Transatlantic Telegraph Cable 1866

Contributed by jonathan woods

Transatlantic Telegraph Cable 1866

Made of a 5mm copper wire 'core' wrapped in a protective casing of tar, hemp and steel this short section of the first Transatlantic Telegraph Cable was salvaged from the ocean floor off the west coast of Ireland in 2003. It had lain there disused (and superceded by many successive cables) for 137 years. The company that laid it no longer exists and it is the sole property of the salvager.

The cable ran between Valencia Island on the west coast of Ireland to Heart's Content in Newfoundland. Its installation revolutionised communications between Europe and North America. Through it morse code messages crossed the Atlantic in seconds where before communications had taken weeks by ship. It changed the world of business forever - now stocks and shares could be traded within hours instead of weeks.

As a filmmaker I'm fascinated by this first intercontinental communications revolution, continually upgraded by successive generations (today we have satellite) When I hold it my imagination is set alight by the ghosts of the millions of forgotten messages that this thin strand of metal carried between cultures, communities, families and friends.

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  • 1. At 16:23 on 10 January 2011, Bruce Henderson wrote:

    I was very interested to see this item imcluded in the list of 100 objects. My GGgrandfather, George Draper was, for 35 years, secretary to Eastern Telegraph co, which was the company that operated the telegraph systems round the world. In the year of his retirement, 1903, there was an International Telegraph conference in London. I have a book of cuttings and invitations to the various events held. Telegraph Construction and Maintenace Co , of London, which manufactured and laid the cable; notably the original transatlantic cables, using the good ship Great eastern.

    Bruce Henderson

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  • 2. At 19:07 on 5 May 2011, sprite3 wrote:

    Have a look at and David Bodanis entertaining book Electric Universe for additional information adout telegraphic cables.

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