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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello:

I'm an occasional visitor to this site who is working on a novel set in the early 1920s, about a Hawaii-bound tramp freighter that's taken over by pirates.

I was wondering if there was any way for the good guys to tap into or hack the ship's wireless in order to send an SOS? Where might I find such information?

Thank you much!

Thomas Burchfield
 

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At that period it's not so much 'hacking' as putting someone in the radio room to operate the equipment i.e. switch it on and tap out the distress (and presumably give the position.)

Best thing the bad guys could do would be to destroy the equipment if they could not operate it, in which case they wouldn't have to guard it. Also kill the sparks on the assumption he was only one who could operate or repair it.

Alastair Maclean usually bumped off the sparks in a few of his stories to avoid complications.

Personally if I was a bad guy I'd destroy the equipment, because deck officers are trained to know Morse Code at least, and might have figured out how to fire it up assuming the pirates chose not to at least guard it.

Of course it might seem I'm sort of rooting for the bad guys here, I'm not really, but stupid bad guys aren't very good bad guys. :sweat:
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for that, Bob. My bad guys need to keep the wireless going as they intend to rendezvous with another ship.

Interesting your point about Alistair MacLean. In my story so far, all the deck officers are wiped out, except for one (the third mate).

At the risk of spoilers, my chief bad guy is a very experienced sailor. But his grip on his command may be shaky, so that may be where my solution lies.

Thanks again!

Thomas B.
 

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No problem.

If the bad guys want to keep the radio station going I'm assuming they have someone who can operate it. That would be the best course. In theory they could put a gun to the sparks head and make him send the rendezvous positioning details, but without knowing what he's sending there's a danger there.

Most sparkies I've ever met were batsh1t crazy to start with … :sweat: (I'm joking here a bit, but only a bit) and I'm not sure with a barrel of a gun stuck in your ear how you might tap that Morse key, … as a bad guy I wouldn't let my plan rest on it. (Jester)
 

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#2 . "...Alastair Maclean usually bumped off the sparks in a few of his stories to avoid complications."

From what I gather, during WW2, the U Boats used to try and shoot out the bridge/radio room area for the same reason. They had "Funkerfobia".

John T
 

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No problem.

If the bad guys want to keep the radio station going I'm assuming they have someone who can operate it. That would be the best course. In theory they could put a gun to the sparks head and make him send the rendezvous positioning details, but without knowing what he's sending there's a danger there.

Most sparkies I've ever met were batsh1t crazy to start with … :sweat: (I'm joking here a bit, but only a bit) and I'm not sure with a barrel of a gun stuck in your ear how you might tap that Morse key, … as a bad guy I wouldn't let my plan rest on it. (Jester)
I presume, as in all these yarns, there's a good looking bimbo hostage with hardly any gear on ... maybe a Nigella Lawson lookalike. If I was the Sparks, I'd join the baddies and do whatever they wanted then I'd tell Nigella I could rescue her, maybe somewhere along the line she would lose some more clothes after she'd hung them on the main aerial to dry and they'd blown away, or somat like that. Then I'd ... sorry gotta go!

John T
 

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Question: Possible to tap or hack into wireless?

Not much much help with your book but it answers your question.
During WW2 thanks to the skills of British Post Office engineers and US built transmitter "Aspidistra", when German broadcast stations ceased transmitting on the approach of bombers the listeners were completely unaware of any interruption and that they were now listening to a British station which had hacked in, much to the annoyance of Nazi officials. .
 

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What Bob! Don't tell me you tow that line of others against our brethren "mad, queer or alcoholic by the age of 30"?

I don't think having a gun to my temple would have improved my already questionable Morse. It would certainly have upped my alcohol consumption (already somewhat more prizewinning than the Morse).
 

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I can only report what I've observed :sweat: … of course none of these things apply to me, although I can't deny my Morse is a bit ropey as recent events with the ROA have demonstrated :eek:

I'd agree with you a gun in your ear doesn't exactly enhance your operating skills. Thinking about this tells me I need a drink … (Pint)
 

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Once, many years ago, the ship I was sparks on was anchored in Lyme Bay where we had a visitation from some locals who landed in a helicopter. Their advice on pirates and hijacking was when they said "jump" the reply was to be "how high". This was to avoid any future unpleasantness.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Hi Guys: Thanks for all your replies! I especially appreciated Andrew's photo of the radio room.

I think I figured a way out of my dilemma. Let me know how this works on the credibility scale.

Given this ship is a cargo freighter, there might well be a shipment of radio equipment onboard (bound for Chinese shipyards). So what if my good guys--there would be a least a couple of experts--were to break it out and set it up as an alternative mode of communication under the noses of the bad guys.

One followup question is what would they use as power source? Would they use the ship's generator or could it have its own battery?

Thanks!

Thomas

PS: Yes, there will be at least one naked damsel.
 

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Depends on where they're going to set it up. One thing you will need, is an antenna, particularly important if you're going to transmit.

But if the equipment they're carrying as cargo is similar to that in the photo, well this isn't exactly portable.

I'm looking at that rotary device behind the chair and wondering if that's a power converter of some kind, but some of these other lads might know better. (They're old enough to remember such stuff …. (Jester))
 

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Well, Bob, I admire the attempt to stopper the replies lest respondents invite ageist comments!

Many of us are surely old enough to remember rotary converters (Valve kit run from the 24V Reserve/Emergency battery(s) - Reliance, Salvor for two instances. On DC ships a rotary converter or two were ubiquitous (a special commutator vertically mounted before anyone asks).

Not many of us would remember the use of a motor driven alternator to generate 'HF' or a rotary discharger.

And no more do I!
 

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Fair enough … :sweat:

I did sail on the Weybank, a DC ship with a standard Marconi Atalanta/Oceanspan/Salvor etc with noisy rotary converters secreted away in the station's guts.

You have to understand age is a one way street, and I have to take advantage of position on that while it lasts. (Jester)
 
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