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 Cape 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 Titanic distress call.
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, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, on board his ship Squirrel, and also accompanied by a fleet of other ships, passed by Cape Race on his way back to England. He would not make it unfortunately, as the Squirrel would go down with all hands on the journey home. According to folklore, one of the ships accompanying the Squirrel was the Golden Hind, the famous English Galleon which had conducted the second circumnavigation of the world under the command of Sir Francis Drake. Although at the time the Golden Hind was off Cape Race, she was reportedly captained by a man by the name of Edward Hayes. However, the entire concept of the Golden Hind being present off Cape Race with the Squirrel is improbable, as the Golden Hind had been placed on permanent display in the Deptford Shipyard in the River Thames near London after Drake's circumnavigation had been completed in 1580.
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 unexpectedly hitting the French ship with a devastating broadside cannon volley.
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 “Shut up, 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.
- New York Times
- (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.