East Goodwin Lightship

On the drawing of the East Goodwin Lightship the Marconi aerial can be seen suspended from the spar at the masthead.
This Lightship was equiped with wireless apparatus in 1898, after a series of experiments the installations were completed and a communication link was sucessfully established so that the vessel was capable of calling for assistance. Marconi reported that "the installation started working from the very first without the slightest difficulty".

Radio station: The first ship-to-shore message took place on Christmas Eve, 1898, when Marconi successfully made contact between the South Foreland Lighthouse, near Dover, and the East Goodwin Lightship, in the English Channel. Keen to exploit his system commercially, Marconi arranged a presentation to Trinity House, the organisation responsible for maintaining lighthouses and lightships. This body had made known that it wanted a reliable means of communication with its offshore establishments and accordingly a demonstration was arranged between South Foreland lighthouse and the East Goodwin lightship, a distance of 12 miles. The experiment was entirely successful.

The equipment proved its worth several times in the months that followed. In early January 1899 heavy seas tore away part of the lightship's bulwarks, a fact that was reported to Trinity House by the wireless link. The first use of radio for preserving life at sea occurred on 17 March 1899 after the German ship Elbe went ashore on the Goodwin Sands in dense fog. Marconi's wireless link was used to summon the Ramsgate lifeboat. Soon afterwards, on 28 April, the lightship itself was rammed by the vessel R.F. Matthews, causing the international distress signal to be given for the first time by wireless.

Entirely fortuitously, these events vindicated Marconi's statements on the vital role that wireless could play in shipping, and within a year his Company's marine subsidiary was formed. Tragically, full acceptance of the need for wireless at sea took somewhat longer.

Location: Thames Estuary

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