Monday, April 16, 2012

Titanic SOS heard first in Canada at Cape Bear Marconi Stn

     One hundred years ago on April 14th, 1912 the TITANIC sent out distress calls - it was first heard in Newfoundland (a British Colony who joined Canada in 1949) - the Nova Scotia office was closed so the next place to receive the signal was at Cape Bear Marconi Station in Eastern Prince Edward Island. 
     The Guardian Newspaper did a front page story on the Titanic and its connection to Prince Edward Island.
A chilling distress call
by Steve Sharratt, April 14, 2012
Marconi radio station at Cape Bear first in Canada to hear distress signal from Titanic
     Thomas Bartlett is believed to be the only Marconi radio operator in Canada to pick up the signal that the Titanic was in distress.
           The tragedy of the Titanic and its unsinkable connection to the world is a tale steeped in morality, says one of P.E.I.’s most respected academics
            “Even a century after its sinking, the Titanic continues to resonate with people around the world,’’ says Dr. Ed MacDonald, history professor at the University of Prince Edward Island.
            “It is not, I think, because of the magnitude of the tragedy — although considerable — but the plot line."
            MacDonald says the Olympic-class ocean liner touted as “virtually unsinkable,” and lost on its maiden voyage after striking an iceberg off Newfoundland, is a moral conundrum.
            “It was nature’s rebuke to the arrogance of human invention,’’ he says. “And so, Islanders valued — and still value — their connection to one of the most famous marine tragedies.”
            Michael Glover has a connection to the Titanic. The house he grew up in the Beach Point area was the original Marconi Station at Cape Bear.
            His grandparents purchased the station after it was decommissioned and his parents now call it home after moving it to nearby Guernsey Cove.
            “The original point of land where the light and the station were once situated is long gone,” said Glover, who lives in the area. “The erosion took it all away over the years. But I remember the story that this was the only station in Canada to pick up the Titanic distress call.”
            Glover says the signal was picked up in Canada’s youngest province as well, but Newfoundland wasn’t part of Canada until joining Confederation in 1949.
            “Thomas Bartlett did have a phone as part of his position, but unlike today, the news of the Titanic tragedy likely would have taken some time to make its way here,” says Cape Bear lighthouse curator Donna MacNeill, where a Bartlett radio room is featured.
            Prof. MacDonald says to the people who live on Prince Edward Island and once went down to the sea in ships; the Titanic is a grim reminder.
            “It reminds us that the North Atlantic can be a graveyard as well as a highway.”
      Above:  Image of the Marconi Station at Cape Bear - note the Cape Bear Lighthouse to the right.   The Marconi Station was moved away and today this whole area is gown-up into a spruce forest with the Cape Bear lighthouse at the edge of the cliff.  The image above comes from a story told by well-known Island historian Dutch Thompson on the local CBC Radio program Island Morning last week.

      The Cape Bear Lighthouse as seen today - still operational.  The lighthouse was built in 1881.  The Marconi Wireless Station was located here at Cape Bear between 1905-1922.  This and other 6 other stations were set-up by Marine & Fisheries. 
     The lighthouse is a tapered wood structure standing four-storeys high to a height of 36.0'
     Today visitors to this site can see the museum which features the Cape Bear Marconi Station - thought to be the first and only Canadian land station to receive and forward Titanic's distress call.
      Below: the shoreline beside the lighthouse - in this phot you can see the parking area to the left and a fenced picnic area to the right at point.

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