Telegraph Island (also known as Jazirat al Maqlab) is situated in the Elphinstone Inlet, about a mile off the shore of the Musandam Peninsula, which is part of the sultanate of Oman. The inlet is a fjord surrounded by high mountains, with notable geology in the rock strata which dip downwards under the immense pressures caused by the Arabian tectonic plate meeting (and subducting beneath) the Eurasian plate. In the 19th century, it was the location of a British repeater station used to boost telegraphic messages along the Persian Gulf submarine cable, which was part of the London to Karachi telegraphic cable. It was not an easy posting for the operators, with the severe summer heat and hostility of local tribes making life extremely uncomfortable. Because of this, the island is, according to some travel agents and journalists, where the expression “go round the bend” comes from, a reference to the heat making British officers desperate to return to civilization, which meant a voyage around the bend in the Strait of Hormuz back to India.
Today, Telegraph Island is an eerie reminder of the British Empire. Abandoned in the mid-1870s, the island has remained deserted and only the crumbling ruins of the repeater station and the operators’ quarters can be seen. As tourism has grown in the Gulf region, so the island is regularly visited by dhows carrying tourists to view the ruins and to fish and snorkel in the waters around it. However, the intense heat (particularly in the summer months) endures.