You are here: Home » Blog » Blog » Transatlantic cable | Carraig Liath House

Transatlantic cable | Carraig Liath House


Transatlantic cable | Carraig Liath House

Transatlantic cable

Valentia Island is steep in history and famous for many things; The Tetra Pod, Valentia Slate, The Lighthouse not to mention the stunning natural beauty that awaits you on every turn. However in today’s post we are going to speak of the transatlantic cable.

Did you know??

Did you know that before 1858 for the people of Europe and North America had to wait for at least a week to accomplish a communication between them? Interesting!! Really interesting!! This was achieved by the use of ships that had to transfer communication from one side to the other. This all changed; thanks to the completion of transatlantic cable in 16th of August 1858 when the communication time was reduced to minutes.

Transatlantic cable

The first telegraph cable was laid across the Atlantic Ocean with the aim of linking Britain and US. The project began in 1854 and was completed in 1858 with the central points of the field being Cape North:Cape Breton Island, Cape Ray Newfoundland  and Foilhommerum Bay, on our own Valentia Island.

Early history of the project

Up to 1830s there were number of communication cables in Europe and America independently. The problem here is that they were not linked. The main challenge was the wild Atlantic.

The first idea of transatlantic cable

It is believed that the idea of a transatlantic cable was first proposed in 1845. Though the far greater distances and greater depths in the Atlantic Ocean appeared to be the bottleneck of the project

Registration begins,

After the idea was seen to be  viable by both parties, then the Atlantic Telegraph Company was registered in 1856 with a capital believed to be on the region of £350,000 (then about $1,400,000). It is also said that the driving forces on both sides were Cyrus W. Field on the American side while on the British side it was Charles Bright and brothers John and Jacob Brett.

The First Cable

Before the completion of the cable in 1858, there were several unsuccessful attempts the first cable being done in early 1857 and was completed in On 5 August 1858. It was comprised of about five attempts to join the cable.

First attempt of first transatlantic cable

They started at Valentia Harbour in Ireland on 5 August. Mind that it was two ships that were used to connect two cables. For the first few days, almost everything was in place, no one could  have expected the failure in connecting the cable was six days later, but this became a reality when the cable snapped with just 380 miles had been laid.

Second attempt of first transatlantic cable

On 25 June 1858 the ships were returned to the port for the second attempt. This time an extra 700 miles of cable was made. Again the cable broke almost immediately.

Third attempt of first transatlantic cable

It was the most discouraging attempt as this time they managed only 40 miles before it broke again. As you can imagine these failures were adding huge pressure and frustration to all involved.

Fourth attempt of first transatlantic cable

This time the ships managed to connect only 146 miles before the cable was lost again. It was very clear now that the process was not going to be easy.

Fifth and the successful attempt of first transatlantic cable

No going back, the men were back in action. This time the two ships returned to Ireland for a further attempt. This time they started from the midpoint and worked in opposite directions. On 5th of August 1958 the destination was reached, Valentia harbour in Ireland and Trinity Bay in Newfoundland

This meant that the two continents were joined now.

The first message

“Europe and America are united by telegraphy. Glory to God in the highest; on earth, peace and good will toward men”

Failure Again with the Transatlantic cable

Within three weeks of the operation, the cable stopped working with reports suggesting that the engineer in charge Wildman Whitehouse applied more voltages rather than that had been tested during the cable laying.

The Second Cable

At the end of July 1865, laying the second cable started and this time a single ship with a charter Great Eastern captained by Sir James Anderson was on charge. It is also understood that the ship was by far the largest of its time. The work started at Valentia before the cable snapped again after 1,200 miles had been laid. Back to the drawing board again:

The Third Cable

The Great Eastern ship was on charge once again. This was to be the final and successful attempt. As on the 27 July 1866 the enormous challenge was completed. The general distance was reported to be 1686 nautical miles.

The first message on the third cable

“A treaty of peace has been signed between Austria and Prussia”. Queen Victoria, then at Osborne sent a message to the President of the US.

“The Queen congratulates the President on the successful completion of an undertaking which she hopes may serve as an additional bond of Union between the United States and England.”

Speed of the communication

Actually guys let me remind you that the first message on the 1858 cable took over 17 hours to transmit. Third transatlantic cable was a revelation really as it could transmit eight words per minute. This meant that it was 80 times faster than the 1858 cable

Come to Valentia and explore Where to stay???

Do not forget that, Carraig Liath House which is located just short walk from the site of the Transatlantic cable. I hope you enjoyed the post guys on the Transatlantic cable .

Have your say