A Section of the Transatlantic cable

Contributed by Birmingham Museums

A Section of the Transatlantic cable

4000 miles of cable containing 30,000 miles of wire took 250 men 11 months to make.Made from a revolutionary armoured wire developed by the Birmingham wire-makers Webster and Horsfall (still operating in east Birmingham), this was the first successful communications cable laid across the Atlantic ocean, connecting Europe with America. It represented an equivalent breakthrough to the successful launching of orbiting satellites in the 1950s. There had been previous attempts, but in all cases, the cable failed.

It was a vast operation. Brunelâ??s specially adapted steamship, the SS Great Eastern, laid over 4,000 miles of cable, containing over 30,000 miles of wire, weighing more than 1600 tons between Valentia in the west of Ireland and Heartâ??s Content in Newfoundland. Just assembling the materials, the men and machinery to create the cable was a huge undertaking. It took 250 men 11 months to make, and a whole area of east Birmingham was taken over with the manufacture and storage of this huge amount of wire.

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  • 1. At 16:58 on 30 September 2010, Allan Green wrote:

    This cable of 1865/6 was certainly not the first successful transatlantic cable.One was laid in 1858 which only operated for a few weeks. Webster & Horsfall certainly need to be recognised for their part but it was only the outer armour wires which came from their factory. The copper wire and its gutta percha insulation and the assembly, testing and laying of the cable was undertaken by the Telegraph Construction & Maintenance Company ( TELCON)in Greenwich. One can only hope that if BBC is to present this cable as one of THE 100 it will give credit to the real manufacurers and not just to one of the component suppliers.

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