Estevan Point Wireless about 1912. Spark transmitter controls on left and receiver apparatus sitting on desk.
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At the end of the 19th Century the west coast of Canada was dangerous place
for the movement of vessels. There was little European settlement north of Victoria.
Settlement consisted of isolated native villages and trading posts. The Royal Navy had charted
some of the coast, but many dangerous rocks had yet to be discovered. The main shipping
route to the rest of the world was through the 100 nautical mile Strait of Juan de Fuca, a bit
tricky to find from seaward and often filled with contrary winds. There were a couple of
lighthouses in the Strait, nothing major northwards. Vessels would sail, only to vanish, and
expected vessels failed to arrive in port. Often debris found on a coastal beach would be
the only hint of another tragedy. The shipping authorities and their passengers were
becoming very concerned. The 1907 Canadian Dominion Government, in an
effort to provide some measure of safety for mariners,implemented a plan to build a life
saving trail along the Juan de Fuca Strait portion Vancouver Island. This two meter wide
trail connected Carmanah, Pachena and Cape Beale light-statons with Bamfield and its
lifeboat. Dotted along the trail were stocked cabins each with a telephone. Keeping the
trail and its associated bridges, ladders and telephone line in shape was the duty of a
local man. Never the less, the telephone link was often down due to wire breaks, often for
days due to falling trees or wind. A communications network of wireless stations would be
built to blanket the BC coast. The first five wireless stations, Vancouver, Victoria,
Pachena Point and Estevan Point were all operational by January 1908 while Cape Lazo came on
line a few months later. By the time the decade was out, Triangle Island, Ikeda Head
(Moresby Island), Dead Tree (Graham Island) and Digby Island (Prince Rupert)were added to
the list of stations thus wireless coverage along the British Columbia coast was complete.
Within a decade Triangle was shut down and replaced by Bull Harbour. Ikeda met a similar
fate. Alert Bay was added to cover the busy inside passage.
This site is dedicated to the early wireless pioneers scattered along the west coast of Canada from 1908 onwards. These primitive stations, some were very isolated, provided safety communications for vessels at the dawn of the radio/wireless age. By 1909 the Point Grey, Victoria, Pachena, Estevan and Cape Lazo stations were commissioned. Triangle, Ikeda, Prince Rupert, Dead Tree and Alert Bay began operations within a few years afterwards. If you have Google Earth click here to see the locations.
The history is given in the photos and narratives of the people who were
there. Newspaper clippings help fill in some of the blanks. Resources used are:
Victoria Colonist Newspaper archive,
Victoria Library newspaper microfilms,
British Columbia Government Online Archives,
Larry Reid's book "An Early History of the West Coast Radio Service",
Leona Taylor and Dorothy Mindenhall, “Index of Historical Victoria Newspapers, "Victoria's Victoria". It appears these two ladies have leafed through old newspapers and copied marine news relating to Vancouver Island's west coast. Send me a message!