Problems with the lines.

Many problems were encountered to slow or to stop the transmission of messages along the telegraph wires. Examples of interference which became the preoccupation of line repairers included:

  1. wilful breaking of insulators;
  2. stealing of wire;
  3. fencing wire thrown across the telegraph wies;
  4. natural causes - bush fires, floods and wind;
  5. birds - especially cockatoos;
  6. spiders and snakes.

Many Annual Reports from the Colonies listed the causes of interruptions during the year and the place and length of the interruptions.

3. Fencing wire.

Pranksters often thought it was "good sport" to throw fencing wire or similar objects across the telegraph wires to watch the sparks. Hence repair crews were often required to ride on horseback for 2-3 days to remove wires and repair damage. There are many and frequent examples of such foolish behaviour. When courts became involved with these culprits, penalities were stern.


4. Birds - especially Cockatoos.

Western Australia had bird problems as noted elsewhere:
"Telegraph lines near Marble Bar and Roeburne were recently broken by cockatoos, thousands of birds perching on the wires. Repairers sent out saw huge flocks settle on the poles and wires, many birds gripping the wire in their beaks and spinning themselves round in play. The result was that the copper wire was deeply dented and ready to break by the combined weight of the next flight of cockatoos which alighted".

Other birds creating problems include magpies (in South Australia).

5. Spiders and snakes.

Spiders, Telegrams and Rain.

"The recent telegraphic interruption caused by poles being blown down in New South Wales and Victoria was the subject of a conversation on Wednesday, in which Mr. Broad, the manager of the Telegraphic Branch of the General Post Office, mentioned the curious fact that spiders and light misty rain were the cause of greater trouble to the department every year than big storms that caused a collapse of poles and entanglement of wires.

"On our West Coast particularly," Mr. Broad said, "the spider trouble is a serious one. The spider makes its nest in the insulators and spins its web from wire to wire. The result is that when a light rain falls or a mist settles down, and, unfortunately, along that coast the mist from the sea is blown inland a long way, sometimes, the web becomes a source of communication between the wires, which are 'earthed' and rendered difficult, if not impossible, to work. The repairers are constantly employed sweeping away the webs and cleaning the insulators and frequently they have to return to the same spots a few days later because the spiders happen to be unusually busy. A mist or a shower will give us more trouble than a heavy fall or a gale, because either of the latter will break the webs and wash or blow them off, but the former merely act as a means of tangling the lines in a sense, and while the moisture remains, the 'crossing' of wires in effect continues".
The (Adelaide) Advertiser
26 December 1914.