TITANIC-TITANIC.com | Titanic Articles: James Parson's Visit To Cape Race Lighthouse

By James Parson


Cape Race lighthouse was built about a century ago, and is constructed of reinforced concrete. It stands 33 metres (107 feet) high and there are 80 steps to the top for the more adventurous. Visitors come from all over the world for the scenery (the Irish settled here as it reminded them of home), the lighthouse, the wireless and the history.

An interpretive centre and replica wireless station, operational since 2001 as part of Newfoundland's Marconi Celebration, relates of rescue attempts, shipwrecks and technological advancements, is staffed with Tour Guides.

In the site's prime, 50 to 80 people lived and staffed Cape Race. Tourism is the job future for this site and area with the recent closing of a fishing plant.

Cape Race Lighthouse

In 2001 and 2003, my wife and I visited my relatives in Newfoundland and each time having gone to Cape Race, with recollections and notes while on tour, noted information at the Interpretive Centre, an article in the St. John's newspaper The Telegram (media was there on our 2003 visit) plus research on the internet. When in the area, we also proceeded not far from there down the Avalon Peninsula to Mistaken Point which I believe is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a breeding area for birds, as well as a discovery of Precambrian Fossils.

The Cape Race lighthouse is a National Historic Site. The first lighthouse (12 metres high) was built in 1856 , and a telegraph station opened the same year. The Associated Press had North American-bound ships passing Cape Race put news reports in canisters to be dropped off the coast and retrieved by a news boat or fishermen. The news would be telegraphed to New York two days before the ships arrived there. I have on a few occasions been to Hearts Content, where the first transatlantic cable came ashore in 1866, thus eliminating the ship canister drop off.

A couple of years after the first Wireless Transatlantic message was received by Marconi at Signal Hill in St. John's, Newfoundland, Cape Race was the location for Newfoundland's first Wireless Communication Station. In 1910, the New York Associated Press used Cape Race to dispatch news stories from Britain to New York and became a centre for reporting news around the world.

The lighthouse's magnificent Freznel lens is huge at 18 feet tall and can bend light to the horizon. Cape Race is approximately 65 miles south of St. John's and the last 12 - 15km are over a hilly, dirt and stone road. With advancing technology, the wireless was shut down in 1967.

The Maritime Annals of History Part: April# 14, 1912, in the evening the Titanic wireless operators had been working the passenger messages upon coming within range of Cape Race at approximately 350 - 400 miles. The significant player when being the first North American landfall Wireless Communication Station to receive directly the Titanic distress signals. Walter Gray, Jack Godwin and Robert Hunston were on duty.

10:25pm (EST), 12:15am on Titanic, Goodwin receives the Titanic C.Q.D. with their position.

10:40pm (1 hour and 50 min. later on Titanic 12:30am) Gray hears Titanic requires assistance. 10:45pm Hunston hears Caronia relaying Titanic information to all ships that can hear.

April 15, 1912 12:50am Virginian indicates last hearing from Titanic at 12:27am. (2:17am Titanic time).

2:05am New York is messaging for details.

Cape Race is inundated with requests for news from the press passed-on from ships out at sea. Some of these messages would just make Monday April 15th's shocking headlines!

For days after the Titanic disaster, telegraphed information would be relayed to Montreal and on to Toronto and beyond in North America, feeding the newspapers, and by-lines would say, "via Cape Race".

Robert Hunston kept a log of the dramatic events of that night, of which there is an image of the log at www.titanic.gov.ns.ca/wireless.html I hope the Canadian perspective and our significance is of interest regarding this historic tragedy.

James H. Parsons


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