Cape Race is a point of land located at the southeastern tip of the Avalon Peninsula on the island of Newfoundland, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Its name is thought to come from the original Portuguese name for this cape, "Raso", meaning flat or low-lying. The Cape appeared on early sixteenth century maps as Cabo Raso and its name may derive from a cape of the same name at the mouth of the Tagus River in Portugal. The cape was the location of the Cape Race LORAN-C transmitter until the system was decommissioned in 2010. It is also home to the Cape Race Lighthouse, notable for having received the distress call from RMS Titanic.
Dense fog, rocky coasts, and its proximity to trans-Atlantic shipping routes have resulted in many shipwrecks near Cape Race over the years. One of the most famous was the SS Arctic. Cape Race is a flat barren point of land jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, its cliffs rising nearly vertically to 30.5 metres (100 ft) above sea level. On average it is shrouded in fog on 158 days of the year.
In 1583, having claimed the port of St John's for Queen Elizabeth I, an English Sea Dog, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, on board his ship Squirrel, and also accompanied by the ships Golden Hind and Delight, passed by Cape Race on his way back to England. Unfortunately, Squirrel sank en route back to England, taking Gilbert with her. Of the five vessels present in Gilbert's fleet when he had departed from England, one had turned around mid-journey to return to England, one had been sent back home by Gilbert after he had claimed St. John's, and after passing Cape Race, the Delight would go on to run aground on the sandbars near Sable Island. With the demise of Squirrel, Golden Hind was left to make the return journey across the Atlantic alone.
In 1755, The Action of June 8th, an exchange of fire by French and British Men of War occurred off Cape Race, and would end up playing a crucial role in igniting the flame of the Seven Years' War, that would ultimately see the French all but exiled from North America. According to legend, as one of the French ships crossed paths with one of the British ships, the French captain addressed the British by yelling "Are we at war, or at peace?", to which the British responded by crying "At peace! At peace!", before opening fire on the French ships.
From 1859 to 1866, the New York City Associated Press kept a newsboat at Cape Race to meet ocean liners passing by on their way from Europe so that news could be telegraphed to New York. These news items carried the byline "via Cape Race".
In 1904, the first wireless station in Newfoundland was built at Cape Race. On the night Titanic sank, wireless operator Jack Phillips was sending telegraphs to Cape Race for relay to New York City. When Cyril Evans, wireless operator of the SS Californian, sent an iceberg warning to Titanic, only a few miles away, Phillips was annoyed with the loud signal (due to the proximity) and responded "Keep out, Shut up, I'm working Cape Race." This would become a famous incident, as the bored Evans soon went to sleep, and Titanic hit an iceberg only fifteen minutes later. After Titanic's distress call, Cape Race played a major role in relaying news of the sinking to other ships and land locations.
Marconi's station (MCE) was rebuilt on the same site and opened as a "wireless interpretation centre" to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Titanic in 2012.
- Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of Southeast Newfoundland". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved July 24, 2008.
- "News Yacht off Cape Race--European News.; ST. JOHNS, N. F., Thursday, Nov. 5" (PDF).
- (April 1902). The Great Newspapers of the United States: The New York Evening Newspapers, The Bookman (New York), p. 160
- Steve Bartlett (2012-04-13). "'Struck iceberg. Send help right away.' - Local". The Telegram. Retrieved 2015-02-23.
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