Two images, one perspective, circa 100 years apart: Rotokura/Cable Bay, Wakapuaka, near Nelson in the South Island of Aotearoa/New Zealand, the laying site of New Zealand’s first international telegraph cable.
Connecting New Zealand to the rest of the world
Rotokura/Cable Bay, Wakapuaka, near Nelson in the South Island of Aotearoa/New Zealand, the laying site of New Zealand’s first international telegraph cable. The cable went live on the 21st of February 1876, connecting New Zealand to the rest of the world.
Rotokura becomes the site of the first undersea telegraph cable landing point
The place name, originally Rotokura, then called Schroder’s Mistake by European settlers, was officially changed to Cable Bay in recognition of the telegraph cable, in 1926. Before European settlement, from at least 1150 AD, Rotokura was a Māori fishing and camping site and across a nearby estuary was a Pā site (a Māori fortified village). Interestingly, many of New Zealand’s cable laying sites and cable stations were positioned in places already well-settled by Māori iwi and hapū (tribes and sub-tribes), often on significant whenua (land), Pā sites or tapu (sacred) spots. Some of New Zealand’s telegraph stations are still standing (notably White’s Bay), but Cable Bay’s station was razed in a fire in 1914. The cable itself was subsequently relocated to the capital, Wellington, in 1917.
Rotokura (Cable Bay) today
Once a site of great industry, Rotokura/Cable Bay is now predominantly a quiet holiday town but still carries its English telegraphic nomen. A plaque is one of the few contemporary reminders of its importance in Aotearoa/New Zealand’s communication history.
The Wakapuaka Cable Team
An image of the Wakapuaka (later Cable Bay) cable team, including Sir Harry Twyford, who would go on to be the Lord Mayor of London (Zodiac Vol 31 1938-39, p. 95). Twyford worked in Wakapuaka for three years, until 1904, for the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. He returned to New Zealand on holiday in 1939 (Nelson Evening Mail, Volume LXXII, 1939, 10 March, p. 4).
This article was researched and written by Vida Long
Vida Long is a graduate from Wellington University, New Zealand and an International Research Volunteer at PK.
This blog was created as a part of our Digital Takeover Day 2021. To explore more articles from our Young Curators, Citizen Curators & International Volunteers head to our #digitaltakeover NEWS page.