessity, spend a few days in Fremantle, before enjoying a dramatic rise in the standard of his shipboard accommodation. He had booked his eastward passage with the Royal Mail Steamer Orotava, passing through Fremantle from London on December 17th.[17]

The message Julia Ronan received from her husband a few days later was not quite what she had expected. Many years later, their son Tom would explain:

Knowing how he loved sea travel she was agreeably surprised when he wired from Adelaide that he was leaving the ship and coming to Melbourne by rail. It was certainly much easier for a mother with a three-and-a-half-year-old daughter and a yearling son to meet a train at Spencer Street than to traipse down to Port Melbourne Wharf to see a ship come in. When he greeted her at the railway station in Ave atque vale [“Hail and farewell”] terms, and announced that he was going straight on to Sydney she was astonished; when he explained that this journey was not in any way a business trip but a foray to see the Burns–Johnson fight, her indignation was understandable.[18]

Jim Ronan had not seen his wife or little daughter for almost two years, and had never until that day set eyes upon his son, but Tom Ronan would admit that he admired his father for that decision. Few men, he mused, p79“could truthfully boast that their moral courage would have been equal to such a gesture.”[19] His father, he insisted, was affectionate and loyal but maintained sensible priorities. After all, the Burns–Johnson fight was the first World Heavyweight Boxing Championship to be decided in Australia, and the purse the largest ever offered in the history of the sport!

What Jim Ronan and 20,000 others watched in bright sunshine at Rushcutter Bay on Boxing Day, 1908 was a lopsided contest. The much-heralded Negro challenger dominated from the start. Jack Johnson taunted Canadian Tommy Burns, drawing him in, even dropping his guard to attract punches that he knew he could counter. As the fight proceeded, Johnson’s dismissive superiority troubled even erstwhile admirers. Many hoped that fight would end early, either by knockout or by the referee’s intervention. The latter seemed unlikely, since referee Hugh McIntosh was also the fight’s promoter. It was his money that had brought the fight to Sydney.[20]

The World Heavyweight Boxing Championship, Rushcutter Bay, Sydney, December 26th, 1908.

p80Vested interests notwithstanding, the fight did not run its course. It was stopped during a brutal fourteenth round, not by McIntosh but by the local constabulary. It is not known how the police justified their invasion of the ring. Were they defending public morals? Were they quelling civil unrest? Whatever the interpretation, the crowd seemed more amused than aggrieved. To all eyes, the contest was already decided; the appearance of the boys in blue merely added a theatrical twist at the end of a memorable day.[21]

Without doubt, the emergence of a Negro world champion troubled white Australians far less than it troubled white Americans.[22] In the sport’s adopted home, Johnson’s victory was invested with a burning racial intensity. Almost immediately, the search began for a redeemer: a great white hope to restore the natural order and shut the mouth of the quintessential “bad nigger.”[23] Two months later, former undefeated heavyweight champion James J. Jeffries came out of retirement. On March 1st, 1909, he told the Los Angeles Times:

I feel obligated to the sporting public at least to make an effort to reclaim the heavyweight championship for the white race. . . . I should step into the ring again and demonstrate that a white man is king of them all.[24]

The contest in Reno, Nevada on July 4th, 1910 was billed as “The Fight of the Century.” Black hope was with Johnson. White money was on Jeffries. Perhaps surprisingly, many Australians backed Johnson. He was the man they knew; he was their champion, who had staked his claim of supremacy not in Atlanta or Chicago, but in Sydney under Australian sunshine.

From the opening bell, Morse keys were set tapping. Round by round the despatches flew, by cable to Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, and by wireless to liners at sea. Hastily reconverted to plain English, the punches of the assailants were rushed along decks and pinned to noticeboards in smoke rooms and corridors. In London, at 9 p.m., a crowd gathered in Fleet Street to have its news direct from the offices of the newspapers, and in the music halls the usual amusements gave way to onstage readings of ringside despatches.[25]

In Reno, white hope was sorely tested. By the eighth round, Jeffries was in trouble; by the eleventh, it was obvious that this would be no triumphal return to the ring.[26]

Battered and bashed, but still game and solid, Jeffries dashed desperately into the eleventh round. He landed hard on the nigger, and fought wildly, hoping by main force to beat down the terrible man who had maimed and half-blinded him. Johnson kept cool and calm, and every now and again punctuated Jeffries’ wild rushes with a tolling punch. Again in this round the points went to the negro.[27]

p81The result of the fight reached Western Australia in 23 minutes, partly by ship-to-ship Marconi transmissions across the Pacific. Greatly assisted by its time zone, Perth’s Daily News became the only Australian newspaper to deliver round-by-round coverage on the day of the fight. It even managed a hasty summary of the last seconds.

As Jeffries staggered for a foothold after the third time he had been sent to the floor, Johnson sprang at him like a tiger, and with a succession of lefts on the jaw sent him down and out.[28]

Aboard Otranto, the passengers may have felt that they were receiving their news at the speed of light. It was not quite so. Their information did not come from Associated Press or Reuters—at least not directly. It was Ernest Fisk’s counterpart on the S.S. Macedonia, reading from a Melbourne newspaper, who transmitted each round of the fight as a separate Marconi message.[29] Nevertheless, the demise of Jim Jeffries lost none of its poignancy by late delivery, or in translation from the language of the ether.

As Jeff was helped to his corner he said:—“I am not a good fighter any longer. I could not come back, boys; I could not come back. Ask Johnson if he will give me his gloves.”[30]

Interviewed later, Jeffries later admitted that pride had got the better of judgment. White America was not nearly so gracious. Interracial violence erupted in cities across the United States, and especially in the south-east. By one account, two whites and 22 blacks died in the seven days after the fight. Without doubt there were scores of ugly incidents, but some of what white commentators called rioting was probably no more than wild exuberance. In black neighbourhoods there were spontaneous street parties and parades, some of which began very simply when black churchgoers emerged from their Sunday services and kept walking, in congregation. Perhaps the single greatest source of antagonism to the white community was the inability of many black Americans to wipe the smiles from their faces. As poet William Waring Cuney put it:

O my Lord

What a morning,

O my Lord,

What a feeling,

When Jack Johnson

Turned Jim Jeffries’

Snow-white face

to the ceiling.[31]

* * *

In Fremantle on July 12th, 1910, Ernest Fisk met little opposition from the press when he declared the possibilities of wireless telegraphy to be p82almost limitless. Just two weeks later, “marvellous Marconi” was in the spotlight again.

Soon after leaving Antwerp for Montreal, Captain Kendall of the Canadian Pacific liner Montrose became suspicious of two of his passengers. There was something about Reverend Robinson and his son that did not ring true. The reverend had boarded with a moustache but appeared in the dining room clean-shaven two days later, and the son’s effeminate manner and clinging intimacy left the captain wondering about their relationship. After catching a glimpse of safety pins in the waistband of the lad’s trousers, he decided to investigate. Discreetly, the Robinsons’ cabin was inspected. The contents of a wardrobe left little doubt that the two were not father and son. Their true identities were soon suspected. After discussion with his chief steward, Captain Kendall asked wireless operator Lawrence Hughes to send a message to the British police:

Have strong suspicions that Crippen London cellar murderer and accomplice are among saloon passengers. Mustache taken off growing beard. Accomplice dressed as boy. Manner and build undoubtedly a girl.[32]

Canada being still a British dominion, extradition would be a simple matter if the couple could be apprehended before crossing into the United States. Chief Inspector Walter Dew of Scotland Yard acted quickly. He boarded the much faster S.S. Laurentic and telegraphed ahead to have Montrose slowed sufficiently to ensure that he and Laurentic arrived first.

In the St Lawrence River the inspector, disguised as the ship’s pilot, boarded Montrose. The arrest was a simple matter. Kendall and Crippen were standing together, the captain having invited ‘Reverend Robinson’ to the bridge to meet the pilot. Dew simply removed his cap and said “Good morning, Dr Crippen. Do you know me? I’m Chief Inspector Dew from Scotland Yard.” Crippen’s reply was as unadorned as the detective’s greeting. “Thank God it’s over,” he said.[33]

On August 2nd, 1910, London newspapers reported that 3,000 people, mostly women, had gathered at the Quebec Police Court, hoping for a glimpse of the man said to have murdered his wife and cut her body into small pieces.[34] From the very beginning the case was destined to titillate and preoccupy. Michigan-born Hawley Crippen, a homeopathic physician, had migrated to England in 1900 with his second wife Cora, a sometime music-hall singer known also by her stage name Belle Elmore. Life in England was not quite as the couple had hoped. Crippen’s American qualifications were not recognised, and well-paid work did not come easily. They took in lodgers to supplement their incomes. Although their relationship and lifestyle would later be declared unusual, and much would be made of Cora’s succession of lovers, the Crippens of Camden-road drew no particular attention until February 1910. After p83a party on the last day of January, Cora disappeared. She had returned to the United States, Crippen told their friends. His new lover Ethel “Le Neve” Neave moved into the apartment soon after. Of itself, her sudden intercession was no ground for suspicion, but her predilection for wearing Cora’s clothes and jewellery raised the ire of old friends. Kate Williams, better known as the stage-performing strongwoman “Vulcana”, made her suspicions known to the London police.

After a few insinuating reports, Chief Inspector Dew visited Crippen at home. He found nothing out of order, and accepted at face value Crippen’s explanation of his wife’s departure. Dew later admitted that had Crippen and Le Neve not panicked after his visit, his suspicion might never have been aroused.

The couple fled to Brussels and then to Antwerp, where they donned their disguises and boarded Montrose for Quebec. As they left the old world for the new, the police began looking more closely at Crippen’s hastily vacated apartment. Three searches revealed nothing, but a fourth, more probing, sent London into a spin. From beneath the brick floor of the basement came human body parts, surgically separated and apparently deboned. No head or skeleton was ever found.

Hawley Crippen, escorted from the S.S. Montrose by Chief Inspector Walter Dew of Scotland Yard.

At sea, Crippen drank heavily, complained of insomnia and spent much of his time walking Montrose’s decks. He became intolerant of conversation and hypersensitive to the incessant crackle from the antenna of the ship’s Marconi apparatus. He suspected, correctly, that his p84movements were being monitored, and monitored on both sides of the Atlantic. When the moment of arrest came, he seemed surprised only by the fact that Inspector Dew was there in person to present the handcuffs.

Following his well-attended extradition hearing, Hawley Harvey Crippen was returned to London and tried for murder at the Old Bailey. He was hanged at Pentonville Prison on November 23rd, 1910. Ethel Neave, tried separately, was acquitted.

* * *

Aided so ably by Jack Johnson and Hawley Crippen, Marconi International Marine enjoyed spectacular growth in 1910. The total number of its shipboard wireless installations rose from 143 to 250, and the number looked set to double again by the middle of 1911, when the grace period of the Wireless Ship Act was due to expire.[35]

In Australia, it was the absence of a wireless installation that made the case for universal adoption more compelling. The Blue Anchor liner Waratah, which had disappeared in a storm in July 1909, remained in the newspapers for almost two years as search after search failed to reveal any trace of her.[36] In February 1911, as a formal inquiry drew to a close in London, the Adelaide Steamship Company moved to guard its dominance of Australian coastal shipping. To show a commitment to the safety of its passengers—and to distance itself from another company’s disaster—it ordered Marconi installations for its three finest steamers: Grantala, Yongala, and Koombana.[37] Incidentally, it was the versatile Ernest Fisk who would fulfil the Adelaide Steamship Company’s order. In May 1911 he was transferred from Otranto to develop Marconi’s onshore facilities in Sydney, and to supervise the first Australian installations.[38]

* * *

When Koombana arrived home in September 1911, much was made of her new instrument and its capabilities.[39] But as ‘Marconi man’ Mulholland soon discovered, Western Australia was not the North Atlantic, where operators often struggled to cut through the incessant chatter. Here, on the eastern fringe of the Indian Ocean, many messages went unanswered. From Shark Bay southward, Koombana came within range of the Royal Mail steamers. From Broome northward, she conversed with vessels out of Singapore, Surabaya and Batavia. Between Shark Bay and Broome, however, there were days when Koombana spoke only to “the sea, the blue lone sea.”[40]

The establishment of land stations was long overdue; indeed, there was a widespread perception that the Australian Government had not kept its promises.[41] As early as 1909, the P. & O. company had announced its intention to fit wireless telegraphy equipment to all of its vessels in Australian service.[42] Its decision was predicated upon the government’s declared intention to establish powerful land stations at Sydney and Fremantle. Two years later, nothing had eventuated.

p85By September 1911, plans were in place, but the federal government had a problem that went beyond bureaucratic obfuscation. It was keen to award contracts to the local firm Australasian Wireless, who were supplying Telefunken rather than Marconi equipment, but a recent British court decision—the so-called Parker Judgment[43]—had affirmed the Marconi Company’s right to see out the last four years of its patents. Therein lay the problem for the federal government, and for attorney-general “Billy” Hughes in particular: the government could not afford a further delay of four years, but it risked legal action by Marconi if it entered into contracts for the supply of Telefunken equipment.[44]

Australasian Wireless tried to reassure the government that it alone would be the target of any litigation,[45] but Hughes accepted different advice and proceeded very cautiously indeed. On February 10th, 1912, at the formal opening of small land stations in Melbourne and Hobart, the invited guests were carefully chosen, and none were permitted to inspect key pieces of equipment. The thin veil of secrecy achieved nothing. Three days later, the Marconi company issued writs against the Commonwealth of Australia.[46]

Ultimately, the impasse was broken by creative thinking. Hughes and his department recognised that if government contracts were divided between competitors and competing systems, problems of equipment compatibility would inevitably arise. (The national muddle of railway gauges had certainly demonstrated that.) Although the details of informal discussions cannot be known, it is clear that the local agents of Marconi and Telefunken were given a powerful incentive to settle their differences. The message was as clear as it was unofficial: while the government could not predict how its contracts would be divided between competitors, there was a strong possibility that a single, merged entity would win them all.

It seems likely that Billy Hughes brokered—or at least blessed—the local amalgamation of the two firms, solving the government’s legal problem at the same time. On July 11th, 1913, the erstwhile competitors came together as Amalgamated Wireless Australasia, or A.W.A., with Ernest Fisk as general and technical manager.[47]

Fisk, now 27, seemed destined to steer the development of wireless telegraphy in Australia. He was the competent operator who had emerged as an articulate spokesperson—for the shipping lines, for the Marconi company, and now for a burgeoning industry. He spoke confidently and often of telegraphy and its accomplishments, but never lost touch with the naive wonder that had drawn him and others to wireless in its scientific infancy. He understood that the medium could still be sold on its magic and its mystery, and may even have wondered if some of that magic was being buried beneath a growing pile of practical achievements. In a review for Melbourne newspaper The Argus in November 1910, he recounted the highlights of a few frenetic years, and concluded:

p86Through fog, through the blackest night, through storm and cloud, our Morse flies, 186,000 miles to the second. If we could speak to the moon, 1 1/3 seconds would suffice. Eight and a half minutes would call up the sun. We are trammelled by no retarding induction, like the deep-sea cables, and with greater power and more knowledge we may before long send our waves round the world and back again. Often, while the Morse buzzes in the receivers from the ships across the sea, it strikes me suddenly what a tremendous thing it is, and how little we really know.[48]


2. "Marvellous Marconi and his Wireless Wonders" (Editorial), The Register (Adelaide, SA), Saturday 11 March 1905, page 4
3. "Marvellous Marconi and his Wireless Wonders" (Editorial), The Register (Adelaide, SA), Saturday 11 March 1905, page 4
4. "Marvellous Marconi and his Wireless Wonders" (Editorial), The Register (Adelaide, SA), Saturday 11 March 1905, page 4
5. Hancock, Harry E., 1950, Wireless at sea, the first fifty years: a history, Marconi International Marine Communication Company, London
6. "Liner 'Republic' Rammed At Sea", The New York Times, Sunday 24 January 1909
9. "Liner 'Republic' Rammed At Sea", The New York Times, Sunday 24 January 1909
11a. "Ethergraphs on Ocean Vessels", The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 01 February 1909, page 7
11b. "Wireless Telegraphy", The Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW), Monday 01 February 1909, page 1
12. "Ethergraphs for Ocean Vessels", Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA), Wednesday 03 February 1909, page 3
13a. "The Overdue S.S. Waratah", The West Australian, Monday 09 August 1909, page 5
13b. "'Wireless' Equipment", The Argus (Melbourne), Friday 10 September 1909, page 5
14. "Wireless Telegraphy At Sea", The West Australian, Wednesday 13 July 1910, page 7
15. Marconi International Marine Communication Company was a subsidiary of Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company.
16. "Wireless Telegraphy At Sea", The West Australian, Wednesday 13 July 1910, page 7
17a. "Shipping", The West Australian, Friday 04 December 1908, page 6
17b. "Shipping", The West Australian, Saturday 12 December 1908, page 10
17c. "Shipping", The Register (Adelaide, SA), Tuesday 22 December 1908, page 6
17d. General news, The Argus (Melbourne), Tuesday 22 December 1908, page 6
17e. "Shipping", The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 26 December 1908, page 10
18. Ronan, Tom, 1964, Packhorse and Pearling Boat, Cassell Australia, Melbourne, Chapter 1
19. Ronan, Tom, 1964, Packhorse and Pearling Boat, Cassell Australia, Melbourne, Chapter 1
21a. "Boxing", The Western Mail (Perth, WA), Saturday 02 January 1909, page 37
22. "Burns-Johnson Fight Pictures", The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 04 January 1909, page 3
23a. Ward, Geoffrey C., 2006, Unforgivable Blackness: The rise and fall of Jack Johnson, Random House,
23b. Orbach, Barak, "The Johnson-Jeffries Fight and Censorship of Black Supremacy", NYU Journal of Law & Liberty, 2010, Vol. 8, pp. 270-346
24. "Jeffries Will Meet Johnson", Los Angeles Times, Monday 01 March 1909, I12.
25. "Scenes in London", The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 06 July 1910, page 10
26. "The Great Fight", The West Australian, Wednesday 6 July 1910, page 7
27. "Johnson Wins", Daily News (Perth, WA), Tuesday 05 July 1910, page 8
28. "Johnson Wins", Daily News (Perth, WA), Tuesday 05 July 1910, page 8
29. "Wireless Telegraphy At Sea", The West Australian, Wednesday 13 July 1910, page 7
30. "Johnson Wins", Daily News (Perth, WA), Tuesday 05 July 1910, page 8
34a. "The Crippen Murder", The Brisbane Courier (Qld.), Wednesday 20 July 1910, page 5
34b. "Cablegrams", The Hedland Advocate (Port Hedland, WA), Saturday 06 August 1910, page 4
35a. "Wireless on the Otranto", The Brisbane Courier (Qld.), Tuesday 26 July 1910, page 4
35b. "Wireless Telegraphy in Australia", The West Australian, Monday 7 August 1911, page 4
35c. "Wireless on the s.s. Koombana", The Hedland Advocate (Port Hedland, WA), Saturday 12 August 1911
36. "Wireless and the Waratah", The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 10 August 1909, page 6
37a. Minutes of Adelaide Steamship Company directors' meeting, Monday 31 October 1910, Noel Butlin Archives Centre, 0186/Z535 Box 12
37b. Minutes of Adelaide Steamship Company directors' meeting, Wednesday 01 February 1911, Noel Butlin Archives Centre, 0186/Z535 Box 12
38a. "Twenty One Years Old!", The Argus (Melbourne), Thursday 12 July 1934, page 7
39a. "Wireless on the s.s. Koombana", The Hedland Advocate (Port Hedland, WA), Saturday 12 August 1911
39b. "Marconi Wireless on the Koombana", The West Australian, Friday 08 September 1911, page 6
41. "Wireless Telegraphy in Australia", The West Australian, Monday 7 August 1911, page 4
42. "News and Notes", The West Australian, Wednesday 21 April 1909, page 6
43. "Rival Wireless Systems", The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 04 December 1911, page 10
44a. "Wireless Telegraphy", The West Australian, Thursday 29 June 1911, page 7
44b. "Marconi Patent", The Register (Adelaide, SA), Thursday 13 July 1911, page 6
45. "The Marconi Judgment", The Colonist (Nelson, NZ), Friday 14 July 1911, page 3
46a. "Commonwealth Wireless System", The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), Monday 12 February 1912, page 15
46b. "Wireless Telegraphy", The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 15 February 1912, page 10
47a. "Trade and Finance", The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.), Monday 21 July 1913, page 3
47b. "Twenty One Years Old!", The Argus (Melbourne), Thursday 12 July 1934, page 7
48. "Speech in the Sky", The Argus (Melbourne), Wednesday 09 November 1910, page 13