Israelite Bay Telegraph Station

Israelite Bay Telegraph Station

The Israelite Bay Telegraph Station is located approximately 200km east of Esperance within the Nuytsland Nature Reserve, Cape Arid National Park. The site incorporates Dimer’s Cottage, Brook’s Cottage and Cook’s Cottage along with gravesites and a series of ruins. Access to the Station is by 4WD only and the last 80km or so takes approximately 2 hours to travel due to the condition of the road.

The Station was opened in 1876 in preparation for the connection of the Overland Telegraph Line between WA and SA the following year. New buildings, to a design by George Temple Poole, were constructed in 1895. The Telegraph Station was in use until 1917.

Israelite Bay Post and Telegraph Station is highly significant as one of the remote telegraph stations that opened up communication between Perth and Adelaide and subsequently provided Western Australia with national and international news more effectively and swiftly than previous forms of communication.

The impressive scale and architectural detail of the main building, isolated in its setting, along with remains associated with those who lived and worked at the station, are a reminder of the efforts of past generations to build and operate communications services and attempts to colonise a remote part of the country.

Today the Telegraph Station and nearby buildings are conserved as a ruin. Major conservation works were undertaken in recent years in order to stabilise the walls and chimneys of the Telegraph Station. The National Trust of Australia (WA) acquired the Telegraph Station in 1977. It is recognised on the heritage registers at national, State and local levels.

  • Telegraph line history

    Following the world’s first telegraph message, using Morse code in May 1844, Australia’s first telegraph line was constructed between Melbourne and Williamstown in 1854. In Western Australia, the first telegraph was built by a privately owned company in 1869, between Perth and Fremantle. Following this, lines were established south to Albany and Bunbury, and east to York. The government took ownership of the system in 1873.

    During this time, a line was constructed from Adelaide to Darwin to join an undersea cable that had been laid from Britain to Java. This was completed in 1872 connecting the eastern states capital cities to the rest of the world. Western Australia, remained reliant on information arriving by sea, ‘a matter that was becoming of concern in business circles as the benefits of the telegraph system became apparent.’

    In 1873, construction of the Perth-Geraldton telegraph line was under way, and, with all existing lines operating well, plans were made to link Perth with Adelaide. It was November 1874 before the South Australian legislature authorised the expenditure for that State’s section of the line to Eucla, which had been chosen as the natural connecting point due to it having the only sea landing place for hundreds of miles.

    The WA government relied on information from John Forrest’s explorations rather than survey the coast for other safe harbours to use during construction of the line. The first pole was planted by Governor Frederick Weld at Albany on 1 January 1875. A foreman for the Post and Telegraph Department surveyed the country for ten to twenty miles ahead of the contractors, pegging out the route.

    The line followed the coast and materials were transported by sea. Landing was difficult. Telegraph poles were lashed together and floated ashore.  The country was largely barren and dry with no permanent water for hundreds of miles. Portable condensers mounted on carts placed in the sea were in constant use in some sections. During construction of the line, the Mary Ann, Twilight and Catabunup (also known as Bunyip) were wrecked while transporting materials. No lives were lost in the shipwrecks.

    Israelite Bay was one of four repeater stations in WA, required to boost the messages in transit. Four more stations were needed on the South Australian side of the border. The line was opened in 1877. The telegraph stations were manned by a Telegraph Master, (also referred to as a Station Master), and one or more assistants. The Telegraph Masters were the major government official in their respective districts, and acted in other positions including Resident Magistrate, Customs Officer, Meteorological Observer and Landing Waiter. Linesmen were employed to maintain the telegraph wire, with an Aboriginal assistant in the early years. The linesmen were stationed at each of the telegraph stations and patrolled halfway to the next station on each side.

    The single wire was initially sufficient for the telegraphic traffic, however following gold discoveries in the 1890s delays of up to a week became common as a backlog of messages developed at each station. In 1896 a two strand line was constructed and new technology allowed two messages to be carried each way per wire. New buildings were designed and constructed by the PWD, under Chief Architect George Temple Poole, in 1896.

    In 1907, automatic boosting on the Line was introduced, and staff at all the telegraph stations was reduced. In 1927, a new three-strand telegraph line was constructed along the route of the Trans-Australia Railway, and the telegraph stations on the coastal and Norseman lines were closed.

    • Historic information from Heritage Council of WA ‘Register of Heritage Places Assessment Documentation – Eyre Bird Observatory’ documentary evidence by Irene Sauman, Historian, 28 November 2003.
Join the National Trust Community
Subscribe now
Follow Us On
Back to Top of the page.