The Telegraph Office

Atlantic Cable Piece

A Small Section of a Trans-Atlantic Submarine Cable

Given as a Commemorative Gift, c. 1879

by Neal McEwen, K5RW

Copyright © 1998, Neal McEwen

 To Telegraph Office Main Page

Atlantic Cable section c. 1879The item in the photos to the right is a boxed commemorative piece of an early Atlantic Cable. The paper label inside the lid of the box states: "Piece of Atlantic Cable recovered from a depth of 1748 fathoms (about two miles) after being submerged eight years". This section of cable was presented to O. French by George G. Ward, Vice President of Mackay Burrnett Cable Co. 1890. The box is silk covered and silk lined, though a little water stained

The cable specimen is 5 inches long and has a diameter of 1 1/8". Its cover is tar impregnated twine, then called 'jute.' Under the jute are 18 steel wires, a layer of insulation and a multi-strand copper core consisting of an central wire and 10 thinner wires wrapped around it.

Each end of the cable piece has an engraved decorative brass cap. The engraving reads as follows: Top Cap: "Compagnie Francaise du Telegraphe de Paris a New York Cable No. 8105" Bottom Cap: "Seimens Brothers & Co. London Submerged 3rd September 1879 No. Longitude 43 N 24 W Depth 1748 Fathoms".

The first cable laid beneath the Atlantic Cable detailAtlantic ocean was completed in 1858. The Queen of England and the President of the United States immediately exchanged greetings. Modern civilizations were astounded that there were instantaneous communications between Europe and North America. Unfortunately, the cable failed after only three weeks.

After the American Civil War, a second cable was laid by a young man named Cyrus Field. By the turn of the century, there were many tens of thousands of miles of submarine cables in service.

Early cables were limited in the speed of transmission because of the 'retardation' effect to only a few words per minute. By the 1920s, advances in cable technology permitted automated transmission and reception with speeds of several hundred words per minute.

Needless to say, I'm quite thrilled to have this artifact of cable history. It is truly a one of a kind piece and one of the most interesting things I've found lately. I hope you enjoy the photos.

For more information, visit the Telegraph Office home page

Neal McEwen,