Wireless Innovation Aboard the St. Roch

  1. The St.Roch launched in the Spring of 1928, was a leader in wireless innovation in the Arctic Ocean. While away on various expeditions, the Radio Operators aboard the St.Roch pushed the boundaries of wireless radio, achieving great feats and improving long distance communication. 
  3. The first  Radio Operator aboard the St.Roch was F.W. Sealey, who had the daunting task of setting up wireless operations aboard the ship in only three weeks. The ship was equipped with short-wave wireless gear that was state-of-the-art at that time. All equipment, tools, reference manuals and spare parts needed to be prepared prior to departure, as the St.Roch would be hundreds of miles away from any radio service centres. Unfortunately, not all the essential equipment arrived in Vancouver prior to departure, leaving any communications-related problem solving squarely in Sealey’s hands.  

After encountering issues with long distance communication, Sealey erected a 30-foot antenna and was able to establish communications with a station at Bristol Bay, Alaska. This gave Sealey an idea; he realized that the short-wave signals he was sending out were bouncing off the ionosphere and would sometimes skip over close-by stations. This meant that Sealey was able to communicate with Ottawa, which was over 1100 miles away. 

A later Radio Operator, John Duke, inspired by Sealey’s idea, ran antennas onto the ice surrounding the St.Roch which allowed him to monitor the latest news. The crew took advantage of this development and started their very own radio broadcasting, playing music and reporting the news aboard the St.Roch. The innovations by Sealey, Duke and other Radio Operators aboard the St.Roch form a strong basis from which to argue that the St.Roch was the first radio broadcasting station in the Arctic.
For more information check out this article on wireless communications by John Gilbert.

Radio operator, Glen Sargent, standing by the St. Roch's bow. VMM item number HCRO-40-59.

Designed by Langara Design Formation students Emma Heckman, Jacob Chong, Madeleine Finch, Taro Wood and Xander Adams  in collaboration with the VMM curatorial team