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Eucla Telegraph Station Ruins

Kay Cunningham

Flagstaff Hill, Australia

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Artist's Description

Waterclolour painting of the historic Eucla Telegraph Station ruins. Sifting sands alter the ruins presentation dramatically from time to time.

The lonely outpost at Eucla, built 20 kilometres inside Western Australia’s border with South Australia, ensured that up to 600 telegrams a day successfully travelled along iron, and later copper wire between the two states.
In 1874, the WA Legislative Council voted £15,000 for the construction of a telegraph line from King George Sound, Albany Western Australia to Eucla on the border with South Australia.
At the same time, the South Australian authorities agreed to construct a line from Port Augusta to Eucla.
As the line was hung and inched closer each day to the border, telegrams were carried between each end of the line by horsemen – so – telegrams by morse and horse!
This inter-colonial line, 2532 kms long, was opened on 8th December 1877 at a total cost of £33,000 amid congratulatory messages keyed along the single iron wire linking the colonies.
This enabled Western Australia to be in telegraphic communication with the rest of the world.

Text of the first telegram:
“SATURDAY 7 PM (DECEMBER 8TH 1877)
EUCLA LINE OPENED. HURRAH.”

Built in sight of the sea, it operated as two colonial terminal stations and became perhaps Australia’s most important telegraphic link – all day, all night the sounders clicked.
The station was staffed equally by Western Australian and South Australian telegraphists and the staff worked each on its own side of the ‘border’. The telegraph table extended north and south the full length of the room, and for telegraphic purposes the boundary line between the two provinces ran up the centre of the table.

Different versions of morse code was used. A Canadian associate of Samuel Morse, Samuel W. McGowan came to Victoria, realised his associate’s invention potential and obtained a contract from the Victorian government to erect Australia’s first telegraph line. His knowledge of Samuel Morse’s code was obviously invaluable. South Australian operators received their traffic from Adelaide using this code locally known as Victorian code and passed it through holes in the partition to their Western Australian colleagues who would re-transmit to Perth using International morse code which was in use outside of the U.S.A. Even the clocks showed different state times being 90 minutes apart.
In the 1890’s, Eucla became the busiest telegraph station in Australia outside the capital cities. On signing of the Federation in 1901, the partition was ceremoniously removed.

Eventually, with the introduction of electro-magnetic automatic repeaters, the coastal telegraph line was abandoned in 1927 in favour of a more easily maintained line alongside the trans-continental railway line.
In the 1950’s, the telegraph station was completely buried but changing winds have pushed the dunes back and some of the walls are now exposed again.
Today, all that’s left are its 1897 stone walls and only a portion of those are visible above the sand.

Arches w/c paper
windsor & newton paints

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Artwork Comments

  • Terry Everson
  • Paulina Kazarinov
  • Kay Cunningham
  • stephaniek
  • Kay Cunningham
  • Paula McManus
  • Kay Cunningham
  • Roman Burgan
  • Kay Cunningham
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