Statement of heritage value - Subsea telegraph cables landing site, Darwin

The subsea telegraph cables are the remnants of the telegraph cables that connected Port Darwin with the island of Java, specifically the east coast township of Banyoewangi (now Banyuwangi). From Java another subsea cable connected to Singapore, providing Darwin and Australia telegraphic communication with the world. Installed and operating by 1871, the Port Darwin service connected Australia for the first time with the international telegraph system, transforming Australia’s communications and commerce. The decision to land the cable at Port Darwin was a key factor in the township’s establishment. The subsea telegraph was a bold and innovative example of 19th century engineering, with it culminating in a network of subsea cables, working in conjunction with land based telegraph lines, to provide rapid communication across the world. The cable service was operational until 1942 when the Japanese bombed the cable station and the island of Java was invaded.

Three cables connected Java with Port Darwin. These were the initial cable (1871), a  second (backup) cable (1880) and a third cable installed to replace the initial cable (1884). The remains of two cables lie parallel to each other in the mudflats just below Parliament House in Darwin. Each cable is a few hundred metres in length.

These two cables have a distinct ability to demonstrate the nature and design of the telegraph cable and are singular in showing the cable making landfall. Other sections of the cables are located in deep-water and therefore not visible to the general public. Lengths of these deeper sections have been disturbed, damaged and in some cases removed. Therefore, the historic cables located in Darwin harbour are discontinuous and under some threat, making the cables in the mudflats important representative samples.

Go back to the Heritage Register: proposed declarations page.

Last updated: 04 November 2019


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