The Marconi Wireless Station in South Wellfleet, Massachusetts is a historic place along the National Seashore. Guglielmo Marconi built stations at Poldhu, England, Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, and South Wellfleet, Massachusetts. At the South Wellfleet site, Marconi built a large antenna array on four 210-foot wooden towers. He also built a transmitting station powered by kerosene engines that produced 25,000 volts of electricity. This allowed the Marconi Wireless Station to transmit longwave signals. On December 17, 1902, the first successful two-way transatlantic wireless test message was sent from the Glace Bay station.
The Marconi Wireless Station in South Wellfleet made history when the first public two-way radio connection between Europe and America took place on January 18, 1903. On that day, President Theodore Roosevelt’s and King Edward VII’s messages were translated into international Morse code and aired with joy at the South Wellfleet and English stations, respectively. The Marconi equipment was swiftly adopted by ocean-going vessels to receive news broadcasts. Ship-to-shore transmittals also became a major enterprise. For fifty cents per word, business and social messages might be delivered. The South Wellfleet station became the primary facility for this function in North America. However, because the station’s effectiveness was limited, transmissions were only made between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., when the weather conditions were ideal.
Over time, the novelty of wireless telegraphy waned, but in 1912 it proved to be a much-needed communication tool. The sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912 was one of the station’s most important responsibilities. The station’s operators were able to inform the RMS Carpathia about the Titanic’s sinking, allowing for the rescue of some of the Titanic’s passengers. Thanks to the station, 700 individuals were rescued from the sinking Titanic.
The station was closed in 1917, partly due to concerns about its usage during World War I, but mainly due to the threat of erosion to its towers. The location was abandoned in 1920 after useable materials and equipment were removed. Since then, erosive forces have taken their toll. The sea has swept everything away, leaving no sign of the spot.
In 1975, the site was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It is now free to explore and managed by the National Seashore.
- Opened: 1901
- Original function: Wireless Station
- Architect(s): Carl Taylor
- Year added to NRHP: 1975
- NRHP number: 75000158
- Status: Public
- Admission cost: Free