The Bamfield Cable Station

by John MacFarlane 2017

Bamfield Cable Station

The New Cable Station at Bamfield BC (Photo courtesy of the MMBC.)

For many years one of the chief attractions at Bamfield BC was the cable station on the top of the hill.

Bamfield Cable Station

The New Cable Station at Bamfield BC (Photo from the MMBC collection.)

Bamfield Cable Station

In 1904 one of the the Trans–Pacific Cables Came Ashore at Bamfield BC (Photo courtesy of the MMBC.)

The station was built in 1904 is at the terminus of an undersea cable between Bamfield and Australia, more than 7,000 miles distant. There were sub–stations at Fanning Island, Suva, Fiji and Norfolk Island. This was once publicly known as the "All Red Cable Route" (A concept originated by Sir Sandford Fleming to create a secure cable system around the world which would only land in territory within the British Empire to ensure integrity in time of war.)

Bamfield Cable Station

An official party was carried by HMCS Vancouver to the Celebrations at the Opening of the New Cable Station at Bamfield BC (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection.)

Bamfield Cable Station

The Official Party at the Opening of the New Cable Station at Bamfield BC (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection.)

The station was heavily guarded during the First and Second World Wars. During the First World War the station at Fanning Island was attacked by the German Navy Raider Emden. The Germans cut the cable in shallow water before departing the Island and the staff were able to repair the damage within a few hours.

Bamfield Cable Station

Bain and Leo Waugh with G. Scott at the Operating Position (Photo courtesy of the MMBC.)

The nautical historian Major George Nicholson reported that the majority of the staff were from Australia and New Zealand. The company headquarters was in Sydney Australia and staff were rotated through the stations during the life of their career. After the Second World War the operation was fully automated and the cables were directly connected to the North American communication network.

The governing body which operated and controlled the cable from Bamfield to Fanning Island, the last link in an all–British undersea cable system extending around the world landing only on British–controlled territories. The ocean route was surveyed in 1899 and the landing place was surveyed in 1901. The cable ship Colonia (8,000 tons) was constructed to carry the cable, considered to have been of extraordinary length for the time. It was started at Bamfield on 19/09/1902 arriving at Fanning Island in the South Pacific on 01/02/1903. To complete the All Red Line, therefore, the final major cable laying project was the trans–Pacific section. The "Pacific Cable Committee" was formed in 1896 to consider the proposal and in 1901 the "Pacific Cable Board" was formed with eight members: three from England, two from Canada, two from Australia and one from New Zealand. Funding for the project was shared between the British, Canadian, New Zealand, New South Wales, Victorian and Queensland governments. In 1902 the Colonia, a newly built cable vessel, began laying the 8000 tonnes of cable needed to complete the Bamfield, Canada, to Fanning Island section of the cable. The final cost was around 2 million pounds Sterling.

Modern communications, including the internet, depend on submarine cables connecting continents and countries. The communications are far more secure than anything that is broadcast. There is a common misconception that nowadays most international communications are routed via satellites, when in fact well over 95 per cent of this traffic is actually routed via submarine fibre–optic cables. Data and voice transfer via these cables is not only cheaper, but also much quicker than via satellite.

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2017) The Bamfield Cable Station. 2017.

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