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.

Pro­mot­ing novel

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.

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