Submarine Cable

Have you ever seen the telephone line that stretches across Bass Strait? Likely not, unless your name is John Edward Johnstone.

In 1936, an undersea cable was successfully installed to provide telephone service between Tasmania and mainland Australia, and by extension, the world. Following the route of the 1859 electric telegraph cable, the coaxial submarine cable stretched from Apollo Bay to a repeater station on King Island before landing nearly Stanley, Tasmania. The cable was the longest and most intensively used of its time.

When communication was silenced by a fault in 1938, accomplished deep sea diver “Johnno” Johnstone, traversed 43 kilometres along the floor of Bass Strait to inspect the cable over a period of six weeks, “pestered by inquisitive seals” according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The cable continued to suffer abrasions from the ocean floor, replaced in increments each year, into the 1950s.