News: Morse signal XXX MAUQ told story of tragedy

Otago Daily Times, 12 August 1968

Morse signal XXX MAUQ told story of tragedy

By ‘Wheelhouse’

The faint and brief signal – XXX MAUQ – in Morse code picked up by a Southland Post Office telegraphist was the first news New Zealand and the rest of the world had of the tragic fire which brought death and destruction to the Shaw Savill liner, Gothic.

The signal from the Gothic was heard by senior telegraphist David Dow, of Awarua Radio while he was covering the eight megacycle band as part of Awarua’s continuous radio watch.

He tuned to 8364 kilocycles just in time to pick up the brief signal XXX MAUQ in Morse code.

Immediately recognising the international ‘urgency’ signal of XXX and knowing that MAUQ was the call sign of the Gothic, the Awarua telegraphist and other Post Office shipping radio stations moved into their emergency routine.

Although the Gothic was approaching mid-Pacific when the fire occurred, it appears that Awarua was the only coast station in the world that picked up the signal.

Such emergency messages are often heard from distant parts of the world by the Post Office stations at Auckland, Wellington, Awarua and the Chatham Islands.

These stations provide a complete coverage for coastal shipping and for international shipping over much of the Pacific area.

New Zealand is divided into three regions for the coastal coverage but the international shipping service is shared between Awwarua and Wellington with the southern station receiving messages, and Wellington Radio, high on Tinakori Hill overlooking the capital, operating the transmitting services.1

For the clearance of Commonwealth shipping traffic the world is divided into eight regions with New Zealand’s zone extending to almost Panama in the east, to Antarctica in the south, halfways across the Tasman in the west and north almost to Hawaii.

A feature of Wellington Radio is the large magnetic shipping wall map that pinpoints ships throughout the Pacific and from the operating room that it overlooks broadcast transmissions to ships are made every four hours around the clock.


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