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1879 Australia and New Zealand Telegraphs

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Extracted from '1879 Australian Dictionary of Dates and Men of the Time' by J. H. Heaton

See images for full table details

A proposal for the establishment of electric telegraph between Sydney and Melbourne started, 1845.

Telegraph first used in New South Wales, December 5, 1851.

Electric telegraph construction commenced in Victoria, November, 1853.

The first electric telegraph put in operation in. Victoria was between Melbourne and Williamstown, March 3, 1854.

[It was opened in the presence of Lieutenant-Governor Latrobe, members of the Legislative Council, and others, at the telegraph office, William-street. Mr. McGowan was appointed Superintendent of Telegraphs.] The first telegraph in South Australia was from Adelaide to Port Adelaide; distance about 9 miles. Opened February 18, 1856.

The first line of telegraph between Melbourne and Adelaide opened, July 19, 1856.

Telegraphic communication established in Tasmania, August 2, 1857.

Telegraphic communication between Sydney and Liverpool, New South Wales, completed, December 30, 1857.

First telegraphic message, Sydney to Liverpool, in N.S.W., sent by Mr. E. C. Cracknell, January 26, 1858.

Telegraphic communication between Melbourne and Adelaide established, July 19, 1858.

Telegraphic communication established between Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, October 29, 1858.

Telegraph to Kapunda, South Australia, opened, May 11, 1859.

First telegram between Tasmania and Victoria, September 30, 1859, but proved a failure.

Cable laid from Cape Otway to King's Island, and thence to Tasmania, 1859; proved a failure. 1860.

First New Zealand telegraph office opened, July 1, 1862.

Telegraph line opened from Brisbane to Rockhampton, Queensland, April 6, 1864.

Telegraph line opened to Townsville, March 15, 1869.

The new Electric cable from Tasmania to Victoria laid, April 27, 1869.

First message through Bass' Straits cable, May 1, 1869.

Telegraphic communication established between Perth and Freemantle, West Australia, June 21, 1869.

Overland telegraph commenced in the Northern Territory, South Australia, September 15, 1870.

The shore end of the cable between Port Darwin and Banjoewangie laid at the former place, November 7, 1871.

The first telegram came through stating that communication with Java was complete, November 20, 1871.

Telegraph line between Normanton, Gulf of Carpentaria, and Brisbane opened, January 3, 1872.

Telegraph line to Normanton officially opened, June 4, 1872.

First cable message from England received in Melbourne, July 2, 1872.

Cable communication with England by the construction of the South Australian telegraph line to Port Darwin, October 22, 1872. [The contract for the construction of the overland line was let in three divisions. From Port Augusta in lat. 31.5° S. to lat. 27°, the line is 512 miles in length, and Mr. E. M. Bagot was the contractor for this portion of the work, and he erected the first pole on October 1, 1870; the next portion, from lat. 27° to lat. 19.30, is 612 miles in length, and it was undertaken by the Government; and the third portion, extending from lat. 19.30 to its completion, 629 in length, was entrusted to Messrs. Darwent and Dalwood, who planted the first pole on September 15, 1870. The total length of the wire from Port Darwin to Adelaide is 1,976 miles. After encountering extraordinary difficulties, the work was completed through the ability and energy of Mr. Todd, Superintendent of Telegraphs, South Australia. The Overland Telegraph, which cost £370,000, was placed in connection with the cable laid by the British Australian Company, between Singapore vice Java to Port Darwin, October 22, 1872.]

First through telegram received in Adelaide, S.A., by the overland wire, October 22, 1872.

[Intercolonial Conference held in Sydney, September, 1874. The Governments of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, New Zealand, Tasmania, and Western Australia were represented. Various questions were considered but no agreement arrived at in reference to cable duplication, which was the principal subject for decision. The delegates were New South Wales, John Robertson, Alexander Stuart, and J. F. Burns; Victoria, J. S. Anderson and Robert Ramsay; Western Australia, A. Frazer; Queensland, S. W. Griffith and C. S. Mein; New Zealand, George Maclean.] Cable from Sydney to New Zealand, shore end laid at La Perouse, Botany, N. S.W., Feb. 5, 1876.

Cable communication between Australia and New Zealand established, February 20, 1876.

Telegraph opened Sydney to Manly Beach, July 1, 1876.

Telegraphic communication between Adelaide and Eucla opened, July 13, 1877.

Completion of the overland telegraph to Eucla; 2,046 miles of line available between Adelaide, South Australia, and Perth, Western Australia, December 1, 1877.

5,163 miles opened, and 1,031 miles authorized and in progress in December, 1877.

Intercolonial Cable Conference commenced its sittings at Melbourne, May 9, 1878.

The London Times published first intelligence of the New Caledonia massacre simultaneously with the Sydney Evening News, through the agency of S. W. Silver and Co., July 12, 1878. The Cable Conference adopted its report, May 18, 1878. [The principal resolution authorized New South Wales and Victoria to enter into an agreement for a second cable from Rangoon from Singapore direct to Banjoewangie, and thence to Port Darwin, avoiding the Java land line, for an annual subsidy not exceeding £32, 400, payable for 20 years. Government messages to be issued to Port Darwin at a reduction of 50 per cent., and Press messages at a reduction of 75 per cent. The delegates consisted of Graham Berry for Victoria, J. F. Burns for New South Wales, J. P. Boucaut and Charles Todd for South Australia, and C. S. Mein for Queensland. The arrangements were made with Colonel Glover, of Eastern Telegraph Company, who was examined by the Conference.

The Hon. J. F. Burns paid a visit to New Zealand in relation to the second cable, and succeeded in inducing the Government of that colony to join in the contract, June, 1878.

The route and length of cable and land lines are as follows between London and Adelaide:

  • London to Land's End (overland) .. .. 320
  • Land's End to Gibraltar via Lisbon (cable)
  • Gibraltar to Malta (cable) .. .. 1,250 981
  • Malta to Alexandria (cable) .. .. .. 819
  • Alexandria to Suez(overland wire) ... 224
  • Suez to Aden (cable) .. 1,308
  • Aden to Bombay (cable) .. 1,664
  • Bombay to Madras (overland wire) .. 600
  • Madras to Penang (cable) .. .. 1,213
  • Penang to Singapore (cable) .. 381
  • Singapore to Batavia (cable) .. .. 560
  • Batavia to Banjoewangie (overland wire) 480
  • Banjoewangie to Port Darwin (cable) .. .. .. 970
  • Port Darwin to Port Augusta, South Australia (overland wire) .. 1,800
  • Port Augusta to Adelaide .. 196
  • Total length of cable .. 9,146
  • Total length of overland wire .. 3,424
  • Total .. .. 12,570

From Port Augusta the overland wire stretches to Sydney, N.S.W., a distance of 650 miles. The connection here takes place with New Zealand, the submarine cable commencing at Botany Bay, and terminating at Wakapuaka, a distance of 1,150 miles. From Wakapuaka the overland wire is carried to White's Bay (88 miles), thence by cable to Wellington (41 miles), from which centre all the towns and cities of New Zealand are communicated with.


  • From Adelaide to Beltana .. .. .. 355 miles
  • Strangways Springs .. 545 ff ,/ IP
  • Peak e ,, . .. .. 636 „
  • Charlotte Waters .. 804 „ fl ,
  • Alice Springs .. .. 1036 „ ,
  • Barrow's Creek .. .. 1207 ' ,• ,, i'
  • Tennant's Creek .. .. 1354
  • Powell's Creek .. .. 1467 „
  • Daly Waters • • .. 1605 ,, ff f,
  • Katherine .. .. .. 1765 „
  • Pine Creek .. .. .. 1822 » f, ff f, If
  • Shackle [7 miles from Yam Creek] .. .. .. 1852 „
  • South Port . .. 1932 „
  • Port Darwin .. 1973


Number of miles of Telegraph Lines opened December 31, 1877

  • New South Wales .. 6,000
  • New Zealand. .. 3,307
  • Queensland .. 5,033
  • South Australia .. 4,061
  • Tasmania .. 621
  • Victoria .. 2,885
  • Western Australia ..1,567
  • Total .. 23,474

See Also


Sources of Information