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.