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Southport Cable Hut (former)


Place Details
Place ID 602611
Registration Type State Heritage
Place Name Southport Cable Hut (former)
Place Classification Built
Place Category Communications
Place Type Telegraph Line
Themes 5 Moving goods, people and information / 5.7 Telecommunications
Register Entry Date 03/05/2007

Location
Property Name Cable Park
Address Main Beach Parade
Town / Suburb MAIN BEACH
Post Code 4217
LGA GOLD COAST CITY COUNCIL

Cultural Heritage Significance
Principal Period
of Significance
1950s
Criterion A The Southport Cable Hut (c1951) is important in demonstrating the evolution of Queensland's history insofar that it marks the Australian terminal of the Pacific Cable, Australia's second telegraph link with Great Britain and the first to be government owned. Known as the All Red Route, the Pacific Cable was also the first link between Australia and Britain to pass only through countries of the British empire, by convention coloured red on world maps. The opening of the Pacific Cable in 1902 was an important step forward in international communications for Australia since it resulted in faster, more secure and much more affordable communications between Britain and Australia.
Criterion B The Cable Hut is the only surviving structure associated with the Southport terminal of the Pacific Cable that remains in its original location. Buildings of the former, nearby Cable Station, where communications were received and sent through the Pacific Cable, are extant but have been moved from their original location to the Southport School.
Criterion D The place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of cable huts; small buildings where submarine telegraph cables were linked to their terrestrial counterparts. The Southport cable hut is a small, functional structure of simple, robust design. Fastened to the rear wall inside the hut are the ends of the Pacific Cable, the cable link to Sydney and the link to the Cable Station formerly located at Bauer Street, Southport. A gauge and equipment for maintaining gas pressure in the cable to Bauer Street also remain extant in the hut.

History
History Cable Park is a small reserve located on the corner of Cable Street and Main Beach Parade at Main Beach on the Gold Coast. The reserve contains a small brick hut and a raised circular platform with a plaque. The brick hut is the Australian terminal of the Pacific Cable, completed in 1902. This telegraph cable linked Australia and Great Britain via Canada and British dependencies in the Pacific. It was an important communications link between the east coast of Australia and the rest of the world until its closure in 1962. Telegraph communication developed in the mid-19th century as a result of many years of discovery and experimentation in electrical communication culminating in the work of Samuel Morse. The rapid long distance communication provided by telegraph systems had a major impact on society. The telegraph was quickly utilised by news services; Associated Press and Reuters press service were founded to take advantage of the technology. Telegraph companies soon offered financial services, providing the facility to send money orders via the telegraph. In Australia the telegraph helped to alleviate the isolation of the colonies. New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia were connected by telegraph by 1860. Queensland's first telegraph connection was made in 1861 between Brisbane and Ipswich. Brisbane was linked to Sydney the same year. The first telegraph link between Australia and Britain opened in 1872. The link was via the Eastern Cable Company's network. It was routed through Singapore, India, Suez and Gibraltar. It was initially proposed to make landfall in north Queensland. However, the South Australian government successfully negotiated for the link to connect with Adelaide via Port Darwin and an overland route through the centre of Australia. Before the Pacific Cable was opened, the Eastern Cable Company and its associates maintained a monopoly over international telegraph traffic with Australia. As a result, the cost of communication between Britain and Australia remained very high and beyond the means of most people. Sandford Fleming, Chief Engineer of the Canadian Pacific Railway, was an early advocate of an alternative cable route between Australia and Great Britain via Canada and the Pacific Ocean. He expressed his views as early as the Colonial Conference of 1887. A major advantage put forward by Fleming and other proponents of the Pacific route was that it would be more secure in times of war. The existing link passed through countries that were not part of the British Empire. It was proposed that the Pacific Cable would pass only through British dependencies. The high cost of telegrams through the Eastern Cable Company's system provided further motivation for a competing route. The proposed Pacific Cable would break the Eastern Cable Company's monopoly and lower the cost of communication between Britain and Australia. When the Pacific Cable opened, the cost of telegrams reduced to less than half the former rate. The ability to communicate directly with the United States and so access more trade opportunities was another argument in favour of the Pacific Cable. By the mid-1890s, agreement was reached that the cable should be laid. However debate about management of the cable laying project and ownership of the completed cable continued for some years. Finally, it was agreed that funding should be shared between the governments of Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. A committee named the Pacific Cable Board was formed made up of members from each of these countries. The Pacific Cable Act (1901) gave this board responsibility for managing the project and operating the completed cable. The route selected for the cable linked Southport, Norfolk Island, Fiji, Fanning Island, and Vancouver. A branch connected to New Zealand. Since cartographers of the day traditionally coloured member countries of the British Empire in red, the route became known as the All Red Route. Cable laying started in 1902 with two ships, Anglia and Colonia. Colonia, built specifically for the project, laid cable from Vancouver Island to Fanning Island in the mid-Pacific. Anglia laid cable from Southport to Norfolk Island, Fiji, New Zealand and Fanning Island. The cable was landed at Southport in March 1902. It was laid into a trench through the dunes of Narrow Neck near Southport and terminated at a cable hut located close to the beach. From here, it connected to a cable which crossed under the Nerang River to the cable station at Bauer Street. The laying of the Pacific Cable was a major engineering feat for the time, costing about two million pounds. The Pacific Cable was completed on 31 October 1902 and officially opened at Southport on 3 November 1902 by the Postmaster-General of the Commonwealth, the Honourable J.G. Drake. It was opened to public traffic on 8 December 1902. Until 1912 Southport handled telegraph traffic for all over Australia. In 1912, a cable from Auckland was extended to Sydney and for a period after this, traffic for the southern States went directly to Sydney from Auckland. Technical changes to the system in 1923, including the installation of automatic repeaters, relegated Southport to a repeater station. The Southport station continued to be operated by the Pacific Cable Board until 1932. Management was then taken over by Cable and Wireless Limited until 1946 when, after the Australian Government passed the Overseas Telecommunications Act, responsibility passed to the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (OTC). By January 1950, the original cable hut located close to the beach at Narrow Neck had gone, leaving only a cement slab and a flag pole partly surrounded by a barbed wire fence. It is believed that it was destroyed in a severe storm. Serious erosion of the cable reserve by February 1951 threatened these remains and the cable connections located there. The current brick hut located at Cable Park was built during the first half of 1951 to remedy this situation. In October 1962, the Compac Cable between Sydney and Vancouver was completed. The original Pacific Cable was thus rendered redundant and the Southport to Norfolk Island cable was closed. The Cable Station at Bauer Street was sold to De La Salle Brothers who operated a community youth centre there. In the early 1980s, the Cable Station buildings were removed, two of them to the Southport School where they continue to function as music rooms. However, the brick cable hut remains in its original location at Cable Park, Southport.

Description
Description Cable Park is a small grassy reserve located on Main Beach Parade at Main Beach at the Gold Coast. The Cable Hut is a small brick structure set well back from Main Beach Parade in the park. The hut is about 2.4m square in plan view and about 2.7m high. There no windows, airflow being provided by ventilator bricks. It has a flat concrete roof. A plain wooden door secured by a barrel bolt and padlock is located in the middle of the northern wall. A section of submarine cable is mounted on the eastern wall above a rectangular brass plaque. The interior of the hut is unlined and has a wooden floor. The pine skirting boards are of recent construction. Fastened to the wall opposite the door are three groups of cables passing through the floor. These cables run vertically up the wall and are held in place by a long wooden beam extending the length of the wall. The beam is fastened to the brickwork by bolts. The group at the eastern end of the wall comprises two thick black cables. The outer insulating material of each cable has been removed to a length of about one metre from the end. An inner armoured sheath has been folded back over the outer insulation to expose another layer of insulation. This has been removed to expose three insulated wires. The wires are fixed to the wall on a block of wood. At the opposite end of the wall is a group of three cables. The insulation and sheathing on one of these cables has been removed in a similar way to the cables mentioned previously. However, only a short length of insulation has been removed from the other two cables. The third group of cables comprises two grey cables, one considerably thinner than the other. These pass through the floor between the two outer groups about an equal distance from each. The larger of the two cables is fixed with a metal saddle to a rectangular piece of wood fastened to the wall. Just above this, the cable enters a red, rectangular metal box bolted to the wall. About fourteen smaller grey cables emerge from the top of this box; they are fixed to the wall by a bracket. Above this, twelve of the cables turn and run horizontally to the east, over two rusted metal brackets. Six of the cables are draped over these brackets and hang towards the floor. The other six run further to the left to a point immediately above the two thick cables at the eastern end of the wall. At this point, they turn towards the floor meeting the two cables coming up from the floor. They are fastened to the wall on a block of wood. Immediately to the west of the red metal box is a wooden panel fixed to the wall. Mounted on this is a large, brass pressure gauge. The thinner of the two grey cables which emerge from the floor is fitted into the bottom of this gauge. Two of the cables which come out of the top of the red metal box turn to the west and curve downwards around the bottom of the wooden panel to enter the gauge at approximately the 'two o'clock' position. A paved path runs from the eastern side of the hut towards a large raised circular platform. This has an aggregate top and set into this is a round metal plaque. Depicted on the plaque is a map of the world showing the route of the Pacific Cable. Shrubs and palm trees grow in a small garden bed around the hut. A garden bed of shrubbery runs along the southern and western border of the park.

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Last updated: 15 March 2013

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