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Saturday, 29 April, 2000, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
Final message consigns Morse to history
Morse Code machine
Morse code has been the mariner's friend
A morse code enthusiast and former mariner from north Wales will play his part in the final chapter of a piece of maritime history.

Bruce Morris, from Tywyn, Gwynedd, has special dispensation to contact Portishead Radio by morse code.

The station has been the seaman's worldwide link with the mainland for decades.

But Maritime Morse Code will be scrapped on Sunday, bringing to an end a 100-year association between the maritime industry and the earliest form of wireless communication.

Mr Morris has turned his study at home into a living museum dedicated to morse code, reconstructing a merchant navy wireless telegraph station.

Items in his study include a polished brass, morse key, transmitters, receivers, gleaming dials and even a porthole.

Distress calls

The former merchant sailor will dress up for the event in a radio operator's uniform, adding an authentic touch to proceedings.

The morse code system in the UK has been phased out in preference to a satellite safety system.

Stations that used to pick up ships' distress calls have been replaced by satellite receivers.

Morse was invented in the United States and the first message was sent to Washington in 1844.

By the beginning of this century, dots and dashes were being tapped out by ships and remote settlements across the world.

It can be communicated using a torch, tapped by prisoners on pipes or even spoken.

At the beginning of this century, Britain set up listening posts around the coasts to safeguard shipping, the first and most famous SOS being broadcast by the Titanic on her doomed maiden voyage.

Since last year, all ships have been obliged to carry automatic distress beacons which can tell the nearest coastguard where they are, what the problem is and what the ship's name is.

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02 Feb 99 | Sci/Tech
Morse code signs off
15 Feb 98 | World
Going, going, gone ... down
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