Touting cable station to UNESCO
Alberta author lobbying for world heritage status for Heart’s Content site
An author from Alberta wants the Heart’s Content Cable Station to be given the same world heritage designation as the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, the Taj Mahal in India, the Grand Canyon in the United States, the Acropolis in Greece, and 905 other natural and cultural places.
Last month, Jacqueline Guest contacted the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to have the provincial site included on the agency’s World Heritage List.
The author of more than a dozen books for young readers, Guest decided to contact UNESCO after she visited the Trinity Bay town as part of a publicity tour for her most recent book on Sept. 22-29.
In addition to visiting the cable station, she also made presentations on Signal Hill, St. John’s, and at All Hallows Elementary in North River.
No strangers in Newfoundland
Guest’s visit to the province resonated with her on a personal level.
“I feel as though I have a second home in Newfoundland,” she wrote in an email to The Compass. “ I have discovered that there are no strangers in Newfoundland, only friends you haven’t met yet.”
She described the province’s culture as distinct, but “in a very good way.”
“It is nurturing, kind, helpful and fun, all the things you want in a family environment, and that’s what I felt when there.”
However, she admitted she was shocked when she discovered the cable station is a provincial historic site.
“I would have thought that it was so important that it was a UNESCO World Heritage Site,” she said.
Guest’s book, “Ghost Messages,” is about a feisty 13-year-old Irish lass, Ailish, who becomes trapped on the “Great Eastern” as the ship sets off on its voyage to lay the first transatlantic telegraph cable between Valentia, Ireland, and • represent a masterpiece of human creative genius; • exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, townplanning or landscape design; • bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared; • be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or Heart’s Content in 1865.
The publisher, Coteau Books of Regina, Sask., challenges juvenile readers to “join Ailish’s ocean adventure, with thieves, ghostly goings-on and rumours of sabotage.”
Guest said her book is a tribute to “ Newfoundland’s very important past.” She wrote it to help “young readers to celebrate (that) fabulous past.”
She hopes “today’s youth will have a better understanding that this ‘spider’s silk thread,’ made of iron and fueled by dreams, was the beginning of today’s mighty communication explosion, including the World Wide Web they adore and can’t live without.”
Though Guest has visited many Canadian historical sites, none of them have impressed her like the cable station in Heart’s Content. In fact, she calls it the best one in the country.
“Heart’s Content is unique, as the station at Valentia, Ireland, no longer exists,” she said.
As she entered the station, she felt as though she was stepping off the “Great Eastern” with Ailish and walking into a working cable station in the late 1860s, she wrote.
“It gleamed with polished wood and shining brass. The cables were on display and the myriad of machines were all there, waiting to start up and begin transmitting those whispered ghost messages once more.”
While Guest was at the station, Wayne Smith, a member of the Upper Trinity Amateur Radio landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history; • be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of (a) culture(s), or human interaction with the environment, especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change; • be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance; • contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance; • be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of Club, helped her make telegraphic contact with a man in Russia.
Outstanding value to humanity
According to UNESCO’s website, World Heritage designates “places on Earth that are of outstanding universal value to humanity … to be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.”
Sites must meet at least one out of 10 selection criteria (see sidebar).
Meanwhile, Guest realizes the process of getting the Heart’s Content Cable Station included on the World Heritage List is painstaking and will require much more than the lobbying efforts of only one person.
“I guess you can figure out that I think this is a very important piece of world history and we all need to do our part to make sure that it is preserved,” she said.
“ It is my hope that many more people will raise their voices so that this extraordinary piece of world history will be preserved for future generations.
“ We are custodians of the future for children not yet born and I want those children to appreciate the important contribution to worldwide communications Canada and, in particular, Newfoundland, had in this information explosion we enjoy today.” life, significant ongoing geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features; • be outstanding examples representing significant ongoing ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals; • contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
Visitors to the Cable Station in Heart’s Content can still see where the cables came ashore.