Elleda Wilson: In One Ear: Sun Signals

October 7 – From The Daily Astorian, October 7, 1884: Captain Frank Baldwin and other army officers, led by General Nelson Miles, have recently been practicing with a heliograph, a type of telegraphing through solar signals. between Vancouver, Washington Territory and dedicated stations near the snow line at Mount Hood.

Note: This temporary station was established in September 1884. Britannica.com describes the device as “using two adjustable mirrors arranged so that a ray of light from the sun can be reflected in any direction. The ray was interrupted by a key operated shutter”. this allowed the dots and dashes of the Morse code to be formed. “

General Miles was completely enthusiastic about the heliograph and set up several lines connecting forts and networking sites in the developing western United States.

Heliography sounds like a great and inexpensive alternative to the telegraph (easy to use, no cables, no towers), but there was one major downside in the Pacific Northwest: the sun doesn’t always shine.

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