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:
- Cable and Wireless Museum in Porthcurno, England
- IEEE Canada article about Heart’s Content, Nfld, and the first Trans-Atlantic cables
- History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
- Pacific Cable
- Bamfield Cable Station
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.
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.