Exhibition and websites:
Content / design: Telemuseet
Interactive solution: fluxLoop
Sound with text: Laterna Vox AS
Voice: Bjørn Fiskvatn
Exhibition and websites:
Content / design: Telemuseet
Interactive solution: fluxLoop
Sound with text: Laterna Vox AS
Voice: Bjørn Fiskvatn
The letter s was sent wirelessly across the Atlantic. This was man’s first successful attempt in 1901. The inventor was the Italian, Guglielmo Marconi.
Only 10 years later the Norwegian Telegraph Corporation built the wireless telegraph station on Svalbard. Several stations followed. In 1918 this was built at Ny-Aalesund for the mine and for Kings Bay Coal Company. The Norwegian newspaper «Verdens Gang» wrote: «Our wireless dominion over the Arctic Sea. »
A wireless infrastructure on Svalbard was not only for the purpose of communication, but was also a stratagem in the race for sovereignty on the island.
«The Telegraph», it was called, the station. It was a small building yet it was an opening to the rest of the world.
Orders and messages were sent from here. Communications regarding wind speed, requests for money for the family, maybe an emergency call from one vessel or another, words sent from an infrequent airship: All well...
...or the communique’ that made the Norwegian government crumble and fall.
All this via the radio operator.
A society like the one found on Svalbard, where people would be isolated for large parts of the year, had a particular need for making contact with its surroundings and the rest of the world.
The American Company Arctic Coal Company (ACC) ran a coal mine at Advent Bay (what is today Longyearbyen). A wireless telegraph connection via Norway to Europe and America would increase production and improve safety.
In 1911 ACC applied to the Norwegian Telegraph Corporation for a concession to establish a wireless telegraph station on the mainland as a link between its plant on Svalbard and the rest of the world. ACC had its offices in Trondheim, Norway and in the USA.
The position of Svalbard, far from civilisation, meant that any wireless telegraph station here would need a station on the mainland to communicate through.
In the autumn of 1910 the ACC sent a request to Director, Thomas Heftye, in the Norwegian Telegraph Corporation (today Telenor), regarding a permission to establish a telegraphic connection between Svalbard and mainland Norway. As Svalbard was still seen as “no man’s land”, the request was in reality asking for permission to build a station in Norway.
The telegraph director gave no concessions for private interests in Norway, but at the same time he knew that the Norwegian state wanted activity on Svalbard in order to strengthen the Norwegian claim for soverignity of the archipelago. It was decided that the Norwegian Telegraph Corporation would construct a wireless telegraph station at Finneset by Grønfjorden on Spitsbergen.
This became a matter of urgency and was passed by the Parliament on the 3 of May 1911. To insure a rapid erection of the station buildings, these were ordered from Strømmen prefab factory in Norway.
The work on Finneset moved very quickly. The 60 meter antennae masts were ready on the 23 of July 1911, and the Norwegian split-flag was attached at the highest point. The Norwegian state had now established itself with high-technological communications equipment on the Spitsbergen. When the station was ready for use on the 23 of September that same year, 26953 man-hours had gone into it. The initiation of the Spitsbergen-link cost 390.000 kroners in 1911. This was a lot of money for the, at the time poor Norway, and is equivalent to 21,870,500 in 2013 values.
The main-land station was built on Ingøy, near the town of Hammerfest in Norway. It was named Ingøy Radio and was to be erected at the same time as the station on Svalbard. The station on Svalbard was given the name, Spitsbergen Radio. The first contact between the two stations was made on the 24 of November 1911.
ACC established then a wireless telegraph station at Advent Bay (Longyearbyen) in 1912 for communication with Spitsbergen Radio.
Spitsbergen Radio (was given the name Svalbard Radio after 1925) was the first wireless telegraph station in an Arctic area. 1. With the telegraph link a Norwegian community formed on Finneset and this was where Sysselmannen (The Governor) settled when Norway claimed sovereignty over the archipelago on the 14. August 1925. Spitsbergen Radio covered all the Arctic Sea and formed the hub for all communication between the Arctic and the rest of the world. Many consider the establishment of the radio an important factor in Norway’s success in gaining sovereignty over Svalbard.
Ny-Aalesund got its telegraph station in 1918.
The mining company, Kings Bay, was dependent on communication with the outer world and with a wireless telegraph link the business was conducted far more efficiently than by post.
Safety was also improved. The mining work was filled with risks and accidents were numerous. In such situations, the telegraph was a great help.
The telegraph station was owned by Kings Bay, but was subject to a number of guidelines from the Norwegian Telegraph Corporation with regards to pricing, equipment, training and availability.
The telegraph station played an essential role during Amundsen’s expeditions in 1925 and 1926.
When Nobile and the airship “Italia” disappeared on the way to the North Pole in 1928, Amundsen, among others, set out with the airplane “Latham 47” to look for it. The airplane with Amundsen disappeared and has never been found. The telegraph in Ny-Aalesund was the last place to register a signs of life from “Latham 47” and Roald Amundsen.
In the autumn of 1929 there was a temporary stop in the mining in Ny-Aalesund, but the traffic of tourists increased in the summer and they were also in need of the services provided by the telegraph. In the winter it was quiet and the radio operator went back to the main land.
In 1941 Kings Bay restarted mining again, but it didn’t last long. The evacuation of the population of Svalbard to Great Britain in the same year put a stop to all activities in Ny-Aalesund, including the telegraph.
In 1945 activities, including the mining, postal- and telegraph services, were resumed yet again. The year after the telegraph station was moved from “Flaggstanghaugen” (Flag-pole-top) near the sea to a re-designed and extended house nearer the settlement (where it sits today).
The great mining disaster of 1962 lead to a final end for the mining at Ny-Aalesund.
The entire night-shift of 21 people died. Through the numerous accidents of the 40’s and 50’s more than 40 men lost their lives in the mine. The question of responsibility within the state-run mining industry lead to a governmental crisis in Norway, resulting in the down-fall of a Labour-party government.
Radio operator, Jo Hammer, sent this message:
“Isfjord Radio. Isfjord Radio. Ny-Aalesund Radio calling. I have an express- message for Norway.
Mine-explosion on the 5th of Nov 22.45 in belt shaft west caused the death of 18 possibly 20 people. STOP cause of explosion unknown. STOP” 2
After the mine was closed there was no longer need for a separate telegraph station. The job as radio operator was performed by employees of the Telegraph Corporation who were based in the administrational building of Kings Bay. In 1980 the telegraph station was replaced by a modern radio link to Longyearbyen.
This is because Statens kartverk (Norwegian State geographical survey) runs a research station in Ny-Aalesund. They measure among other things the noise from black holes in outer space, up to 13 billion light years away. These measurements are vulnerable to sound-pollution in the frequency-area. The Telecommunications Authority has therefore granted that Ny-Aalesund shall be a frequency-free area. Normal wireless networks from mobile phones, portable computers and alike must be turned off. Everyone that arrives here is given information telling them to turn off any wireless networks. Communications with the outer world happens today through fibre cable to Longyearbyen and the main land.The many names of Telenor
Svalbard's history is a series of separate epochs, with no continuous development of human impact on the islands. People have travelled to the archipelago in order to exploit the natural resources, for science and exploration, or from pure curiosity. Whaling started and finished. The same with the Pomor (Russian) and Norwegian wintering hunting and trapping. A "Klondike" period of mineral prospecting left its traces. Even the 2nd World War influenced Svalbard. In recognition of these concluded epochs in Svalbard, all of which have left behind their unique monuments and sites, the limit for automatic protection of historical remains in Svalbard has been put at 1.1.1946. All traces of human cultures previous to that date are now protected by law, including 30 buildings in Ny-Ålesund which belonged to the early mining period there. Amongst these is the Telegraph Station.
In a successful cooperation between the owner Kings Bay AS, Telenor ASA and the Directorate for Cultural Heritage it was decided to restore the Telegraph Station. The Station represents the mining settlement's fragile contact with the outside world in a time before our modern communication opportunities, right from the mining activity was established and until the building's historical function was replaced in the 1960s. Research showed that the building had undergone a number of changes during its lifetime. It had been both moved and enlarged to adapt to developments in the settlement. The restoration reference group decided that the restoration should be based on the last period - end of the 1950s and beginning of the 1960s - in order to be able to preserve as much as possible of the historical development and because certain traces of the earlier stages in the building could be preserved at the same time. The work was based on a number of historical sources including paint analyses, archives and photographs.
The restoration work was led and mainly carried out by restoration carpenter Finn Løken, who maintained contact with the reference group through Kings Bay's representatives. Generous donations from Telenor and Svalbard's Environmental Fund made it possible for Kings Bay to fully finance the project.
Susan Barr, The Directorate for Cultural Heritage.
The Norwegian Telecom Museum has reinstated the technical equipment once used at the telegraph station.
1. Line amplifier presumed produced by the main workshop of the Telegrafverket. It would amplify the signal (speech) from the line to a scrambler unit and then to the transmitter and vice versa; meaning the signal from the receiver and scrambler unit back to the line.
2. Lorentz long-wave receiver -72-1525 kHz – from World War II. It is likely to have been used for morse-communication on medium-wave – listening duty 500 kHz and traffic on frequencies between 410 and 516 kHz.
3. Wheatstone perforator from the Great Nordic Telegraph Company, Copenhagen for morse registration using perforated paper tape. The telegrams were “punched” on to tape and sent using Wheatstone automatic telegraph transmitter for morse.
4. Wheatstone maskinsender for morse. Maskinsenderen leste hullbåndet fra perforatoren og nøklet senderen med morsetegnene med hastighet opp til 300 tegn i minuttet. Fra Great Nordic Telegraphcompany, København.
5. Triumph typewriter for transcribing telegrams from morse-code on paper tape from 9. A guide track for the paper tape over the keyboard is missing.
6. Siemens Communications receiver from the middle of the 1950ies. Covers all potential frequencies from extreme long-wave to short-wave – 14kHz to 30.3MHz – and could be used for both morse-telegraphy and telephony.
Assumed to mainly have been used as a telephony receiver in Ny Aalesund, but might also have been used as a broadcasting receiver.
7. Telefunken loud-speaker, presumed used for listening duty and possibly also reception of morse-signals. In a radio-room where the radio-operator would normally be alone and at least alone in being able to read morse-code on the ear, headphones would not be used unless the signals were weak. This object is a replica.
8. Lorentz short wave receiver – 980kHz – 10.2 MHz – from World War II. It is presumed to have been used as a listening duty receiver for medium wave telephony – 2182 kHz. The Lorentz-receivers were particularly good receivers for their time and were used by all coastal radio- and air safety- stations after the war. Radio-operators returning from WWII, fighting on the allied side, reported that these receivers were far superior to their British and American counterparts of the same era.
9. Morse transcriber-“snake writing” from US Army Signal Corp, i.e. from WWII. Similar apparatus were in the fifties produced by Telegrafverket’s main workshop mainly for use by the Radio-central in Oslo.
The transcriber could receive morse with up to 300 signs per minute and printed the signals out as one continuous line with short and long blips to signify, respectively, dots and lines. From this comes the expression “snake writing.”
It was the traffic of telegrams to and from Svalbard that was conducted in this manner. The use of such a morse transcriber and an automatic morse transmitter (4) enhanced the efficiency of the communications, as direct ear-reception and manual transmission of morse rarely would exceed 100 to 125 sign per minute. With the morse transcriber it was also possible to receive a telegram without the radio-operator being present.
10. EB radio-transmitter type 13-SS-300. The transmitter was a regular ship’s radio transmitter that entered the market in approximately 1955, but was also used by the coastal radio stations. It could be used for medium wave telegraphy (MF) – 410 – 516 kHz, medium wave telephony (MF) – 1.6 to 3.2 MHz and short wave telegraphy and telephony (HF) 4 to 22 MHz.
Ny Aalesund received it in 1957 and it is assumed to have been used mainly for telephony with Svalbard Radio.
There is also reason to believe that Ny-Aalesund up to 1963-64 in addition had the two Lorentz-transmitters shown on the photograph of the station taken by Olav Eggen in 1953 as telegraphy transmitters on 500 kHz and 454kHz. It was probably one of these the doctor managed to bring to life when the radio operator died due to the accidental gun-shot. (454 kHz is the working frequency, i.e. the frequency the telegrams would have been transmitted on.)
11. Line changer from Elektrisk Bureau commonly used in ship’s radio stations. Radio telephone calls could with the help of this be set to subscriber – internal (telephone in public service room), subscriber - out (presumably the Head of Operations, Kings Bay) or Radio (telephone in the radio room). When pushing the button “subscriber” you would call the chosen telephone.
12. Standard telephone – modified EB model 1953 – for use in the radio room (radio station) for which one could have two alternative receivers connected. A ship’s radio station would always have at least two receivers in order to have alternatives in case one of them was out of use or being serviced. The same is likely to have been the case in Ny-Aalesund.
13. Speech scrambler unit, mainly used for radio telephone calls on medium wave also called the “fisheries wave”, so that the communications could not be overheard on a normal broadcasting receiver.
14. Listening duty – All coastal radio stations had personnel on listening duty during opening hours. Most had a 24 hour duty, but not all. On Svalbard only Isfjord Radio operated with listening duty at all hours. This meant that they would have one receiver tuned to 500 kHz and one to 2182 kHz which were the emergency and calling frequencies for, respectively medium wave telegraphy and medium wave telephony. (In the 1960ies came also the use of VHF channel 16). This object is a replica.
15. Morse key