Conception and competitionBy 1855 speculation had intensified about possible routes for the connection of Australia to the new telegraph cable in Java and thus Europe. Among the routes under consideration were either to in , or to the north coast of Australia and then either onto east coast, or south through the centre of the continent to Adelaide.''Exploring the Stuart Highway : further than the eye can see'', 1997, p. 24 Competition between the colonies over the route was fierce. The government organised an led by and to cross the from to the in 1860. Although the route was traversed, the ended in disaster. The South Australian government recognised the economic benefits that would result from becoming the centre of the telegraph network. It offered a reward of £2000 to encourage an expedition to find a route between South Australia and the north coast. James Chambers had gained an interest in the concept of a telegraph line across the outback. Chambers paid the costs for Stuart's expeditions into northern Australia. Stuart had the proposed telegraph line in mind as he travelled across the desert, noting the best places for river crossings, sources of timber for telegraph poles, and water supplies. On 24 July, his expedition finally reached the north coast at a place Stuart named , after his employer and sponsor. South Australian Governor gave his strong support to the project. In 1863 an Order in Council transferred to South Australia, aiming to secure land for an international telegraph connection. Now with a potential route, South Australia strengthened her position for the telegraph line in 1865 when Parliament authorised the construction of a telegraph line between Adelaide and Port Augusta, 300 km to the north. This move provoked outrage in amongst advocates of the Darwin–Burketown route. The final contract was secured in 1870 when the South Australian government agreed to construct 3200 km of line to Darwin, while the promised to lay the undersea cable from , Java to Darwin. The latter was to be finished on 31 December 1871, and severe penalties were to apply if the connecting link was not ready.
ConstructionThe South Australian Superintendent of Telegraphs, Charles Todd, was appointed head of the project, and devised a timetable to complete the immense project on schedule. Todd had built South Australia's first telegraph line and extended it to Melbourne. The contract stipulated a total cost of no more than £128,000 and two years' construction time. He divided the route into three sections, each of : northern and southern sections to be handled by private contractors, and a central section which would be constructed by his own department. The telegraph line would comprise more than 30,000 wrought iron poles, insulators, batteries, wire and other equipment, ordered from England.''Exploring the Stuart Highway : further than the eye can see'', 1997, p. 25 The poles were placed 80 m apart and repeater stations built every 250 km. Todd appointed staff to whom the contractors would be responsible: Explorer, John Ross (explorer), John Ross; Surveyor, William Harvey (surveyor), William Harvey; Overseer of Works, Northern Territory, William McMinn; Sub-Overseer, Robert Charles Burton, R. C. Burton; Telegraphist, Operators, James Lawrence Stapleton (murdered 1874 at Barrow Creek, Northern Territory, Barrow Creek) and Andrew Howley. Surveyors and Overseers, central portion of line: Alfred Thomas Woods, A. T. Woods, Gilbert Rotherdale McMinn, Gilbert McMinn, and Richard Randall Knuckey; Overseer, James Beckwith; Sub-Overseers, J. F. Roberts (perhaps John Le Maistre Francis Roberts, J. Le M. F. Roberts), Stephen Jarvis, W. W. Mills, W. Charles Musgrave, and Christopher Giles. He assembled a team of men for his central section: surveyors, linesmen, carpenters, labourers and cooks. The team left Adelaide with horses, bullocks and carts loaded with provisions and equipment for many weeks. The central section would be surveyed by the explorer John Ross (explorer), John Ross and Alfred Giles (explorer), Alfred Giles, his second-in-command. The southern section from Heavy rain of up to a day waterlogged the ground and made it impossible for work to progress. With conditions worsening, the men went on strike on 7 March 1871, rancid food and disease-spreading mosquitoes amongst their complaints. On 3 May 1871, Overseer of Works William McMinn cancelled Darwent & Dalwood's contract and sent all the workers back to Adelaide, on the basis of insufficient progress (they had erected poles to a distance of and strung wire for to that date) and the insurrection of the men. This last, the workers claimed, was exaggerated; they only refused to work after they had been sacked. These actions were certainly within his powers, and spelled out in the contract, but he was dismissed on his return to Adelaide in July 1871. Joseph Darwent had protested the original appointment of McMinn, who had submitted a losing tender, but was overruled. William T. Dalwood was eventually awarded compensation of £11,000. The South Australian Government was now forced to construct an extra 700 km of line, and threw every available resource into its completion, down to purchasing horses and hiring men from New South Wales. It was another six months before reinforcements led by engineer Robert Patterson (engineer), Robert Patterson arrived in Darwin. As the central and southern sections neared completion, Patterson decided to take a different strategy with the construction of the northern section. It was divided into four sub-sections with the majority of the men on the most northerly section.''Exploring the Stuart Highway : further than the eye can see'', 1997, p. 26 The undersea cable was finished earlier than expected, with the line from reaching Darwin on 18 November 1871 and being connected the following day. Charlotte Waters, Northern Territory, Charlotte Waters, just north of the South Australian border in the Northern Territory, was surveyed in 1871 by Gilbert McMinn and Richard KnuckeyGiles, Ernest (1889). ''Australia twice traversed: the romance of exploration, being a narrative compiled from the journals of five exploring expeditions into and through Central South Australia, and Western Australia, from 1872 to 1876, Volume 1.'' S. Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, Limited and a repeater station built in 1872. Because of the problems still facing the northern section, the Queensland Superintendent of Telegraphs called for the abandonment of the project, and for the line to connect to the terminal at Burketown, Queensland, Burketown, but Todd was adamant and pressed on. By the end of the year there was still over 300 km of line to erect, but the line was substantially in use from May 1872 by the expedient of carrying messages by horse or camel across the uncompleted section. During this time, Todd began visiting workers along the line to lift their spirits. The message he sent along the incomplete line on 22 May 1872, took 9 days to reach Adelaide.
CompletionRunning more than seven months behind schedule, the two lines were finally joined at Frew's Ponds on Thursday, 22 August 1872.''Exploring the Stuart Highway : further than the eye can see'', 1997, p. 27 Todd was given the honour of sending the first message along the completed line: :WE HAVE THIS DAY, WITHIN TWO YEARS, COMPLETED A LINE OF COMMUNICATIONS TWO THOUSAND MILES LONG THROUGH THE VERY CENTRE OF AUSTRALIA, UNTIL A FEW YEARS AGO A TERRA INCOGNITA BELIEVED TO BE A DESERT +++ After the first messages had been exchanged over the new line, Todd was accompanied by surveyor Richard Randall Knuckey on the return journey from Central Mount Stuart to Adelaide. The line proved an immediate success in opening the ; gold discoveries were made in several places along the northern section (in particular Pine Creek, Northern Territory, Pine Creek), and the repeater stations in the MacDonnell Ranges proved invaluable starting points for explorers like Ernest Giles, William Gosse (explorer), W. C. Gosse, and Peter Warburton, Peter Egerton-Warburton who were heading west. Within the first year of operations 4000 telegrams were transmitted. Maintenance was an ongoing and mammoth task, with floods often destroying poles. In February 1875, a small contingent of Overland Telegraph employees left Port Darwin for Adelaide on the ill-fated SS Gothenburg, SS ''Gothenburg''. A few days later, at least ten were among the hundred-odd who lost their lives after she encountered a severe storm, and was driven into the Great Barrier Reef and sank. The final stage of connecting Australia to the world was begun in 1875 when the Western Australian and South Australian governments agreed to build a line across the Nullarbor plain. This equally challenging project was completed in 1877. Around 1871, a second cable connected Java with an overland line from Perth to Cable Station, Roebuck Bay. When Darwin was bombed in World War II the line was deliberately cut just before the attack. In 2008, its engineering heritage was recognised by the installation of markers provided by the Engineers Australia's Engineers Australia#Engineering Heritage Recognition Program, Engineering Heritage Recognition Program at a location in Darwin near the place where the cable reached the shore, the Alice Springs Telegraph Station and the General Post Office, Adelaide, General Post Office in Adelaide.
Attack at Barrow CreekLife was hazardous for the line's isolated workforce. On 22 February 1874, eighteen months after the line opened, a group of Aboriginal men attacked the staff of the repeater station at Barrow Creek, Northern Territory, Barrow Creek, killing linesman John Frank, mortally wounding stationmaster John L. Stapleton, and seriously wounding two others, one an aboriginal youth employed at the station. Contemporary press reports described the incident as the "Barrow's Creek outrage". A punitive expedition resulted in the death of several Aboriginal men believed to have been involved.
The Australian connectionIn 1870 the British Australia Telegraph Company (BAT) was formed to link Australia directly to the British telegraphic cable system, by extending the cable from Singapore via Java to Port Darwin. In 1873, three British companies, The British India Extension Telegraph Company, The BAT and The China Submarine Telegraph Company were amalgamated to form the Eastern Extension, Australasia and China Telegraph Company (EET Co). The driving force behind the British cable companies was a Scottish born entrepreneur Sir John Pender, founder of Cable & Wireless plc, Cable and Wireless. On 19 November 1871, Australia was connected telegraphically with the rest of the world after a cable was laid by BAT from (Banjoewangie), at the eastern end of Java, to Darwin. This coincided with the completion of the construction of the overland telegraph cable from Adelaide to Darwin. The first message sent directly from London to Adelaide occurred on 22 October 1872. A second submarine cable from Java to Darwin was laid in 1880. The site in the intertidal zone where the cables come ashore in Darwin, where they are still visible during very low tides, was heritage listed in 2020.
Eastern extension and undersea upgradesOn 9 April 1889 a third Submarine communications cable, undersea telegraph cable opened for business, running from , Java to Cable Beach, and continuing overland to Perth, to complement the two cables already laid in 1871 and 1880 from Banyuwangi to Darwin. This cable was laid to increase security in communications to prevent disruption from seismic activity that kept breaking the Banyuwangi to Darwin cables. The contract for the cables called for the manufacture of 970 nautical miles of cable containing a single galvanised copper core with 220 nautical miles being brass sheathed, laid by the Enderby's Wharf#History, Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company for the Cable & Wireless plc#1860 to 1901, Eastern Extension, Australasia and China Telegraph Company, by the SS ''Seine''. The operation took only 10 days and was completed on 26 February 1889. These were all British companies. Cable Beach is named after this cable that connected Java to Cable Station, that served this purpose until March 1914. After operating for 25 years it closed due to the opening of more competitive, cheaper-to-run stations; most cables were subsequently recovered. Cable Station was left empty, and in 1921 it was purchased and transformed into its current use as the Broome Court House, which was placed on the Western Australian State Register of Heritage Places in 2001 as it is the only station that is still standing in Australia. The cable now connects at Onslow, Western Australia, Onslow on the
Proposed filmIn the 1930s Cinesound Productions announced plans to make a movie about the Telegraph but it never eventuated.
See also* First transcontinental telegraph line across the western United States, completed in 1861 * History of telegraphy in Australia
References;Citations ;Bibliography * ''Exploring the Stuart Highway : further than the eye can see''. West Beach, South Australia: Tourist Information Distributors Australia, 1997. ISSN 1326-6039