The submerged plates themselves generate sufficient current to operate the teletrofonic system without batteries. Electrical signals do not diminish in seawater as theoretically expected. When Meucci spoke of transoceanic communications he was not exaggerating. Seawater seems to be a self-regenerative amplifier of sorts. The addition of a carrier frequency (an electrical buzzer) would pitch the signals toward a higher range, granting more signal focus.
Sir William Preece duplicated these experiments for telegraphy across the English Channel in the early 1900’s. Their developing success was eclipsed by the appearance of aerial wireless. Some researchers have interpreted the work of G. Marconi to be a blend of Meucci conduction telegraphy and aerial wireless. While purists protest, it is intriguing that Marconi would later actually resort to mile-long submerged copper screens for transoceanic communications. The submerged copper screens acted as a “capacitative counterpoise”, following his equally long aerials…out to sea.
Several segments of these Marconi aerial-screen systems have been located by investigators, both in New Brunswick (N. Jersey) and in Bolinas (California). The Marconi “bent-L” aerial system differs from Meucci’s design only in that it utilized several hundred thousand watts of VLF currents. In effect, Marconi employed Meucci conduction wireless in his early transoceanic systems.
Meucci became prolific when designing these maritime inventions. It was told him that a certain deep-sea diver, having once distinctly heard a steamship engine while performing a salvage operation, was told (on resurfacing) that the ship was fully forty miles away! This phenomenon so impressed Meucci that his mind turned toward the use of his teletrofono in deep-sea communications and offshore ranging.
His notion was truly original, involving this submerged plate system for wireless vocal communication. The use of short aerial rods projecting from the diver’s helmet formed the very first “aerials”. Divers could maintain communications with their surface companions without interruption if such teletrofonic aerials and internally housed responders were installed in their helmets. Sealed aerial rods (one foot or less in length) would protrude out from the helmet, forming the wireless link; an invention truly worthy of Jules Verne! Transmissions and receptions would occur through the remarkable conductive-regenerative ability of seawater to conduct electro-vocal signals.
Of chief concern in Meucci’s mind was the establishment of solid maritime wireless communications systems. He designed several systems intended to aid harbor approach and navigation during times of limited visibility. Clusters of tone-transmitters (positioned as fixed stations or anchored as buoys) could wirelessly communicate danger or safety to sea captains equipped with onboard listening devices. Both landmark stations and onboard responders would communicate through seawater with submerged metal plates. These plates would be fixed in position at some depth; much below each landmark and right under the ship hull.
Navigators would be guided into safe harbor by following a specific tonal signal, and avoiding the selected danger tones. These tones would be subaqueous transmissions…true tonal beacons. Navigators were to carefully listen for guide-tones while entering a harbor. Pilots could locate their offshore position with precision by simply listening for the designated subaqueous tonal beacons.
Position could be triangulated by comparing tones and their relative volumes. Tones could be determined by comparison with a small on-board receiver containing tuning forks. Maps could mark these tonal-stations and pilots could rely on their presence. Meucci wished to eradicate the blinding dangers of fog and storm for sailors. Meucci accurately foresaw that an entire corps of maintenance operators would find continual employment in such worthy service.
In all of this, Meucci actually anticipated the LORAN system by a full seventy-five years! In the years before radio pierced the night isolation of shipping, ships maintained tight commonly used sea-lanes when far from coastlands. Mid-oceanic collisions were not uncommon. Meucci conceived of systems by which ships could transmit warning beacons toward one another while out at sea. Helping to avoid such mid-ocean disasters, sensitive compass needles would detect passing ships. Plate-pairs would be poised beneath the ship’s hull in the four cardinal directions. Relays could detect ships, responding with loud alarms.
In addition, ships could launch teletrofonic currents in the direction of specific approaching or passing ships, establish continual vocal contact. Meucci accurately foresaw the development of new maritime communications corps, anticipating those wireless operators who would later be called “sparks” by their crew mates.
Lack of funding alone prevented Meucci from making large scale demonstrations of his revolutionary systems. In addition, prejudices associated with his nationality prevented New York financiers from even knowing of his activities. Meucci turned to his own patriots for help.
Confident in the both the originality and diversity of his teletrofonic inventions, Meucci was now sure that he could convince Italian financiers to help commercialize the Teletrofonic System; not in America, but in Italy. Meucci (now fifty-two years old) set up a long distance demonstration of his system in 1860 in which a famous Italian operatic singer was featured. His songs being transmitted across several miles of line, Meucci attracted considerable attention. Featured in the Italian newspapers around New York City, he indeed attracted the attentions of financiers.
Sr. Bendelari, one such impresario, suggested that full scale production of the teletrofonic system begin in Italy. He travelled to Italy with drawings and explanations of what he had seen and heard. Contrary to the hopes of all, Sr. Bendelari found it impossible to interest financiers in the teletrofonic system. Civil wars distracted the ordinarily aggressive Italian development of all such new technology.
Italian production of the teletrofono having never begun, Meucci became extremely embittered over both the incident and his own circumstance in America. American financiers were no better. Most contemporary Americans who had any “practical financial sense” at all could not believe that any mechanical device could actually transmit the human voice. They were far less interested in investing their fortunes toward developing systems which they considered fraudulent.
On sound advice from sympathetic compatriots, Meucci was warned never to bring anything to the American industrial concerns without first protecting himself by legal means. Before Meucci could dare bring his models the short ferry trip to Lower Manhattan to the developers, he needed a patent. Patents have never been cheap to obtain, this the regulator’s tool. Even in those days, a patent cost a full two-hundred and fifty dollars.
- LUMINOUS WORLD – Baron Karl von Reichenbach
- EARTH ENERGY & VOCAL RADIO: Nathan Stubblefield