ONE LAST MESSAGE FROM A QUEEN

By John R Smith

A last goodbye from a lovely lady................

Late one summer evening while on the Distress watch at the ubiquitous CG Radio Station Kodiak (NOJ), a loud modulated carrier wave began resonating through the headphones on 500 kcs. I have no idea the transmitter wattage, but the originator sounded as if he were sitting in St. Paul Harbor, in Kodiak. After initial tuning, the following message was sent out over the airwaves for all the West Coast to hear:

CQ DE GBSS BT AMVER NOW QTP LONG BEACH — FOREVER BT (*)73*S (**)VA**

To the poor, unwashed masses, this group of disjointed tones was merely another collection of dots and dashes in that foreign language of Morse Code. To the more informed, this brief message sent to "All Ships and Stations" (CQ) heralded the end of one of the most glamorous eras in history, for it represented the final docking message from RMS Queen Mary, and the virtual end of trans-oceanic passenger liner service.

To those of us fascinated—no, obsessed would be a better word—with those gigantic, beautiful, floating palaces, it was a rather sad message. I can only imagine how the Radio Officer felt. The only problem was, he wasn't able to shut his transmitter down for more than two hours following that all-stations AMVER (Automated Merchant Vessel Report). I was amazed by the sheer number of "73s", "Good Luck, OM and other well-wishes from vessels of all nationalities. International Call signs beginning with "G", "D", "U", "J", "6" and many others, as well as the expected American "K", "W", and yes, even "N". Formal radio procedure seemed to take a breather for this monumental occasion. Only the Silent Periods were legally observed.

Later, Queen Mary’s Radio Officer made a final, emotional sign off by keying his transmitter, and hitting the power switch, allowing that beautiful, broad signal to fade off into oblivion.

Another glamorous, romantic era had fallen victim to progress.

(*) Best Regards

(**) End of ALL transmissions. 

* * * *

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