Wireless Telegraph

in Nova Scotia

As reported in contemporary newspapers

The Halifax Daily Echo, 14 September 1899 —

By the Wireless Way

British and French Societies
Exchange Messages

By telegraph to The Daily Echo

DOVER, Sept. 14, 1899 — The British Society for the Advancement of Science successfully exchanged courtesies yesterday with the French Association for the Advancement of Science, which is in session at Bologne-Sur-Her, using wireless telegraphy for the purpose.

The Halifax Daily Echo, 14 September 1899 —

Marvellous and Wireless

Immense Importance of Marconi's Telegraph System

Ways in Which It Can be Utilized by Vessels

Necessity of Signal Stations on Every Coast
Sending Race News from the Sea to the Shore

Editor Daily Echo: Sir — There is not the slightest doubt of the value of the wireless telegraphy to lighthouses, lightships, naval and military purposes, and for shipping in general, and there are conditions in connection with which it will prove a valuable adjunct to the existing telegraph line by feeding the latter from islands and other places between which and the main lines the maintenance of a telegraph wire would be difficult and expensive.  It is also probable that the wireless telegraph may be found useful as a means of communicating with [---]ins.  But it will be readily seen that a great field is in connection with the marine interests of the world.  Herein is its vast sphere of usefulness.  Without soaring in imaginative thought to the realms of speculation and humbling conjecture, let us at once proceed to consider, in a matter of fact way, the actual work which this young and promising ariel has accomplished and what he is ready and eager to perform at the present moment.

By means of this messenger a moving object can be kept in telegraphic communication with any other moving object or a fixed station.  A ship fitted with the apparatus cannot only keep in telegraphic communication with the shore out to any reasonable distance — it has been long since thoroughly tested up to over 30 miles 50 km off the shore — but ships can also, if thoroughly equipped, be warned of approaching danger or their proximity to dangerous coasts where the signalling appliances are placed.  Fog, rain, snow, and wind in no way impair the efficiency of this system of telegraphy, and herein lies its especial value for marine signalling.

To fully realize the advantages which will be derived from this method of signalling let us take as an example the case of an ocean steamer bound from home port to one on our own shores.  We will assume that she has put to sea under the not abnormal conditions of drizzly weather and freshening wind.  The pilot has descended the long side ladder and, despite his bulk and heavy oilskins, dropped lightly into his boat.  He disappears in the misty atmosphere severing apparently the last link between the great world on shore and the little world on board.  But the good ship's sonorous steam whistle, calling in stentorian tones, is not the only means at her command wherewith to warn other vessels of her approach, nor is she yet cut off from communication with the shore.  There is a still small voice at her service, capable of whispering in distinct and audible utterance that can be heard both near and far, enabling her not only to hold conversation with the shore over a distance of several miles but, of greater value still, to signal to other vessels the course she is steering, and, if need be, to give to an incoming vessel the bearing of and distance of the lighthouse or headland she has left behind her.

On her way down channel she comes within the zone of signal from other lighthouses, and in spite of fog, mist, and darkness keeps touch with the land or communicates with passing ships, at the same time keeping a good offing.  She bids her last adieu to the land from a distance of twenty miles thirty kilometres or more, when amid the blackness of the night she plunges into the great rollers of the Atlantic.  On her way across the ocean she is not cut off from the outer world, for occasionally by night and by day the merry tick of her telegraphic instrument apprises her of the presence of another vessel on the great waters.  Signals are exchanged, news imparted and possibly warning given.  The latitude and longitude of menacing derelicts of field ice or bergs are given.

ICS (webmaster):
I find it impossible to refrain from inserting this comment.
This item, like the others on this electronic page, is quoted
directly from the original.  This article, including the
immediately previous sentence (to which I have added emphasis
by using boldface type) was published and sold on the streets of
Halifax on 14 September 1899, twelve years and seven months,
to the day, before 14 April 1912.  The decision to build
Titanic was years away in the future.  Several of the
passengers who died when Titanic sank had not yet been born.

Nothing may be seen of the passing vessel, but her identity is known.  And so from time to time valuable information is exchanged between "the ships that pass in the night," dangers and perils are minimized, the condition of ocean travel improved, and its monotony broken. Should mishap befall the ship the chances are she will be able to impart the fact, for the still small voice will be heard for miles on every hand [in every direction], under all conditions of weather, by daylight as in darkness.  Anxiety will thus be relieved and serious loss by underwriters avoided.

As the vessel nears the land, long before the sound of a bomb from a lighthouse could reach her, the telegraph instrument on board responds to that on the shore, signals are exchanged, and once more communication with the world established.  From headland to headland she proceeds, telegraphing, if need be, or receiving important despatches, until, nearing her destination, she calls for and receives a pilot from a steamer equipped with the telegraph apparatus, which vessel, having run straight out from the land, is able to give the exact course and distance in.

The economy in time, and the safety which would be afforded by such a system of signalling as that here outlined, are incalculable, and would more than compensate for a large outlay in equipping the lighthouses, or other signal stations on our coasts.

The history of what has been accomplished in the application of the Marconi system of wireless telegraphy bears ample proof of the possibilities indicated in this sketch; indeed, the practicability of this method of signalling is thoroughly established, and it may be taken for granted that in the near future every ocean liner will be provided with the apparatus, which will be considered as important and as necessary a part of her equipment as the chronometer.  If the lighthouses along our coasts were fitted with these instruments no steamship line could afford to be without the means of utilizing such facilities.

When we consider the losses incurred in such wrecks as that of the Labrador, the Castillan, the Moravia, and the Portia, and think of the sacrifice of life there might have been in each of these disasters but for exceptionally fortunate conditions of weather; and, further, when we reflect that these accidents would in all probability never have happened had the Marconi system been in use on board the vessels named and on the lighthouses near where they struck, the mere question of cost sinks into insignificance.

Between Seal Island and Cape Race there are several important lighthouses — including those on Sable Island — which might, with very great advantage to shipping, be provided with the means of signalling to a distance of thirty miles fifty kilometres, or a less distance if desirable; and likewise on the Labrador coast, in the Straits of Belle Isle, and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where navigation is at times both difficult and dangerous.  The establishment of such facilities would be a boon to commerce and a credit to the country, to say nothing of possibility of its being made a source of revenue or at any rate self-supporting.  There are, of course, details to be considered in connection with such a scheme, such as making some stations signal stations only — that is to say, they would simply and automatically signal their number or designation — whilst other stations would be equipped for telegraphic communication.  Then, again, it might be necessary in some instances to project the signals over a prescribed number of degrees [a directional signal], as, for instance, near the approaches to a harbour, in which case two stations might emit signals over a certain arc, so as to render it possible for a vessel to get a cross-bearing and establish her position [by triangulation].

The public generally will be familiar with most of the recent applications of the Marconi telegraph, but the impressive demonstration of its power and usefulness which is to take place during the international yacht race off new York will be an object lesson which will emphasize its value to thousands who have but a faint idea of what this mysterious is capable.  But the part which the wireless telegraphy will play in the forthcoming race will be no new role, for as long ago as July 20, 1898, the details of a yacht race were telegraphed from a steamer to the shore during the regatta off Kingston, Dublin.  This was the first use of Signor Marconi's great invention for such a purpose, and much credit is due to the enterprising proprietors of the Dublin Daily Express for their recognition of the value of the system.  The steamboat Flying Huntress followed the yachts out to sea on the occasion mentioned, to points where they were quite invisible from the shore and reported the different stages of the race to the land at Kingstown.

The system has been in practical use in the Italian navy for over two years, and for several months has been the means of communication between the South Goodwin lightship and the South Foreland lighthouse, in the Straits of Dover.  Telegraphic messages have been exchanged between stations on the coasts of England and France, and communication with passing vessels established.

An interesting feature in the experiments is the facility with which Mr. Marconi succeeds in cutting out a third station so that it cannot interfere with the other two.

The advances made in the application of wireless telegraphy to practical work have been such as to justify the belief that it will become a sine qua non to every coast and to all classes of vessels, whether on the ocean or in the Great Lakes.

F.A. Hamilton. M.I.E.E.,
Halifax, Sept. 13th, 1899

[M.I.E.E. is believed to mean Member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers;
and M.Can.Soc.C.E. to mean Member of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers.]

The Halifax Herald, 10 December 1901, page 1 —

Marconi's Plan for Safe Route

Wireless Man Outlines His Proposals for Experiments
in Newfoundland — How it Will Work

He Expects to be Able to Communicate
With Vessels Almost in Mid-Ocean

ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland, December 9 — Signor Marconi, the inventor of the wireless telegraph, says he will erect a station on a hill at the entrance of St. John's harbour, and will swing two other wires by means of a small balloon on headlands between here and Cape Race, and by this means will determine the best location for a permanent station with which to communicate with shipping traversing the ocean south of the Grand Banks.  He has transmitted messages 225 miles 360 kilometres, and expects to reach 400 miles 650 kilometres while here.

He believes the weather conditions here are favourable, and if he escapes the heavy breezes which interfere with balloon ascensions, he hopes to complete the work within a month.  He must exercise special care in the selection of a permanent station, because some geological formations are more favourable than others for only half that distance.  He devotes special attention to connecting with New York liners which run about 140 to 170 miles 220 to 270 kilometres off Cape Race, believing he will be able to reach them almost in mid-ocean, and so forestall their arrival two and a half days.  He will communicate with the Elder-Dempster liner Lake Champlain for the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and also with the Cunarders.  He is confident that the effect of his work will be to enhance greatly the safety of the Cape Race seaboard, and he has secured the support of the Newfoundland government, which will establish Marconi stations along Labrador next summer.

The Halifax Herald, 12 December 1901, page 1 —

Marconi Awaiting Lucania

ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland, December 11 — William Marconi, of wireless telegraphy fame, is awaiting the arrival in mid-ocean of the Cunard line steamship Lucania. He hopes to open wireless communication with Lucania while she is still from 250 to 300 miles 400 to 500 kilometres from the land.  Mr. Marconi will follow the steamer's progress across the long stretch of sea parallel with the region beyond the Grand Banks.  He expects these experiments will prove beyond dispute the practical utility of the invention of wireless telegraphy. 

The Halifax Herald, 13 December 1901, page 1 —

Marconi is Hopeful

ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland, December 12 — Mr. Marconi spent the day in testing the velocity of the wind with kites.  He will send up a second balloon tomorrow, taking precautions against a repetition of last night's accident.  The inventor explains that he is not as yet familiar with the weather and climatic conditions here, which are partly due to the unusual elevation from which the experiments are conducted.  He is hopeful that tomorrow's experiments will be attended with better success.

The Halifax Herald, 13 December 1901, page 7 —

His Balloon Adrift

William Marconi Meets With a Little
Mishap at St. John's

ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland, December 12 — The trial balloon used by William Marconi, inventor of wireless telegraphy, who is here conducting experiments with his system, broke from its moorings last night and drove away seaward.  The accident is not uncommon and occasions little annoyance.  The inventor is prepared for such emergencies and will send up another balloon today.  A despatch from St. John's, Nfld, on December 10, said that Marconi had that afternoon succeeded in floating a balloon 200 feet 60 metres above the summit of Signal Hill, which is 600 feet 180 metres high and overlooks the harbour of St. John's.  This balloon was fastened by a series of stays which rendered it almost motionless.  It held up the vertical steel wire which is used in the system of wireless telegraphy in communicating with distant ships.

The Halifax Herald, 13 December 1901, page 10 —

Hint for Marconi

New Jersey Man Gives Some Pointers
on Kites and Wireless Telegraphy

BAYONNE, New Jersey, December 12 — William A. Eddy, who arrived from Noanck, Conn., today says that he writes to Mr. Marconi tonight, enclosing diagrams of an improved tandem kite system for reaching a height of 3,000 feet 1 km with Major Baden-Powell's kites.  He thinks this system will enable Marconi to send messages at least 1,000 miles 1600 km because every increase in height has so far enormously increased the range of wireless telegraphy.  Mr. Eddy says that should the receiving vessel 2,000 miles 3000 km out at sea also send up a receiving wire by means of kite storm flyers to a height of 3,000 feet 1 km he thinks the 1,000 mile 1600 km limit will be more than doubled.  Major Baden-Powell, Mr. Eddy says, fastens each kite to the back of another when flying the kites tandem, but that with the improved system of fastening radiating lines to a main line, the safety will be greater than with one kite, because if one kite gives out the others will sustain the apparatus.  He says that Major Baden-Powell was hoisted to a height of 100 feet 30 m in the presence of the Scots Guards, and that the major is one of the most famous kite experts in the world.

The Halifax Herald, Tuesday, 24 December 1901, page 1 —

Wireless Man on Thursday

Marconi Leaves St. John's This Afternoon
at Five O'clock for Ottawa Direct

Thence Goes to New York to Sail to England

Brings no Apparatus to Nova Scotia

Special despatch to The Herald

ST. JOHN'S, NFLD., December 23 — William Marconi leaves here by train tomorrow afternoon at five o'clock for Port Aux-Basques, where he connects with the steamship Bruce, which is due at North Sydney, Cape Breton, Thursday morning at seven o'clock.  Finance Minister Fielding's second telegram asks Marconi for his time of arrival at North Sydney.  It is presumed that a representative of the Canadian government may meet him.  Marconi takes no wireless telegraphy apparatus.  He will not delay in Cape Breton, but proceeds direct to Ottawa to confer with the government on the question of establishing stations in Eastern Canada.  He expects to remain in Ottawa about a week, when he goes to New York to take a steamer to England to assist his company in negotiating with the Anglo-American.  He hopes to arrange a settlement and return to Newfoundland in March to continue work.  Marconi will be accompanied to Canada by Assistant Kemp.  His other assistant, Paget, returns to England on the Sardinian tomorrow, taking the balloons, kites, and other apparatus with him.

There was no new development today in the situation between Marconi and the Anglo-American Telegraph Company.  Marconi sent the following cablegram to Thomas A. Edison this evening: "Thanks for your very kind letter to the press.  I hope soon to show you wireless telegraph working between the United States and Europe.  I wish you a happy Christmas."

Graham Bell's Offer

On Friday afternoon Signor Marconi received the following cable from Professor Alexander Graham Bell, well known for his connection with the telephone and other inventions.  "Congratulations and best wishes.  If you make use of my estate in Cape Breton, near Baddeck, as a temporary station, you are welcome to it, and my manager, Mr. McInnis, will be glad to take care of you and your party and do everything possible to facilitate your experiments.  Telegraph reply to Washington."
Graham Bell

The Halifax Herald, 26 December 1901, page 1 —

Sable Island and the Wireless

The Lighthouses Could be Admirably Used
by Marconi to Signal to Whitehead Island

Government Steamship Aberdeen Has Returned
After Landing Winter Supplies,
Brings Mrs. Parsons

The government steamship Aberdeen arrived in Halifax from Sable Island last night after having landed winter supplies, and what is more important to herself and her many friends, was able to take off Mrs. Parsons, the accomplished wife of the agent, and enable her to spend Christmas night at least at home.  The lady, it will be remembered, had to be left behind on the last trip of the steamer — "marooned" the sensational newspapers in New York and Chicago called it.

The Aberdeen reports that no wrecks have occurred on the island since the last report, that no wreckage has washed ashore, and that the health of the forty-two people on the island is good as usual.  Mrs. Parsons looks well after her enforced long visit to Sable Island, having quite recovered from the effects of the runaway accident which was the cause, in addition to the high sea that was running the day the steamer left the island, of her remaining behind.  She is now one more addition to the list of few experts on Sable Island, its appearance and history.

The Marconi Wireless System

In speaking with a Herald, man who called at his house last night, Mr. Parsons referred to the adaptability of Sable Island and Whitehead Island as stations for the Marconi system of wireless telegraphy.  The two lighthouses on Sable Island are respectively 128 and 114 feet 39.0 m and 34.7 m above the sea level and a pole on these could easily extend the height to 200 feet 90 m. The top of Whitehead Island, which is owned by the Department of Marine, and is only eighty miles 130 km from Sable Island, stands 120 feet 36.6 m above sea level.  A tower or pole there could also be made to extend the altitude to 200 feet 60 m. This would make the establishment of the wireless system an easy matter.  Trans-Atlantic vessels bound to and from New York pass within ten to forty miles 20 km to 70 km of the island.  The island is in the fog region, but in thick or stormy weather, when lights could not be seen, nor bell from Sable Island heard, the Marconi signals could be given and received by passing vessels.  It is possible that Marconi's attention will be called to this matter by the Dominion government, who have been made acquainted with the facts.

The Halifax Herald, 28 December 1901, page 8 —

Marconi At North Sydney

Looking for a Site Upon Which to Erect
a Permanent Wireless Telegraphy Station

NORTH SYDNEY, Cape Breton Island, Dec. 26, 1901 — Signor Marconi arrived here this morning from Newfoundland.  Mr. Moxham today offered Signor Marconi the use of his property at Sydney should he desire it for the erection of a station.  He could not signify his acceptance until he saw the site.  When interviewed by The Mail correspondent after the conference was over Signor Marconi said that the selection of a site here would be for the erection of a permanent station for the receiving and transmission of messages across the Atlantic.  The station would involve four masts about a hundred and fifty feet 45 m high with wire netting between.  An altitude of from one hundred to two hundred feet 30 m to 60 m is necessary, but not over three hundred feet 90 m. Signor Marconi, in an interview with The Mail, said he was quite satisfied with tests made in Newfoundland as far as they went.  He says he will not return there to conduct any more experiments.  Marconi says it would take from three to four months to complete the erection of a permanent station such as he will establish in Cape Breton.  He will leave for Ottawa in a day or two.

The Halifax Herald, 30 December 1901, page 9 —

Arrived at Montreal

Special despatch to The Herald,
MONTREAL, December 29, 1901 — Signor Marconi, the inventor of wireless telegraphy, arrived here today.  He is enroute to Ottawa, where he is going to thank the Canadian government for the assistance it has offered to extend to him.

The Halifax Herald, 30 December 1901, page 1 —

With Marconi in Cape Breton

The Wizard of Wireless Telegraphy
Who Has Selected Cape Breton
as the Scene of Forthcoming
Transatlantic Tests

Something About the Man Who Has
Startled the World by a Discovery He Made
When Not More Than 22 Years Old

For some days now the words Marconi and Nova Scotia have been closely linked in the press of the world.  The wonderful wizard of wireless telegraphy has scanned the headlands of Cape Breton seeking for a suitable point on which to erect a station where he may stand and through ethereal heights hear the messages signalled across old ocean from Britain's coast, twenty-two hundred miles 3500 kilometres away.  He found no lack of such places from Table Head, off Glace Bay, down to Louisburg.  The attention thus attracted to this province means not a little to it.  The advertisement was a good thing, and it is still "running," for William Marconi will be back from England in two months to resume tests stopped in Newfoundland — tests which with only an improvised and temporary station proved the possibility of his proposal to signal across the Atlantic without wires.  With a perfected and permanent station, twice as powerful electrically as that hitherto in use, Mr. Marconi has not the slightest doubt that he will be able to send messages across the wide ocean just as surely as he has already done so over comparatively short stretches of sea and more limited distances on land.  Cape Breton and England will be the first places within speaking distance [meaning within range of the wireless transmitting equipment].

World's Most Famous Young Man

Who is this man who thus, as it were, takes the breath of the world away by the audacity of his proposition and the swiftness of its accomplishment?

He is not one whose name has been before the world for many years as a scientist, or who has long been a recognized expert in electrical work.  William Marconi is not yet 28 years old, though if he be back in this province in April, as he says he will, we will then be able to join with him in celebrating his next birthday.  Born in northern Italy, William Marconi's father is an Italian, while his mother is British — a daughter of the Emerald Isle.  In manner he is modesty itself.  Marconi is not one of those men who forever are obtruding their theories or their personality upon one.  His disposition is positively retiring.  Yet there is in his expressive bright eye an indication of thorough determination — there is that in his whole makeup.  Not infrequently a far away look comes over his face, telling almost as plainly as if spoken in words, that his thoughts are following the ethereal wave that carries his signals from point to point across the sea, or that conveys it from "ships that pass in the night" to far-off unseen shores.  He has that about his countenance which one would expect to see in a man possessed of a great idea, but yet there is not the slightest trace of self-engrossment.  Marconi seems to be a very "human" young man, courteous, polite and considerate; he is frank and open, believing that straight-forward dealing is best for himself and best for the cause he has at heart; he appears to take the world into his confidence, but, of course, at the same time, he knows there are times when it is best not to speak.

Such was the manner of man whom I had the privilege of meeting almost constantly during one day in Cape Breton last week, and of having for a fellow traveller from Sydney to Truro as he journeyed towards Ottawa.

Man of One Great Idea

Marconi has one great idea in life; he is possessed by a determination to perfect the achievement of a more striking thing probably than ever before engaged the mind of the scientific investigator, yet no one would conclude by aught in his manner that Marconi thought he was doing anything very great.  He is earnest, but betimes he is boyish in his exuberance of spirits and love of fun.  He can appreciate a joke with the best of them.

William Marconi, as already stated, is only twenty-seven years old, but he had practically made the discovery which now amazes the world five years ago, when he was but twenty-two.  His home was in northern Italy, where his father has a fine estate.  The young man was under no necessity to work for a living, but unlike too many of that favoured class he did not waste his time in mere idleness or pleasure-seeking.  He began electrical research as an amateur, and apart from his interest in wireless telegraphy he is still an amateur.  He calls himself such.  He learned how to manipulate the telegrapher's key but only as a pastime or as an incident in connection with his electrical researches.

By the way, he told me that the old Morse code, promulgated in the first days of telegraphing, had never been changed and he doubted if it could be improved upon for the work it had to do.  He uses it in his system.

Where He Conceived This Idea

The fact that signals could be conveyed from point to point, initiated by electricity and without the use of wires, was not unknown some years before.  On his father's estate Marconi practised this, transmitting signals at ever-increasing distances.  Then he invented an electrical contrivance which made his receiving instrument automatic in its action, so that not one signal merely could be transmitted at a time, but an indefinite continuation of signals could be received and recorded.  This was the key to wireless telegraphy — the sending of continuous signals from an electric transmitter to an electric receiver, without the assistance of a wire as a conducting medium.  With this discovery Marconi, then little more than a boy, went from Italy to London to give it to the world.

Five years since then have been spent in experiment and improvement.  Before crossing the Atlantic on this occasion, signals had been sent by him eighty miles 130 km over the land and more than two hundred miles 320 km at sea — signals just as distinct and intelligible as any sent by electric wire or cable.  Now, at last, he has found it possible to send a wireless message across the Atlantic from Cornwall to St. John's, 1,800 miles 2900 km, and in three or four months he expects to be transmitting signals 2,200 miles 3500 km between Louisburg and Cornwall.

Will Also Conquer the Land

While his grand achievement has thus been over the waters, and while signalling over such vastly extended land surfaces has not yet been found practicable, Marconi does not despair of seeing the day when this may be done over land as well as over sea.  If success follows the coming tests between Cape Breton and England it will have been found possible also to cross a considerable portion of southern Newfoundland, for there is no point in Cape Breton from which a direct line to the English coast can be found that does not traverse a part of the ancient colony.  What Marconi will do regarding the various sites in Cape Breton will be to find which of them commands the direction over Newfoundland soil that will give the least resistance.

Two Hard Questions

If any one were to ask Marconi, as I did, why it was that he can secure communication more readily over great stretches of ocean than over land surfaces, the discoverer would doubtless reply that he did not know.  He only realizes facts as he finds them to exist.  He certainly does not know how the message is conveyed hundreds or thousands of miles from transmitter to receiver, and he is ready enough to admit this.  To a question "what is the medium of communication," he would reply in effect that the "ether" is given an incentive at the starting point which instantly acts on the receiver at the other shore — or it may be would describe it as a wave, a vibration, or as a molecular disturbance, and he probably would not say whether the wave or vibration proceeds above or below the surface of the earth.  It may be below.

What this ether, this medium of communication is, he does not profess to know.  He only is sure of the results, and it is with them that he deals — with forces and results which he adapts to his use.

"What is electricity?" he questioningly replies to the man who asks about the wireless medium.

No man can tell what the subtle fluid is.  No one knows.  He only is aware of its existence; he knows that he can use it and he has learned how to control it.  But what electricity really is no one knows more than he knows what the medium is that conveys Marconi's message from the electrical transmitter to the electrical receiver.  It is a case of answering one unanswerable question with another equally inscrutable.

Calls the Other Greater

Marconi, in speaking with me on Saturday of his discovery — for his is a "discovery" rather than an invention — with that modesty which is characteristic of him said that it was nothing like as wonderful as the discovery that a wire could be stretched across the bottom of the ocean and an electric message sent pulsing through it from continent to continent with an intelligible signal.  He thought that by far the most unlikely discovery had been made first, and that what he was working at — the allowing of nature, as it were, to do the work without intervention — was much the simpler proposition.  Sixty years ago the idea of an Atlantic submarine cable would have seemed to the world infinitely more unreasonable than does the proposition made today by Marconi, which he has succeeded in accomplishing.

Ten Cents a Word

But this is something that does not need argument, for the possibility of sending a trans-Atlantic wireless message has been demonstrated between Cornwall and St. John's.  Commercially and financially also wireless telegraphy has been demonstrated to be possible of continuance.  His company has placed its installations on ocean steamships, and for every word sent ashore or to another steamship a rate of ten cents is charged.  On the English coast the Atlantic liners are now averaging about $250 per voyage from tolls collected on Marconi messages sent to the land through the densest fogs, the thickest snows, or the heaviest rains, while still the ships are hundreds of miles from the shore.  What is more, a message sent from one transmitter can be taken by no receiver other than the one for which it is intended — by the receiver tuned in unison as it were with the transmitter in use.

Some Popular Misconceptions

By the way, a popular misconception about the Marconi system is that the recording apparatus must be at a considerable height.  The receiver itself may be on the sea shore level, or down below on a steamship.  An insulated wire is run to a greater or lesser altitude in the air, and also below the receiver for a short distance into the earth.  The greater the distance from which a message is to be received the higher should be the projected wire — that is unless the electrical power at the terminal stations is proportionally increased.  Both may be necessary — height and power.  Mr. Marconi would have a wire not more than 200 feet 60 m long on his proposed tower in Cape Breton or the tower in Cornwall, and the receiving apparatus, or rather the recording instrument connected with the receiving wire, will practically be on a level with the sea.

High Land No Advantage

Another misconception is that it is an advantage to erect the station on a high cliff on the sea shore.  A mountain on the sea shore a mile high would make an installation erected on its summit not one whit more effective than if placed on a tower on the beach.  The wire must be projected into the air a certain distance, but the top of a mountain, as Mr. Marconi remarked, is the earth just as much as is a plain.  The ideal situation for a Marconi installation is the sea shore backed by a low-lying country, or on a vessel.  Another thing — a Marconi tower erected on the sea shore 200 feet 60m high, for instance, if 100 feet 30m from a hill, of the same height, would be of no more value than a tower 100 feet 30m high with no hill that close to it.  There must, in short, be no elevation except beyond a distance from the tower equal to its own height.  Nothing could be better for Marconi's purpose than a low-lying, [illegible] country, so he informed me.

Long Distance Work the Object Now

Short distance wireless telegraphy has been shown to be financially as well as scientifically possible.  Mr. Marconi is not satisfied with this, however, and without waiting to merely make money on what has been demonstrated to be a financially sound thing he is applying his genius to complete his great work by showing that long distance wireless telegraphy, transoceanic work, is just as possible scientifically and financially.  He has the same daring that possessed that old Genoan navigator whom, like Marconi, Italy called her son, and he is not satisfied with the accomplishment of anything less than a complete triumph.  When long distance wireless telegraphy has been fully demonstrated to be just as possible as the short-distance work that has been practised for two or three years now, then Marconi will doubtless proceed concurrently to develop the working details.

Marconi is not working for mere dollars.  If he were he might reap a rich harvest at once from what has already been accomplished.  He is working for humanity.

Great for Nova Scotia

It is a great thing that Nova Scotia promises to be a part of the great theatre in which this masterpiece will be shown to the world by its Anglo-Italian discoverer.  The importance to Nova Scotia, to Canada, of this great work it is not easy to overestimate, and it is a good thing that leading men in the Dominion have acted as promptly and as wisely as they have.  Canada has welcomed Marconi with open arms.  There is nothing that we could do that was not done in receiving him, and doubtless there is nothing that we can do that will not be done to help him.  Mr. Marconi realizes this.  Over and over again he spoke of it to me, dwelling on the great kindness of every one he had met — from members of the ministry, officials, and every one.  The Dominion government, the provincial government, the Intercolonial Railway, the Dominion Coal Company — every one who could help to encourage Marconi in his work was not slow to do it.

Premier George Murray was indefatigable in his kind attentions, and it is safe to say that Marconi will never forget what Nova Scotia's premier and all whom he met in Sydney, elsewhere in Cape Breton, and in the journey westward, did to make his stay pleasant and his work easier.  Mr. Marconi himself says that he can never lose the keenly pleasant recollections of it.  Never before, he told me, had he experienced such a general outburst of official and popular sympathy as here in Nova Scotia.

The Discoverer of Marconi

There is one Canadian who deserves more than passing mention in this matter.  The man who "discovered" Marconi, so far as Canada is concerned on this occasion, was Mr. William Smith, secretary to the post office department.  Had it not been for him we might not now have the honour of entertaining Mr. Marconi and helping him on with his great work.  Mr. Smith had been for some months in Newfoundland remodelling, improving, and bringing up to date the postal service of the ancient colony.  When the ultimatum came from the Anglo-American Company, which put a stop to the discoverer's tests at St. John's, Mr. Marconi had about made up his mind to return at once to England.  Mr. Smith saw Canada's chance and he prevailed on Mr. Marconi to remain in St. John's for a few days, giving him time to go to Ottawa and lay the case before the postmaster-general.  Hon. Mr. Mulock was absent from the capital, and Mr. Smith went to the Minister of Finance who, as a Nova Scotia minister, took special pleasure in inviting Mr. Marconi to this province and to Canada.  The invitation was most cordial and comprehensive and in Mr. Smith's good hands lost none of its effectiveness.  It was accepted, and the result is that Mr. Marconi has decided to build a station in cape Breton and make this province the scene of his next tests and the great American terminal of his transatlantic work.  Canada owes much to Mr. William Smith, the Dominion's "discoverer of the discoverer" as Hon. J.N. Armstrong put it one day in Sydney.

The Halifax Herald, 30 December 1901, page 9 —

The Journey Westward

The New York Sun's Story of
the Inventor's Departure
From Sydney for Ottawa

The following despatch from the Halifax correspondent of
the New York Sun, sent on Saturday night [28 December 1901],
tells of Mr. Marconi's leaving Sydney for Ottawa.  The party
occupied an official private car of the Intercolonial Railway.

The train with Marconi, from Sydney for Montreal, reached Truro Saturday evening and will arrive at Montreal at 7 o'clock Sunday night.  Hon. Dr. Robert Borden, minister of militia, met the wireless wizard at Truro.  When asked about it Marconi laughed at the published statement that he was to be married while on this side of the Atlantic now.  He told your correspondent it was true that he is engaged to a young lady but that his marriage is yet quite a distance in the future.  He will reach New York on January second, if his conference with the Canadian government at Ottawa does not unexpectedly detain him longer, and he will do his best to be in England by January 10th, where he says he has many things urgently awaiting his attention.  One of these is the doubling the power of his Cornwall station, and giving the necessary orders for starting work in Nova Scotia.  Marconi is sanguine of the success of the tests he expects to make across the Atlantic early next spring between England and Cape Breton.

Avoiding Newfoundland

The four sites for stations that he has examined there are all he believes equally good, or looking at it in another way are all open to the same objection, that is that the line of communication for messages passes over a part of the southern part of Newfoundland.  He thinks that this land resistance can be overcome by increased power at the stations.  If the land should prove an insuperable difficulty, however, Mr. Marconi says that he can place a station on the Azores, which the King of Portugal is anxious that he should.  This will not be done, though, till the inventor has clearly demonstrated that the intercepting portions of Newfoundland cannot be overcome.  He does not want, for one thing, to lose the time in the transmission of messages that would necessarily be lost with a repeating station such as that at the Azores would be, and secondly, he prefers that the Canadian service should be an all-British one.

Offers of Free Sites

It turns out that the probable site examined at Louisburg is the property of the Cape Breton Railway.  A.L. Meyer, of Broad Street, New York, one of the directors of that company, today told Mr. Marconi that his company would be glad to freely give him the site and all the land required for the station.  This makes the second such offer, the Dominion Coal Company having done the same thing the day before.

Marconi tells me that the Commercial Cable Company has asked him to establish stations for them on Sable Island, connecting that dangerous shoal with their telegraph system at Canso.  He is considering this offer, but he says he would not for a moment think of erecting an experimental station at Canso because of the presence of two powerful cable companies there, whose interests must necessarily be hostile to his.

Offered $12,000 for Twelve Lectures

Marconi has been offered $1,000 per lecture for twelve to be delivered by him in the United States.  He declined.  Marconi's hopes and ambitions soar beyond lecturing at one thousand a night.  He is neglecting the immediate development of short distance wireless telegraphy, in which he says money can be made at once, in order to demonstrate the possibilities of long distance, transatlantic work, and he says that he has no inclination to stand on the lecture platform while such a great matter engages his attention.  On Monday Marconi will attend the Elder-Dempster banquet in Montreal, an invitation which he accepted in appreciation of that company's having been the first to have his wireless system installed on transatlantic steamships.

The Halifax Herald, 31 December 1901, page 1 —

Marconi To Save Shipping

C.A. Hutchins Addresses
the Board of Trade in Favour of
Marconi Wireless Telegraphy
on Our Coasts

From Cape Race to Halifax

At a meeting of the council of the Board of Trade, held yesterday afternoon, the following communication from C.A. Hutchins, Superintendent of Lights, was read and considered.  It was resolved to forward it to the government at Ottawa for favourable consideration:

In view of the present visit to Canada of Signor Marconi, I beg, through you, to draw the attention of the Halifax Board of Trade to the great advantages to the port of Halifax which might be secured should proper action be taken at this juncture in placing before the authorities now in consultation with the inventor a scheme for the establishment of telegraphic signal stations at certain points which would bring Halifax in direct communication with ships traversing the great ocean highway between the old world and this continent. The points which I would propose fro consideration are: Cape Race, Sable Island, and Camperdown at the entrance to Halifax Harbour.

Cape Race

This is the "land fall" on this side of the Atlantic made by the great majority of trans-Atlantic ships bound to America.  The vertical height of the land above sea level is 150 feet 50 metres. An overland telegraph service is operated at this station by the Newfoundland government, and all the conditions are favourable for the Marconi system.

Sable Island

From Cape Race to Sable Island, the distance is 325 miles 525 km. The general height of the island is about 25 feet 8 m, but there are numerous small hills throughout, the highest of which are "Baker's Hill," near the main station 65 feet 20 m above sea level, and an unnamed hill, about one mile 1.6 km west from the east end light, on the south side, 75 feet 25 m high.  I understand that lighthouses cannot be used for the reception and transmission of messages, but that masts must be erected, clear of all buildings.


Near the entrance to Halifax harbour.  This station is distant from Sable Island, 155 miles 250 km, and the vertical height above sea level is 175 feet 53 m. The waters of Portugese Cove pond, just back of Camperdown, are available for ground connections.

Some of the advantages which this continuous line of communication presents are as follows:

Cape Race

Ships fitted with the Marconi apparatus, bound west, would come in communication with the land when at a distance, say of 200 miles 300 km from it; and after passing the Cape, and before losing the electric connection, they would come within the influence of the Sable Island station.  After passing Sable Island, connection with both Sable Island and Camperdown could be maintained, and, with the latter station, would continue far south and west towards the American coast in the case of ships not bound into Halifax.

Sable Island

The peculiar formation of this island is, I understand, particularly favourable to the requirements of the Marconi system, and, apart from its importance as constituting the connecting link between Cape Race and Camperdown, its telegraphic connection with the mainland would be of infinite value to the shipping interests of every maritime nation in the world.  With this line of communication established, it would be possible for captains of ships to communicate with their owners or agents at any point, say within 200 miles 300 km easterly from Cape race to 200 miles 300 km westerly and southerly from Halifax, and give or ask for information under all circumstances whether needing assistance or seeking orders without losing time by making for a "port-of-call."

Judging Distances

By the sub-marine telegraph cable, distances are accurately ascertained by electrical apparatus, and it is but reasonable to assume that in the near future the Marconi system of wireless telegraphy may be so far improved as to make such calculations possible for ships at sea, fitted with the apparatus.  With stations at Cape Race, Sable Island, and Halifax, between which, on either hand of Sable Island there exists no intervening land, it will be seen at a glance of what incalculable benefit to navigation such a system of communication would be in thick or foggy weather.  For instance, a ship approaching Cape Race, by communicating with that station, could ascertain her exact distance from it.  After passing the Cape and continuing her voyage westerly, she would come within the influence of the Sable Island station, where similar information could be obtained, and, later on, communication with Camperdown for the same purpose.

Distance From Land

Even under existing known capabilities of the Marconi apparatus, it is perhaps possible for vessels to obtain an approximate idea of their distance from any land at which a signal station is established.  For instance, a ship is fitted with, say, a special service apparatus, capable of transmitting messages within the limit of 30 miles 50 km only.  We will suppose her proceeding westerly from Cape Race, in thick fog.  Approaching Sable Island, she signals that station until it is ascertained by the reception of an answering signal that she has reached a point within 30 miles 50 km of the island, which bears, approximately, by the ship's reckoning, in a certain direction.  The position of the ship, approximately, is thus ascertained, and a safe course determined on.  It may be that by the Marconi system, distances may even now be accurately calculated.  If so, its great value as a warning to ships approaching dangerous places, such as Sable Island, in thick weather, can scarcely be estimated.

It is a well known fact that most of the ships wrecked on Sable Island have been judged to be at a distance of from 30 to 60 miles 50 to 100 kilometres from it, but they have been carried into changes by currents not allowed for in the captain's calculations.  To guard against this change, it may be possible for ships to use an apparatus of limited power, for this special purpose, independent of a long distance machine.

Interests of Navigation

I understand that Signor Marconi has abandoned for the present the establishment of a station in Newfoundland, owing to the opposition of transatlantic cable companies, who claim the monopoly of that business.  There could probably be no objection to the establishment of a Marconi signal station at Cape Race lighthouse, simply for communication between the station and ships at sea, in the interests of navigation, and for the protection of life and property.

Cape Race station comprises a lighthouse, steam fog alarm and signal station.  It was established by the imperial government, but transferred several years ago to the Canadian government, which has since owned and maintained it.  This station is included in the district under my supervision.  Such signal stations as would be required at Cape Race, Sable Island, and Camperdown are not costly, probably costing about $4,000 to $5,000 each.

For Cape Breton

The establishment talked of for Cape Breton is, I understand, for transatlantic work, and is consequently quite elaborate and costly.  During the past summer, two signal stations of the Marconi type were established by Dr. Keeley, general superintendent of government telegraph service, one on Belle Isle, in the Straits of Belle Isle, and the other at Chateau Bay, on the Labrador coast, at a distance of 21 miles 34 km apart.  It is reported that the Belle Isle station communicated with the steamer Lake Champlain at a distance of 80 miles 130 km. Signal stations of this description, but perhaps somewhat more powerful, would be suitable for the place advocated herein, and which I respectfully recommend for consideration.

Although the proposed signal stations have been considered herein more in connection with the interests of the mercantile marine, they would also be most valuable to ships of the Royal Navy, and Halifax, being the chief naval station of the British North American squadron, the imperial government would probably become interested in carrying out some such scheme as proposed.

The Eastern Chronicle, New Glasgow, 12 July 1907, page 1 —

Marconi At Truro

Signor Marconi arrived at Truro, yesterday, from Montreal.  He went to Cape Breton today to put the wireless station near Glace Bay in shape for long distance work, and he expects in a very short time to be transmitting wireless messages across the ocean.

The work of Marconi, one of a handful of men
at the turn of the century (1900) who pioneered
the emerging field of wireless, helped to
revolutionise global communications.

At the time of his birth, in 1874, the only means
of keeping in touch over long distances was by
telephone or telegraph linked by wires.

By the time he died, in 1937,
the world was linked by radio.

Source:— Marconi Centenary Marked
BBC News, 12 December 2001

Cape Breton Marconi Centennial

contemporary clippings

 Interior Description of Operator's Room at Marconi Wireless Station
Sydney Daily Post, 16 Oct 1907

 Trans-Atlantic Wireless Today
Halifax Morning Chronicle, 17 Oct 1907

 Wireless Message Across the Atlantic
Halifax Morning Chronicle, 18 Oct 1907

 Wireless Joins Two Worlds
New York The New York Times, 18 Oct 1907

 Wireless from King Edward
Halifax Morning Chronicle, 19 Oct 1907

 Congratulations for Marconi
Halifax Morning Chronicle, 21 Oct 1907

 Marconi's Achievement
Halifax Morning Chronicle, 21 Oct 1907

 Post Reporter Sent Message to Clifden...Received a Short Answer
Sydney Daily Post, 23 Oct 1907

 Second Test of the Marconi Over-Ocean Wireless System...
Sydney Daily Post, 24 Oct 1907

 Wireless Station in Constant Operation
Halifax Morning Chronicle, 24 Oct 1907

The Wayback Machine has copies of this webpage from the early days:
Marconi Wireless Telegraph in Nova Scotia

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