26 Aug 2016

Happy 150th birthday to the Cook Strait cable

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 2:10 pm on 26 August 2016

Friday was the 150th anniversary of the laying of the Cook Strait cable. 

150 years of the Cook Strait Cable

150 years of the Cook Strait Cable Photo: Te Papa

Back then, it was a telegraph cable, and represented a huge leap forward for communications in New Zealand. 

Kirstie Ross, history curator at Te Papa, says it was boom time and a period when the then government was sponsoring railways and infrastructure throughout New Zealand.

At the time it took a day to travel between the two islands.

Fast connection to the South Island, which was then known as the middle island, was increasingly important as economic activity in the North Island was growing, and the new capital in Wellington was established.

The copper cable was brought out from England and was finally laid out towards the end of 1866, but disaster struck when just off Whites Bay the propeller of the ship carrying the cable became entangled and sheared through the newly laid line.

It was eventually patched up, and the two islands were finally linked.