When the captain departed and the hatch closed behind him, Cyril Evans leaned back on his stool and plopped his feet onto the counter. A long day was ending. One more message to send out and it was off to the Wild West for him. Before leaving port, Cyril had traded another sailor for a copy of Zane Grey’s new novel, Riders of the Purple Sage. With the boat stopped, for the first time all day he felt relaxed and was looking forward to an hour or so of reading before bed.
“Jane Withersteen, don’t go anywhere,” he said, staring down at the book.
Cyril slid an earpiece over his head, pulled the transmitter onto his lap, and began to tap out an informal message.
“Say, old man,” it read, “we are surrounded by ice and stopped.”
As he typed out the last character, the reply came immediately. He yanked the headphones from his ears and held them at arm’s length, and still he could hear the message clearly:
“SHUT UP, SHUT UP, YOU ARE JAMMING ME!”
Cyril threw the headphones onto the counter and sat forward. “Fine, you dingbat,” he said out loud. “Try and be friendly...”
He grabbed his novel and accidentally tore the cover in half as he violently opened it.
“Dammit! You stupid blockhead, now look what you’ve made me do!”
His opportunity for relaxation had now passed; his heart was pounding with anger at the wireless operator on the nearby ship. He gave up on the idea of reading and instead secured the lights, went out the hatch, down the ladder, and fell into his bunk, still upset.
An hour later, at 12:15 a.m. on April 15, 1912, in the empty communications room of the SS Californian, the “CQD” (SOS) of the Titanic went unheard.