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Titanic's 'Secret Log'
The following is from an article in the Toronto Star, December 26, 1997

A2 THE TORONTO STAR December 26, 1997

Secret log of Titantic's distress calls now on view
Newfoundland radio operator withheld notes he made during 1912 disaster

'They couldn't imagine this unsinkable ship was in trouble. Then there are the calls for help and then resignation when they realize the ship is lost. It's all there in those couple of pages.'

- Molly Russell, Radio Operator's Daughter


Robert Hunston was a 23 year-old radio operator when he heard the final messages from the sinking Titanic 85 years ago.

He recorded a two-page handwritten log of the final hours of the so-called unsinkable ship from his base at Cape Race, Nfld [Newfoundland].

Bound by what his daughter calls "an oath of confidentiality," her father never revealed those messages to anyone, including the hundreds of reporters who hounded the station during the disaster in April, 1912.

Now, thanks to Molly Russell, the world will be able to view these handwritten notes as part of an exhibit at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax.

Much of the recent interest in the topic has been generated by the controversies over the $200 million film, Titanic, directed by Canadian James Cameron, However, early box office returns show the film may have a longer lifespan than the doomed ship.

Hunston's logs reveal the sense of tension and drama that enveloped the onshore and offshore radio operators as they tried to help save the Titanic and its 2,200 passengers and crew on April 14-15, 1912.

"From the notes you sort of get the feeling of shock, dismay and disbelief," Russell, a retired homemaker, said yesterday. "They couldn't imagine this unsinkable ship was in trouble. Then there are the calls for help and then resignation when they realize the ship is lost. It's all there in those couple of pages.

"There have been lots of disasters at sea. But somehow the Titanic stays in the minds of people, possibly because it was the biggest and most luxurious ship and had fame before it ever sailed because it was unsinkable and the epitome of luxury."

The notes also reignite a marine controversy about why the Californian, a ship that was believed to have been in the vicinity, did not respond to the Titanic's distress calls. The radio operator on the Californian is believed to have been asleep.

The April 14,1912, log begins at 10:25 p.m. Eastern Standard Time: "JCRGodwin on watch. Hears Titanic calling CQD (Come, Quick Danger) giving position 41.44N, 50.24W, about 380 miles SSE of Cape Race."

Ten minutes later, the notes say: "Titanic gives corrected position as 41.46N, 50.14W, a matter of five or six miles difference. He (Titanic operator) says 'bave struck iceberg."'

At 10:40, Hunston writes: "Titanic calls Carpathia and says 'we require immediate assistance.'"

At 10:43, the Titanic sends same information to the Californian, according to Hunston's notes, giving its position.

Then two minutes later, Hunston's notes say: "Caronia (another ship) circulates same information. Broadcast to Baltic and all ships who can hear him. RH on duty."

Ten minutes later, at 10:55, the log says: "Titanic tells German steamer 'have struck iceberg and sinking.'"

From 11:00 p.m. on, the Titantic continues to call for assistance, At 11:25 the log says: "Established communication with Virginian here and give him all information re: Titanic telling him inform captain immediately. OK.'"

According to Hunston's log at 11:36, "the Olympic asks Titanic which way latter steering." The response: "We are putting women off in boats."

At 11:50, "The Virginian says he is 200 miles from scene of disaster," Hunston's notes reveal. Five minutes later, the notes add: "Virginian says he is now going to assist Titanic. Titanic meanwhile continues circulating position and calling for help. He says weather calm and clear."

At 12:50 a.m., April 15, 1912, Hunston's notes say: "Virginian says last he heard of Titanic was at 12:27 when latter's signals were blurred and ended abruptly. From now on, boats working amongst themselves relative to Titanic disaster. Nothing more heard from 'Titanic."

Then at 2:01 a.m., the notes read: "First mge (message) from New York asking for details. This is followed by about 300 more, chiefly from newspapers to many ships asking for news. After daylight, news commences to arrive from ships stating Carpathia picked up 20 boats of people. No word of any more being saved."

Only about 700 passengers and crew survived, while 1,500 went to an icy grave. The Titanic only carried 20 lifeboats.

Russell said her father's two-page summary of the disaster is part of a new display of artifacts about the Titanic.