Monday, February 22, 2016

Forgotten Wireless Station on a Forgotten Canadian Island in the Pacific

Triangle Island Lighthouse (
The small Canadian island known as Triangle Island is located on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, some 30 miles northwest of the much larger Vancouver Island.  This rugged little island, just three miles in circumference, is a jagged cone-shaped peak rising some 700 feet above sea level. 
            Triangle Island is a lonely windswept place that was named after the jagged reefs, with their  three-sided geometric form, that  surround the island.  No trees grow on the island, and there is minimal vegetation.
            The winds blowing across this island are so strong that it was necessary to attach steel cables to the roofing on buildings and to anchor the cables in the ground.  Ropes were attached between the buildings so that staff would not be blown away; and even then for safety, at times the staff found it necessary to crawl across the ground on their stomachs.  Staff sequestered inside their homes because of inclement weather have been known to become sea sick when the winds violently rocked the houses on their foundations.
            During the year 1908, officials from mainland Canada visited Triangle Island to evaluate the possibility of establishing a lighthouse and a wireless station on the top of the main peak.  Soon afterwards, prefabricated buildings and other equipment were shipped to the island, and a steep tramway was installed from the waterline up the steep incline to the top of the island.
            Original planning for the maritime wireless station called for a 3 kW spark transmitter, and interestingly, a commercial wireless company also requested a license for their own station on the island as part of a projected Trans-Pacific network.  However, as subsequent events inform us, the only wireless station ever installed on this isolated island was the Canadian government station which began test transmissions on February 17, 1910, under the callsign TLD.  That event was right on 106 years ago.
            Two or three weeks later, station TLD was taken into regular service for communication with shipping into and out of the Inside Passage which separates the Canadian mainland from their island of Vancouver.  Unfortunately though, because of the high winds, and the often stormy low cloud formations, the wireless station was unable to communicate adequately with passing ships, and the ships were unable to discern clearly the light from the lighthouse. 
            Two years after the Triangle Island wireless station was commissioned, the roof of the transmitter building was blown off.  That was in 1912; and then during the following year 1913, the callsign was regularized to VAG. 
            However at this stage, another coastal wireless station was installed at Alert Bay on nearby Cormorant Island, and initially this new station identified with the callsign CFD, though soon afterwards this too was changed, to VAF.  When station VAF at Alert Bay was taken into regular service, station VAG on Triangle acted merely as a wireless relay station.
            During World War 1, the Triangle station was guarded by military troops; and give half a dozen more years, and both the lighthouse and the wireless station were closed.  Inefficiency of operation due to adverse weather conditions, the cost of operating these services at a difficult and isolated location, and harsh living circumstances for the operating personnel were cited as the major reasons for closing the Triangle service and transferring its activities to a more amenable locality.
            The wireless station on Triangle Island was closed in 1921, and this maritime service was transferred to a new wireless station at Bull Harbour on nearby Hope Island.  The callsign VAG was also transferred from Triangle Island to Bull Harbour. 
            Then a score of years later, and this second VAG station was moved and rebuilt half a mile down the same road, but it did not survive there either.  In 1990 VAG was sold off, and the maritime wireless service was transferred to the Alert Bay station VAF.  But that didn’t survive for long either.  Four years later (and that was in 1994) station VAF was closed, and all of the maritime communication services for the whole area were transferred to Comox Radio down the coast on Vancouver Island.    
            These days, Triangle Island may be visited as an inhospitable tourist attraction; and some of the artifacts from its earlier history are now on display in a local museum on Vancouver Island.

 (AWR-Wavescan/NWS 364 via Adrian Peterson)