Estevan Point is accessible only by sea or helicopter. The location is roughly halfway up the west coast of Vancouver Island. In the beginning the early operators found Estevan Point's ability to reach out tremendous distances on the medium and high radio frequencies almost magical. Communication with vessels arriving at New Zealand, Australia or Japan was not uncommon. This Estevan propagation anomaly is a freak of nature, possibly due to the good antenna ground conductivity on the peninsula. Estevan was one of the original five west coast stations and was operational in January of 1908.  The iconic lighthouse was completed some months later.
   In its time Estevan Wireless was the busiest and had the greatest coverage of any Canadian station on the west coast.
See the site by Goggle Earth here.

See some notes Jack Bowerman made regarding the station's startling performance- Page 1 and Page 2

Some photos of Estevan in chronological order are on this page.

1906    Cecil Doutre, Dominion Superintendent of Wireless Stations for the Department of Marine and Fisheries, and Eddie Hughes, Project Engineer, sail on the Marine & Fisheries Vessel 'Quadra'. They make site selections for the new chain of wireless stations along the British Columbia west coast. Estevan Point was one of the selected sites.  The stations would have to be about 50-75 miles apart and preferably on a high point of land.

1907   July 20 newspaper reports SS Maude sailed from Victoria with material and personnel to build the wireless station. SS Quadra also leaves on July 20 with Doutre and Gaudin on board for site inspection. July 27 reports men and material rafted ashore at Hole-in-the-Wall and all going well. A three mile of rail line were laid to haul construction materials for the light and radio station. Contractor foreman is T.N. Tubman.

1908   Station commissioned January 13th (according to A. Lawton). First Officer in Charge was Mr. Morse. Call sign USD. Operator C. B.Kennedy. Jack Bowerman notes the electricity was supplied by a Fairbanks-Morse 3 H.P. (1.5 kW) gasoline engine spinning a 1 kW alternating current generator. The transmitter was a Shoemaker type, open core transformer, tubular glass condensers, fixed spark gap, and tuning done by a helix inductance coil. (One report says the receiver used a crystal detector but this is unlikely. Magnetic detectors were in use at this time.)  Umbrella type antenna in use.  In late 1908 Bradbury moves up from Pachena to the OIC.  Station magnetic receiver is working well as Farralone Island was heard.  (50 kM west of San Francisco and about 1200 kM to the south of Estevan.)

1909    Contract for duplex housing let. Operator A. H. Morse.  In fiscal year 1909-10 Estevan handled 18,000 messages. By 1910-11 fiscal year (f/y) it was up to 72,000 messages and by the first six months of the 1911-12 f/y it had already exceeded the 72,000 mark. Notice to Mariners in March advises lighthouse is in operation.  The lighthouse construction completed in February. The lighthouse is 100 feet of poured concrete construction, with another 25 feet of lantern apparatus etc on top.  (The message numbers seem very high, some 450 a day.)

1910   L.H. Bradbury is Officer in Charge of the wireless station at a salary of$75/month.  

1911    24 hour coverage instituted. Jack Bowerman, Bill Tozer and de Winter are the operators. Sam De Winter is the Officer in Charge.  Station power to be increased in 1912 from 2 kW to 5 kW.  By upping the power and using a new rotary spark transmitter a definite increase in range is expected.  On the morning of September 17 Estevan worked the SS 'Canada Maru' some 2000 miles distant and a couple of months later (November 22, 1911) exchanged greetings with Honolulu.  Technically this was an amazing feat when we consider the receiver in use was not powered in anyway. The energy which created the tone in the operator's headphones came from the far away transmitter.

1913    Call sign changed to VAE from USD in accordance with the Berlin Conference.

1914    Military guard supplied for the duration of the war to rebuff any German raiding parties. A more powerful rotary spark transmitter and diesel are installed to improve communications even further in the Pacific. The Japanese Navy were monitoring the west coast in case German Navy put in appearance.

1915 December 5/15 newspaper (PRJ) reports station is working vessels 2600 miles out in the Pacific on 500 kHz (600 Meters). Station also uses 300 kHz (1000 Meters). Station has two transmitters, one of 5 kW and the other of 1 kW.  Andy Gray, G.Gray and Parkin pounding the brass.

1917    Operator Harris moves in from Point Grey.

1918    B.C. Directory listing shows operators A.L. Gray, A. Neary and P. Parkins with A.C. Cole as telegrapher. Lofty Harris shifts off to the Ikeda station.

1921   January news paper clipping reports VAE worked the SS Makura continuously on her voyage from Victoria, BC to Sidney Australia, some 6057 miles.  In May sod was turned for the new power/operations building.

1922    March news item reports a 25 kW spark transmitter being installed to improve coverage in the Pacific. To house it all a new combined  operations and powerhouse should be completed by the end of April.  On May 8th the big transmitter was put into use.  Reported to be the most powerful on the north American west coast.  Original 5 kW spark transmitter will be used for local work. The 25 kW set is expected to have a day time range of about 1500 to 2000 miles while the 5 kW unit has about a quarter of that range.  Night time range could easily double.  Original 1908 operations building was turned into quarters for the single operators.

   Directory has H.F. Corriveau, H.R. Dawe, G.N. McTavish, S.E. Meiss, C.W. Mellish and R. Spouse on station.

1923    Jack Bowerman arrives from Point Grey as the new Officer In Charge. Operator Ken Durkee moves with him.

1924  In the afternoon of November 19 Jack Bowerman broke the station's distance record by working the Empress of Australia outbound from Yokohama, Japan.  Station has three transmitters of providing different power levels.  Estevan transmits time signals twice a day plus a daily press news provided by the Victoria Times.  Navigators used the time signal to check their on- board chronometers which in turn were used with almanacs and angles to stars, to calculate the vessel's location.  The earth rotates 15 degrees every hour on its axis, thus a chronometer being out several minutes can cause an error in the vessel's location.

1925   Estevan operator makes long distance record, maintaining continual communication with RMS Makura from Victoria to Sydney Harbor, Australia - 6057 miles... [Colonist,1925-01-09, p. 17] Four kilowatt CW tube transmitter on station in January awaiting installation.  Spark transmitters are being superseded by the improvements. Hesquiat has 109 residents.

1927  Newspaper article on Estevan reports three distinctive transmitting sets--one to fifteen kilowatts--of the latest type.  Consistent working of ships 4,000 miles out.  The station transmits time signals from the Gonzales Observatory via the Gonzales wireless station, twice a day so that vessels may check their chronometers.  In addition Estevan transmits press news from the Victoria Times for the benefit of passengers bound for Victoria.

1929-30 Annual Reort   
A receiver for the reception of radiophone signals from private commercial stations was installed. The thirty-nine plate Hart battery was overhauled and tests were made on it to ascertain its condition. A garage was built to house the tractor and Ford truck. Considerable road work has been completed by laying corduroy covered with gravel. (From the Dominion Accounts1929/30)
    E.J.Houghton, in a November newspaper interview, says there is some consideration being given to erecting a direction finding station here. (No DF station was ever built.)

1930    Operator Chas Aitkens arrives about this time. Undated Christmas card from Estevan notes Meiss, Aitkens, Thompson, Allan, King, Spouse and McConnell on staff.
1933   Christmas card from the wireless gang at Estevan. Includes the names of the operators and power house staff.

 1986  The new, so to speak, and now vacant 1922 operations building is demolished by the lightkeeping staff.  Interior and exterior photos. Note the station power house has been replaced reusing the old foundation.


1990s   Sometime in the1990's the two stations meld into one and become a Vessel Traffic Center. Traditional coast station capabilities such as Morse CW communication are terminated. VHF communications only.
2015   At the end of April the Marine Traffic Control Center is de-staffed and all radio/radar data is sent to Prince Rupert MTCS by landline. Prince Rupert MTCS handles all the off shore vessel traffic on outside waters of the British Columbia coast.  Victoria MTCS does the same for the inland waters between Vancouver Island and the mainland.  This marks the end of a manned maritime communications station on the west coast of Vancouver Island--1908 to 2015.

1936    Aitkens family departs Estevan.



   CW frequencies:  125, 135, 141 kHz

   MCW frequencies:  171, 425, 500 kHz

   Spark frequencies:  475, 500 kHz

Meiss still on station (Daily Colonist 1938)

   Glen Vallance remembers there was a small 1630 kHz phone transmitter on the station.  It wasn't crystal controlled and would tend to drift off frequency and interfere with Alaskan stations using 1636 kHz.  Weather broadcast twice a day on 1630 kHz. for local shipping and residents.  Spark transmitters still on station and providing backup service.

1942  One night in June Estevan was shelled by the Japanese navy.  Local newspaper articles say the object was to silence the radio station, not to extinguish the lighthouse. To the Japanese Navy the lighthouse was an useful navigational aid, while the wireless station with its vast pacific ocean communications area was a definite hazard. (To this day the shelling is mired in controversy.  Was there just one vessel or two, the rate of fire suggesting two.)  Operator Redford was on duty at the wireless station and got a message off, then joined the rest of the thirty-three residents hiding out in the forest.

1952  As of October all coast stations now continuously monitor the safety and calling frequency of 2182 kHz.

1958  Station moves south to the more accessible Tofino (ex Air Force) airport.  The Air Forces' transmitter and receiver sites built on local hill tops are refurbished and put back into service.  Operator Woods was at Estevan for a few months early in the year and found the old spark transmitters still there, but not used.  In the same year Pachena closed down and some of the staff moved to Tofino.


Estevan Point


1970    Station had CW, MF phone and VHF phone. Transmitter site was the hill south of the present Radar Hill, while the receiver site was the hill to the north. The buildings were ex Air Force. (2182, 1630, 4465, 2366, 2318, 2458, 2200 and 2292 kHz were fitted on a Northern Electric 1 kW transmitter.

1978 Station moves down the coast to Ucluelet and shares space at the newly built Amphitrite Point Vessel Traffic Center.

Estevan Point