Marconi’s Birthday

This article was originally material for a broadcast of “Wavescan” via Adventist World Radio and now forms part of the Radio Heritage Collection ©. All rights reserved to Ragusa Media Group, PO Box 14339, Wellington, New Zealand. This material is licenced on a non-exclusive basis to South Pacific DX Resource hosted on for a period of five years from April 1st 2003. Author: Adrian Peterson

The story of the brilliant wireless inventor, Guglielmo Marconi is very well known. He was born on April 25, 1874 at the family villa near Bologna (bol-OWE-nya) in northern Italy, and just last Friday was the 128 th anniversary of his birth..

Marconi began his first wireless experiments on the top floor of the family home just 20 years later using very primitive home made equipment. During the early part of the following year, he transferred his experiments outdoors and he succeeded in sending wireless signals over a distance of more than a mile with an intervening hill in between.

He moved to England soon afterwards and made many public demonstrations of his equipment. He then set up a factory at Chelmsford to make his wireless equipment.

Soon after the end of World War 1, Marconi bought a luxury steam-powered yacht, the “Rovenska”. This ship was built in Scotland in 1904 for Maria Theresa of royal blood in Austria. This ship was never delivered to Austria but instead it was confiscated by the British navy and used as a minesweeper during World War 1.

Marconi had the “Rovenska” converted in England for use as a floating wireless laboratory which he renamed “Elettra”, the Italian word for “Electricity”. In June 1920, the “Elettra” made a shakedown cruise in European waters. At this stage, test broadcasts on shortwave were made under the callsign ICCM using gramaphone records while the ship was in the Bay of Biscay off the coast of Portugal.

In fact, on many notable occasions, radio broadcasts on shortwave were made from the “Elettra”, including for example, the following:-

1921 Boxing match from Brownsea England
1923 Test broadcasts to USA & Australia
1930 Broadcast to Sydney Exhibition from Genoa
1931 Round the world voice broadcast under the callsign IBDX
1931 Broadcast to Brazil for dedication of Christ statue 1935 Birthday broadcasts with other ships, the Graf Zeppelin and Admiral Byrd in Antarctica

The grand Marchessa Marconi died on July 20, 1937, and soon afterwards his ship the “Elettra” was sold. In 1943, while at port in Trieste, it was requistioned by the German armed forces, and it was torpedoed and sunk the next year by a British submarine off the Yugoslavian coast of Dalmatia.

However, this historic old radio vessel was raised from its rest at the bottom of the ocean in 1962 and donated to the Italian government. Unfortunately, through lack of interest and lack of funds, the “Rovenska Elettra” fell into disrepair and it was eventually scrapped.

And that is the end of the story of Marconi’s birthday boat, the “Elettra”. I wonder if there is somewhere out there in the world an old QSL card issued from the “Elettra” and signed by Marconi himself?

Marconi and the “Elettra”

Time Lines

Year Date Event
1874 Apr 25 Guglielmo Marconi born in Bologna Italy
1894 Mid Began primitive wireless experiments in Bologna home
1904 Ship Rovenska launched, built for Maria Theresa of Austria
WW1 Rovenska used by England as minesweeper
1919 Purchased by Marconi, re-outfitted as radio ship, renamed “Elettra”
1920 Jul Test broadcasts from “Elettra” under callsign ICCM
1937 Marconi death, ship “Elettra” sold
1943 Requisitioned by German forces at Trieste
1944 Torpedoed by British submarine and sunk off coast of Dalmatia
1962 Raised, given to Italian Government, fell into disrepair, scrapped

Marconi and the “Elettra”


Name year Date Event
Marconi 1874 Apr 25 Guglielmo born Bologna Italy 2nd son; 13WBE 156
Father wealthy Italian, mother Irish; 13WBE 156
Fluent in English & Italian; AWATR 79.5 4-74 131
1894 Mid Began primitive wireless experiments; 13WBE 156
1935 Apr 25 61st broadcasts ships Byrd Graf Zeppelin; Dunlp 105
1937 Jul 20 Death; 13WBE 156

Rovenska 1904 67 m. 700 ton steam yacht built Leith Scotland; 3W Built for Maria Theresa Austria; WWW
WW1 UK minesweeper during WW1; WWW
Elettra 1919 Purchased by Marconi, renamed “Elettra”; WWW
Re-outfitted in England as floating laboratory; WWW
1920 Jul Test broadcasts as ICCM SW & LW; WWW
1930 Mar 25 Lights switched Sydney Exhibition; EA 79.5 8-74 51
1930 Comparatively low powered transmitter; LI 21-2-31 44
1931 Callsign IBDX; RN 8-31, RD 1931 124
1937 After Marconi’s death sold Italian government; WWW
1943 Trieste, requisitioned by Germans; WWW
1944 Captured by German forces, later sank; Dunlap 149
1944 Torpedoed British submarine sunk off Dalmatia; 3W
1962 Raised, given Italian Gov, into disrepair, scrapped;

Elettra 1920 Jun 15 Folk music records Bay of Biscay to Portugal SW; W
Broadcasts 1920 Jul Music & test broadcasts as ICCM SW & LW; WWW
1921 Brownsea UK boxing match broadcast; WWW
1923 Tests Poldhu Australia USA;YBWT&T 82.7 1925 13
1930 Mar 25 Broadcast to Sydney Exhibition from Genoa; WWW
1930 Marconi spoke to Australia from Elettra; LI 21-2-31 44
1931 Own voice circled the world; WWW
1931 Callsign IBDX; RN 8-31, RD 1931 124
1931 Oct 12 Broadcast to Brazil for Christ statue dedication; 3W
1935 Apr 25 Broadcasts ships Graf Zeppelin Antarctic; Dunlap 105

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