Chatham Marconi Maritime Center
The Chatham Marconi Maritime Center (www.chathammarconi.org) this year commemorates the 95th anniversary of Chatham Radio, which was operated by Radio Corporation of America (RCA) under the call letters WCC, and during most of the 20th century was the busiest ship-to-shore station on the east coast.
The 2016 season will feature a full array of STEM courses, as well as new and refreshed exhibits in the three galleries of the Center, all located on the Ryder’s Cove campus at 847 Orleans Road (Route 28) in North Chatham.
The heart of Chatham Radio’s activities occurred in the Operations Building, now housing the Marconi-RCA Wireless Museum and the History gallery which highlights the story of wireless communications from Marconi’s early days to the late 20th century. A unique addition is the popular Enigma Cipher Machine exhibit detailing the secret work done here during World War II.
Wireless today and into the future is the theme for the exhibit gallery in the Education Center (once the Hotel Nautilus). New exhibits encompass wireless technology behind the digital age, modern travel and cyberattacks, joining ones on tracking white sharks and ships at sea.
The third gallery has no walls or ceiling or traditional flooring and is the one gallery truly open year round. This is the Antenna Field Trail behind the Operations Building, a winding path through the flora and fauna of Cape Cod with interpretive signs identifying and describing the station’s antennas. Some of the antennas are original, some are replicas of those which had been used by WCC, and some of them are in operation today for communication with ham radio operators around the world.
In addition to relaying all types of commercial and personal messages to ships around the world, WCC provided communications to aviator pioneers including Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes.
Chatham Radio played a significant role in defeating the Germans during the World War II Battle of the Atlantic by intercepting Enigma-encrypted wireless messages between German headquarters and its ships at sea. “Station C,” as it was called, passed these intercepts on to Washington, D.C. for decoding. In addition, as the control station for the east coast direction-finding network, Station C directed the search for telltale radio signals that allowed enemy vessels to be located and tracked.
Interactive exhibits (such as one teaching basic Morse code and another with working Enigma simulators), highlight videos of Marconi’s life, the role of WCC in world events, the ship-to-shore communication process with the actual shipboard radio from the hospital ship SS Hope, artifacts from important periods in WCC’s history and the opportunity for visitors to view our preserved 1914 station campus.