The Myrick Wireless Interpretation Centre at Cape Race is a replica of the original Marconi Marine Radio Station built at the same location in 1904 at the invitation of the Canadian Government. It is named for the Myrick family who lived and worked at Cape Race from 1874 until 2007, serving as light keepers, fog alarm operators, telegraphers and wireless operators.
The original Marconi Marine Radio Station had a range of 300-400 miles, and used the call letters MCE. The original building burned down twice—probably due to sparks from the generators—but it was quickly rebuilt both times. The replica building now houses artifacts and exhibits that interpret the history of early telegraphy and wireless radio in Newfoundland. The Myrick Centre is also the home of the Irish Loop Amateur Radio Club—call sign VO1 MCE.
The history of telegraphy and wireless radio in Newfoundland is a fascinating story of cutting edge technology in the early 20th century, the grit and determination of the early entrepreneurs in telecommunications and the dedication and professionalism of the men and women who worked as telegraphers and radio operators. The sinking of the Titanic is one of the most memorable moments in Cape Race history. The Marconi station at the Cape was the first land station to answer Titanic’s distress call and helped to coordinate the rescue effort.
For hours of operation call 709 438 1100.
Newfoundland at the Cutting Edge of Technology
In 1837, an electrical telegraph was developed and patented in the United States by Samuel F. B. Morse. His assistant, Alfred Vail, developed a code for signaling the alphabet with a series of short and long electrical impulses that became known as Morse Code.
In 1851, English engineer Frederick Gisborne formed The Newfoundland Electric Telegraph Company. He started work on a telegraph line from St. John’s to Cape Ray, with branch lines to Trepassey and other towns, but his company failed due to financial troubles. American businessman Cyrus Field became involved in 1854. He was a real entrepreneur and could see that if a trans-Atlantic cable was laid underwater between Newfoundland and Europe, the telegraph line across Newfoundland would become a real moneymaker. He and Gisborne formed the New York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph Company, which was awarded a 50-year monopoly on all telegraphy development in Newfoundland. They completed the telegraph line to Cape Ray in the fall of 1856 and a month later, successfully laid the underwater cable from Cape Ray to Aspy Bay in Nova Scotia.
Field found British partners, arranged financial backing on both sides of the Atlantic and completed the first trans-Atlantic cable between Ireland and Heart’s Content, Newfoundland in 1858. The excitement was tremendous, but short-lived—the cable failed after only 27 days. Cyrus Field was eager to start again, but the outbreak of the American Civil War delayed his success until 1866.
Map of the 1858 Atlantic Cable route
Original author unknown, produced by Howe’s Adventures & Achievements of Americans and published in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, August 21, 1858
”Via Cape Race”
Meanwhile, the New York Associated Press (AP)found a profitable way to use the telegraph connection to Newfoundland. With its new lighthouse, Cape Race was a landfall beacon for ships from Europe travelling to US and Canadian ports. The AP paid shipping companies to bring the latest news from Europe in watertight canisters and drop them over the side as they steamed past Cape Race. The company kept a steam launch, a boat crew and lookouts at the Cape. When a ship had news to transfer she would signal with flags or flares and the lookout would alert the boat crew. The news canisters were brought ashore to a telegraph operator who would put the news “on the wire” to New York—four days before the ship arrived in port! It was a great business for Associated Press, and the “Via Cape Race” byline soon became well-known all over North America, including St. John’s.
“Breaking” news came to North America via Cape Race until July, 1866, when the trans-Atlantic cable project was successfully completed by the SS Great Eastern operating for Cyrus Field’s latest company, the Anglo-American Telegraph Company.
At the turn of the century, a young Italian inventor named Guglielmo Marconi (Goo-yell-mo Mar-ko-ni) was experimenting with wireless telegraphy. He was also an entrepreneur who intended to compete with Cyrus Field’s trans-Atlantic cable company. In December 1901, Marconi received the first trans-Atlantic wireless message from Cornwall, England using a kite to lift his antenna high over Signal Hill in St. John’s. Some competitors doubted his claim, and it was not very well documented, but there’s no doubt that he was at the leading edge of the new wireless technology. His early attempts to set up a wireless station in Newfoundland were blocked by Cyrus Field’s company. He continued his work in Nova Scotia at the invitation of Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, and sent the first wireless message across the Atlantic from Nova Scotia in 1902.
Titanic’s 2012 Legacy at Cape Race
On April 14, 2012 the world paused to watch Cape Race’s unique commemoration of Titanic’s loss. Hollywood’s Titanic Movie Producer James Cameron and ships at sea over the Titanic gravesite joined in a poignant commemoration of lives lost and the world-changing epic that was Titanic.
A moving remembrance of Titanic’s last hours was shared by more than 1,000 people at sea over Titanic’s resting place and another 500 at Portugal Cove South, Trepassey and Cape Race. The morse code signals of a century earlier were echoed from the cruise ship Azamara as messages were exchanged between the Titanic site and Cape Race.
The newly refurbished Myrick Wireless Interpretation Centre is one legacy of the 2012 Receiving Titanic Commemorations. While an iceberg lurked offshore local people joined national media and international Titanic enthusiasts to remember the Cape Race story during Titanic’s April centennial. Once again Titanic and her Cape Race connection captured the world’s attention
Parks Stephenson speaks to those attending the Titanic Commemorative Dinner at Trepassey near Cape Race. Later that night he would join all the participants to hear Titanic’s wireless calls once again – a century later ….perhaps to the second…..of when events happened in 1912. On April 15, 2012 a 2-hour television documentary featuring Parks made its world premiere. Parks came to Cape Race for the Titanic Centennial and provided us with this photo of the Marconi Station that received Titanic’s distress message. The Myrick Centre at Cape Race stands on the same site and shares the same construction as the original Marconi station shown in this photo.
Ron Hynes debuts new Titanic Song The Receiving Titanic Commemorative Program on April 14/15 included a wonderful performance by The Man of a Thousand Songs, Ron Hynes. Ron has family ties to Long Beach and other communities on the Irish Loop – the route to Cape Race.
Remembering those lost
The International Ice Patrol of the United States Coast Guard was created following the Titanic disaster and given the mission of keeping commercial vessels safe from the icebergs that continue to haunt the vital North Atlantic shipping lanes. In recognition of their long, shared heritage with Newfoundland and Cape Race, the Patrol held its 2012 Blessing of the Wreaths Ceremony on April 13 at St. Nicholas Church in Torbay, Newfoundland. This tradition of honouring Titanic’s victims goes back to the creation of the service following the Titanic tragedy. The natural wreaths were dropped over the gravesite during the first patrol scheduled following the centennial of Titanic’s loss on April 14, 1912. St. Nicholas is the Patron Saint of sailors.
On April 14, 2012 an Ecumenical Service was also held at Holy Redeemer Church in Trepassey – the nearest church to the Titanic gravesite – as part of the commemorative events held to remember Titanic’s passengers and crew.
Media reports from around the world have been talking about Titanic’s connection to Cape Race and more people want to visit here.
Come to Cape Race and immerse yourself in the epic that speaks to us from over a century ago. Learn the wireless skills and technology that evolved into today’s cell phones. Stand where Titanic’s last call was heard at the nearest point of land to the wreck. Check out how events in Newfoundland would save over 700 Titanic lives. Hear about the local friendships with Titanic wireless operators.
Today Cape Race is considered one of the world’s most appropriate places for connecting with the Titanic story. It is the closest point of land to the Titanic gravesite and is home to the Myrick Wireless Interpretation Center where visitors can closely connect with the region’s wireless and Titanic heritage.