S.P.A.R.C. Museum

Society for the Preservation of Antique Radio in Canada

Photo of a map of the Pacific Ocean portion of the All Red Route

Pacific Ocean portion of the “All Red Route”

In 2001 we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Marconi’s transmission across the Atlantic Ocean. In 2002 we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first transmission across the Pacific Ocean. It wasn’t by wireless though, it was underwater cable telegraphy. The cable went from Bamfield, British Columbia, Canada to Fanning Island (south of Hawaii) and then on to Southport, Queensland, Australia. It was completed on October 30th 1902.

The completion of this link provided a line of communication around the world for the British Empire. This became known as the “All Red Route” because the cable only came ashore in parts of the Empire and the maps of those days showed the British Empire coloured red.

Where the heck is Bamfield? Bamfield is located near Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island, B.C., Canada. It was the North American terminus of the Canada-Australia underwater cable. This included the longest stretch of cable in the world, over 4000 miles long.

The following sites present more history of submarine cable telegraphy:

The equipment displayed on this page is only a fraction of the 400 pieces in the SPARC Bamfield collection. Transmitters, relays, regenerators, resistors, capacitors, syphon recorders. All this technology to produce squiggles (see tape image below) halfway around the world.

Diagram of elements of early under-sea cable telegraph system

Elements of early under-sea cable telegraph system

The diagram to the right shows the equipment involved in sending a message over an early under-sea cable telegraph link. This sort of system pre-dates electronic amplifiers so the only energy available to the receiver is the energy input at the transmitting end minus that lost in the cable. To account for this, two special, very sensitive receiver types were employed in these systems: the mirror galvanometer and later the syphon recorder.

Examples of some of this equipment are presented in the photos below, including a piece of paper tape with signals inked on it by a syphon recorder.

Photo of inked paper tape from a syphon recorder in the Bamfield collection

Inked paper tape from a syphon recorder

Photo of a Gulstad relay in the Bamfield collection

Gulstad relay

Photo of a Resistance decade box in the Bamfield collection

Resistance decade box

Photo of a signal regenerator and a perforator in the Bamfield collection

Signal regenerator on the left and perforator on the right

Photo of a Lord Kelvin galvanometer

Lord Kelvin galvanometer

Photo of a perforator typewriter in the Bamfield collection

Perforator typewriter

Photo of a capacity magnifier in the Bamfield collection

Capacity magnifier

Photo of an unknow piece of equipment in the Bamfield collection


Photo of a fork relay in the Bamfield collection

Fork relay

Photo of a cable splicer's tool chest in the Bamfield collection

Cable splicer’s tool chest. Still contains gutta percha, joint tissue and chatterton’s compound

Photo of a piece of equipment in the Bamfield collection

K.C. Cox was an engineer with the Pacific Cable Board in the 1920s’.
He worked from Australia to Bamfield and left his mark on this piece of equipment.

Photo of a newsletter for the cable service in the Bamfield collection

A newsletter for the cable service.