STEVE ROWELL


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TelePort: A Tour of the Lizard’s Landscape of Telecommunication


Arthur at Goonhilly Downs, Lizard Peninsula, archival inkjet print on baryta paper, 30 x 44".
Named after the mythical King, Arthur was the first satellite dish in England to receive the first television signals from America via the Telstar satellite. Long deactivated, it serves as a monument now. Surrounding this earth station are numerous standing stones from neolithic times, used for unknown purposes, terrestrial or otherwise.

Falmouth Convention, Cornwall, UK, May 2010

The far end of Cornwall contains more points of contact to the rest of the world than any other place in England. Up and down the coast from Falmouth lie landing sites for the world’s submarine telecommunications cables, carrying the bulk of Internet and phone traffic to and from the Americas, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. At Bude to the north, Sennen and Porthcurno on the Penwith Peninsula, around Lizard Point and up to Kennack Sands – data flows by the terabit.

Wireless communication history was also made in Cornwall with Guglielmo Marconi’s first transatlantic broadcast to St John’s in Newfoundland from Poldhu in 1901. Satellite communications were first brought to England via an earth station built in 1962 at Goonhilly Downs, transmitting TV signals via the Telstar 1 satellite orbiting 6,000 km above.

“As anyone can see from a map of England, Cornwall is a good jumping-off place for cables across the Atlantic, whether they are laid westward to the Americas or southward to Spain or the Azores. A cable from this corner of the island needs to traverse neither the English Channel nor the Irish Sea, both of which are shallow and fraught with shipping. Cornwall also possesses the other necessary prerequisite of a cable landing site in that it is an ancient haunt of pirates and smugglers and is littered with ceremonial ruins left behind by shadowy occult figures.”

- Neal Stephenson from ‘Mother Earth Mother Board’

Falmouth Convention detail page

Tour documentation