Famous Messages Received and Sent

1858 August 16
Queen Victoria Sends Telegram to President Buchanan

President James BuchananThe first official (test messages had been exchanged for ten days) message sent across the Atlantic Ocean at the speed of electricity was from Queen Victoria, in London, to President James Buchanan, in Washington, United States . This message was carried by a combination of methods: across the Atlantic to Newfoundland by submarine cables; across Newfoundland by an overhead wire supported on poles; across Cabot Strait by submarine cable to Aspy Bay (Dingwall), Cape Breton; and by an overhead wire across Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Maine, to Boston and New York. At the speed of electricity has to be qualified the speed of transmission of a message (number of characters transmitted per minute) Queen Victoriavaries inversely as the square of the cables length; a cable twice as long needs four times as much time to transmit a given message. The Transatlantic Cable laid in 1858 between Ireland and Newfoundland was very long. The Queen's message to Washington commenced transmission at 10:50 am on August 16, and was completed at 4:30am the next day, taking 17 hours and 40 minutes. It contained 99 words consisting of 509 letters, which averaged about two minutes and five seconds for each letter. And that was just to reach Newfoundland; it still had to reach Buchanan. The cable operated for less than a month. For the first few messages, 600 volts was applied at the sending end, but the speed (two minutes per letter) was very slow, and the sending-end battery was boosted to 2,000 volts in an effort to increase the working speed. The speed was increased, but the higher voltage overstressed the cable insulation, it began failing in a few hours and went competely dead on September 3, 1858. It was to be six years before telegraph messages were again sent across the Atlantic.

1902 December 15
First Transatlantic Radio Message

MarconiOn this day, Gugleilmo Marconi transmitted the first radio (wireless telegraph) message across the Atlantic Ocean, from Table Head in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, to Poldhu, Cornwall, England. A year earlier, on December 12, 1901, Marconi had been on Signal Hill in St. John's, Newfoundland, and had received a transatlantic test signal consisting of the letter s repeated over and over. There is a distinction between a test signal and a message in both cases a radio wave has travelled from one location to another, but a message contains meaningful information while a test signal does not. The difference is important; people would pay only for the transmission of messages, not for test signals.

Article Forty-Five  "Canso Cable To Be Laid"  Announced April 11, 1900

The steamship Silvertown, owned by the Telegraph Construction & Maintenance Company of London, England, will leave New York Harbour this week to begin laying the Commercial Cable Companies new cable between Coney Island and Fox Bay, Canso, Nova Scotia. The cable is to make connections between these two points and the Azores. Manager-Director H. K. Gray is in charge while on board the Silvertown. The ship and crew will lay 950 knots of cable.

November 11, 1911
Armistice Day

WW I Tank
One of the key types of information that was transmitted over the telegraph networks was military intelligence.  Canso, although far detached from the battlefields of Europe, played a very important role in the war effort. So important were the two cable offices in Canso and Hazel Hill that large garrisons were set up both in Hazel Hill and Canso.  Many area men and women also entered the armed service and served overseas in active duty.  For their family and friends at home, updates were normally received through the cable offices.  Essentially, the Canso and Hazel Hill stations handled much of the wartime communications between Europe and North America.  
1912 April 15
The Titanic Distress Message Received at the Hazel Hill Cable Station

Titanic SinkingOne major importance of the transatlantic cable system is the relaying of headline news stories of the time. The message regarding the sinking of the White Star Lines luxury ocean liner Titanic has to be one of the most significant and tragic that passed through the cable lines including the lines to Commercial Cable in Hazel Hill, Nova Scotia.

The following is one mans account of his experience the night the Titanic struck an iceberg off Newfoundland and sank.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, William Windeler followed in his fathers footsteps and in 1911 joined the ranks of the Commercial Cable Company - Hazel Hill, Nova Scotia station. Less than a year later into his service as a cable operator, Mr. Windeler recalls the tragic events that conspired the morning of April 15, 1912.

"Well, it so happened that it might be described as accidental, but I was one of the night staff on that particular week. We worked round the clock, because the office never closed once it was opened, due to international timing of traffic. It was about 2:30 in the morning, and this zealous young apprentice heard one of the wires calling, and I dashed over with my usual nerve - gall - and it was Cape Race calling, and he had this report, this urgent message, saying that the Titanic had struck an iceberg. Well, as soon as the staff in the office heard this message, I was buggered off into obscurity, while qualified operators took over. For weeks it was gluttoned with traffic, going to the AP and the UP and Reuters in London, and all the other places where this news was sought."
At that time there were several different cables sent out regarding the sinking of the Titanic.
"That was the kind of thing we were being flooded with, but it didn't take very long for this kind of information to get worldwide, and our connection with the ship was via Cape Race radio, not Cape Rae but Cape Race, and from Cape Race it went to Port Aux Basque and from Port Aux Basque to Canso we had the cable. It reached us that way."
"It had the elite of the world, as you know, among its passengers at that time, and the tragedy of so many of these important lives, business-wise or otherwise, created quite a stir and many wealthy Americans and other wealthy people who suffered loss of life at that time, created a demand for inquiry to confirm why these conditions, which were thought to be so perfect, failed so badly when put to their test, by the experts. It died down like everything else, after months of investigation, but the British Courts trying the case gave the White Star Line a pretty hard time of it."
Read the Telegraph Received from the Titanic
Listen to the Distress Call

May 20 - 21, 1927
Lindberg's Solo Flight Across the Atlantic

Charles Lindberg The first trans-atlantic solo flight was achieved by Charles Augustus Lindberg, a 25-year-old air-mail pilot. He departed from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, in a Ryan monoplane, Spirit of St. Louis, and landed 34 hours later at Le Bourget airfield in Paris.

Above the wings may be seen three periscopes Lindberg designed so that he could see from the enclosed cockpit.

Photographs from the Mansell Collection, Time Inc.  

Canada's Digital Collections