Shouting at the Sun


During one of many Atlantic crossings made by Marconi in 1902, the wireless on the ship he was aboard made contact with the main station at Poldhu at varying distances during the voyage, each a new record.

The final transmission at 2,099 statute miles from “home” seemed to prove to the world that this thing called “wireless” was a real and disruptive force that would soon blanket the earth and all the ships at sea.

But there was this tidbit from the pages of Thunderstruck by Erik Larson:

The voyage had brought forth a troubling revelation, which Marconi for now kept secret. He had discovered that during daylight hours, once the ship was more than 700 miles out, it received no signals at all, although reception resumed after dark. He called this “the daylight effect”. It seemed, he said, that “clear sunlight and blue skies, though transparent, act as a kind of fog to powerful Hertzian rays.”

A couple of months later, still mystified and frustrated by the effect, Marconi was less judicious in his choice of words. “Damn the sun!” he shouted. “How long will it torment us?”

Yeah. We know that feeling very well…

Author: Jeff Davis


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