The Cornwall Workshop

Field Trip 5: TelePort – A Tour of the Lizard’s Landscape of Telecommunication

The far end of Cornwall contains more points of contact to the rest of the world than any other place in England. Up and down the coast from Falmouth lie landing sites for the world’s submarine telecommunications cables, carrying the bulk of Internet and phone traffic to and from the Americas, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. At Bude to the north, Sennen and Porthcurno on the Penwith Peninsula, around Lizard Point and up to Kennack Sands – data flows by the terabit.

Wireless communication history was also made in Cornwall with Guglielmo Marconi’s first transatlantic broadcast to St John’s in Newfoundland from Poldhu in 1901. Satellite communications were first brought to England via an earth station built in 1962 at Goonhilly Downs, transmitting TV signals via the Telstar 1 satellite orbiting 6,000 km above.

Artists Steven Rowell and Daro Montag will lead a bus tour of the Lizard Peninsula, pointing out sites of interest in this landscape of telecommunication at the southernmost tip of England. Sites will include: the Marconi Museum in Poldhu, the Lloyds Signal Station, the “SEA-ME-WE 3” cable landing site north of Cagdwith, and the Goonhilly Downs nature reserve, an open heathland adjacent to the Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station (deactivated 2008).

As anyone can see from a map of England, Cornwall is a good jumping-off place for cables across the Atlantic, whether they are laid westward to the Americas or southward to Spain or the Azores. A cable from this corner of the island needs to traverse neither the English Channel nor the Irish Sea, both of which are shallow and fraught with shipping. Cornwall also possesses the other necessary prerequisite of a cable landing site in that it is an ancient haunt of pirates and smugglers and is littered with ceremonial ruins left behind by shadowy occult figures.”

Neal Stephenson from ‘Mother Earth Mother Board’

Mother Earth Mother Board’, Wired

Web in trouble? The hidden cables under a Cornish beach feeding the world’s internet’, Mail Online

View Steven Rowell’s photo story of the TelePort field trip on the Record page.

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