Transatlantic Telegraph

New York, Newfoundland and London
Telegraph Company

Cabot Strait Telegraph Cable
1856

Part of the first transatlantic telecommunication service



Aspy Bay
Victoria County
Nova Scotia


GPS location:   46°56'31"N   60°27'45"W




Also see:   John Cabot 1497 memorial Aspy Bay





Aspy Bay historic site at dawn
Aspy Bay historic site at dawn
Photographed at 6:25am on 3 September 2003


Cabot Strait cable: a surviving length of undersea telegraph cable
A surviving length of undersea electric telegraph cable
on display at the Aspy Bay historic site
Photographed on 3 September 2003


Cabot Strait cable: a surviving length of undersea telegraph cable
Photographed on 3 September 2003


Cabot Strait cable: plaque
Photographed on 24 June 2003
Note: The plaque states that the cable "was taken up in 1872."
I doubt this is true. The cable was taken out of service in 1872,
but almost certainly it was just abandoned and left on the bottom
of Cabot Strait. It would have been very expensive to pick up this
long cable from the ocean depths, and whatever small value there
might have been in the the salvaged copper would have offset only
a small part of the removal cost. Because design and manufacturing
techniques for undersea telegraph cables in the 1850s were primitive,
these cables had only a short working life. These early cables
deteriorated rapidly, and after ten to fifteen years on the ocean floor,
the maintenance and repair costs increased and the cable reliability
decreased to a point that often required the installation of a new cable.
By 1872, the Cabot Strait cable laid in 1856 was sixteen years old,
likely near the end of its useful working life (which quite possibly
was the main reason for taking it out of service at that time) and
it could not be relaid in another location.
ICS (30 June 2003)


Cabot Landing Park sign
This sign marks the entrance.
Photographed on 24 June 2003


Cabot Strait telegraph cable historic site
Cabot Strait telegraph cable historic site
Photographed on 24 June 2003


Sunrise at Aspy Bay
Sunrise at Aspy Bay
Photographed at 6:24am on 3 September 2003


Cabot Strait: map showing location of the 1856 telegraph cable
Map showing the location of of the 1856 electric telegraph cable
across Cabot Strait, connecting Newfoundland with Cape Breton Island

The railways shown on the map, in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia,
did not exist in 1856.  They were built decades after the
Cabot Strait telegraph cable was put into operation.



1858 Map showing the whole route of the Atlantic Cable
and the trans-Atlantic electric telegraph, London to New York

    http://www.atlantic-cable.com/Article/1858Leslies/0821f.jpg



After one abortive attempt in the summer of 1855, Cyrus Field's New York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph Company succeeded in laying a submarine cable across the Cabot Strait in 1856. Also completed that year was the Company's trans-Newfoundland overland line. The entire operation, which established a telegraph link all the way between New York and St. John's, cost over a million dollars...
Excerpted and adapted from:
The Atlantic Cable, published by Minister, Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation
Historic Resources Division, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
http://www.ewh.ieee.org/reg/7/diglib/library/hearts-content/historic/provsite.html

IEEE (Eye-triple-E): the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.


The St. John's to Cape Ray overland telegraph line followed the south coast of Newfoundland, allowing supplies to be delivered by ship to construction sites. The construction of this telegraph line employed 600 men, and was completed in the fall of 1856.

The first message was sent on 1 October 1856 to Baddeck, Cape Breton from St. John's merchant J.S. Pitts. This message travelled along the overland telegraph line across Newfoundland from St. John's to Cape Ray, then across Cabot Strait through the underwater electric telegraph cable, then along the overland telegraph line across Cape Breton from Aspy Bay to Baddeck.
Excerpted and adapted from: History of Clarenville: Telegraph and Telephone Companies
http://www.k12.nf.ca/discovery/Commmunities/acdrom/clarenville/telegraph.html


One of the important challenges of the 1850s and 1860s was to get European news to New York as fast as possible. The New York newspapers were willing to pay enormous amounts of money for news from Europe if it could be delivered to them even a few hours ahead of the arrival of the mail steamship from England.

Frederick Gisborne saw the potential of St. John's as a transfer point for messages arriving by steamship from Europe to be telegraphed to the United States, but only (at least for the time being) in the sense that if a New York bound ship dropped off the news in Newfoundland, and it could then be telegraphed to New York, and the news would arrive at least 48 hours ahead of the ship. The newspapers would pay big money for that advantage.

So Gisborne moved to Newfoundland, and began to promote a connection by electric telegraph along the south coast of Newfoundland and across Cabot Strait to Cape Breton.

But St. John's was not a port of call for ships on their way to New York, and Gisbourne had a novel solution for that. The big steamships passed near Cape Race, and he proposed that they toss a barrel containing the messages over the side, where it would be recovered by a waiting small boat and rushed ashore to Trepassey, where the news would be forwarded by telegraph. Believe it or not, this system eventually became operational, and New York newspapers carried numerous items of European news with the byline "Via Cape Race".
Excerpted and adapted from: Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859)
by Ross Peters, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Memorial University of Newfoundland
http://www.engr.mun.ca/~gpeters/5101brun.html


In 1859 (after the failure of the 1858 transatlantic telegraph cable) the Associated Press of New York stationed a boat at Cape Race to intercept transatlantic steamships on their way to Halifax and New York. News and messages from Europe, thrown overboard from the steamers in water-tight canisters, were picked up and telegraphed to North American newspapers from the telegraph office at Cape Race. This practice continued up to the completion of the first successful transatlantic cable in 1866 and was acknowledged in North American newspapers by the byline "Via Cape Race".
Excerpted and adapted from: History of Clarenville: Telegraph and Telephone Companies
http://www.k12.nf.ca/discovery/Commmunities/acdrom/clarenville/telegraph.html



The Cabot Strait
Telegraph Cable


Seven Years at the Heart
of Transatlantic News

1859-1866

NEWS WESTBOUND (from Europe to North America)
The receipts from the Newfoundland telegraph lines throughout this period of hope deferred (1858-1866) were very small and very precarious.

In 1859 a news boat was placed at Cape Race by the Associated Press to intercept ocean steamers; the first ship met was the S.S. Vigo, of the Inman Line.

The public constantly saw the heading in English and American papers, "Via Cape Race," but few had any idea of those daring trips of bold John Murphy to catch the outward and homeward bound steamers; considering the imminent peril of landing and launching boats from such a wild spot, it is marvellous how much news was sent in this extraordinary way.

Source:
A History of Newfoundland from the English, Colonial, and Foreign Records
by Daniel Woodley Prowse, Q.C., Judge of the Central District Court of Newfoundland
published 1895 footnote 2, page 641




Off Cape Race, newspaper clipping 1862
"The Anglo-Saxon off Cape Race"
Newspaper clipping, 1862
(believed to be from the New York Times)

When the S.S. (Steam Ship) Anglo-Saxon departed Europe it had the latest European news on board. As the ship passed Cape Race without stopping or even slowing down, a package (barrel) was tossed overboard to be retrieved by the A.P. news boat.

While the transatlantic steamship Anglo-Saxon continued westward at top speed, the news barrel was picked up at sea and brought ashore by the news boat at Cape Race and immediately telegraphed to the Associated Press in New York – over the one-wire electric telegraph line owned and operated by the New York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph Company.

This extraordinary effort got the latest European news to New York, and all North America, days ahead of the ship's arrival at its destination. The heading "Two Days Later From Europe" means this brief news item — brief because of the per word cost of telegrams from Newfoundland to New York — contained European news two days later (more up-to-date) than was previously available in North America.

From 1859 to 1866, "Via Cape Race" in a newspaper headline was the equivalent of the "Breaking News" graphic we now see flashed on our television screens when important up-to-date news has arrived. Along the way, all of this news travelled through the Cabot Strait telegraph cable.



Note: Part of this newspaper clip conveys the information that shipyards in England are building steamships and rams for the Confederacy.  This refers to efforts by the Confederate Navy, during the American Civil War, to obtain warships from builders in Great Britain.

"...The Confederate agent Bulloch extended his ambitions when he contracted with Birkenhead shipbuilders, Laird and Sons, to construct two turreted ironclad rams.  Bulloch based the rams upon the ideas of Capt. Cowper Coles of the Royal Navy, an outspoken British ironclad designer.  They were impressive ships displacing 1,423 tons (light) and were 224 feet long.  Their iron hulls had ram bows supporting two turrets carrying 220-pounder Armstrong guns; lighter guns were mounted on raised forecastles and quarterdecks.  Bark sailing rigs gave them range; powerful twin-screw engines combined with ram bows gave them ability to fight the most imposing Union ships... Bulloch was disappointed by the loss of the Laird rams..."
Source:
The Diplomats Who Sank a Fleet: The Confederacy's Undelivered European Fleet
and the Union Consular Service,
by Kevin J. Foster
http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/fall_2001_confederate_fleet_1.html


This news item travelled through
the Cabot Strait telegraph cable
on its way to the United States.

See: TransAtlantic Telegraph Companies
  http://alts.net/ns1625/telegraph02.html




(On April 27, 1863, about 240 people died when the S.S. Anglo-Saxon
ran aground on the Avalon Peninsula near Cape Race.)



...Cape Race is also the terminal point eastward of that remarkable system of telegraph lines which extends throughout the whole of the United States and the British possessions [in North America].  The Americans delight in the telegraph, and use it continually for every sort of purpose, and in a way and extent that Europeans have no notion of.  From this lonely rock, standing out in the Atlantic amid fogs and storms, European news is flashed to the most distant parts of America.  From Boston to New Orleans the newspapers have it, print it, and the intelligence is old when the ship arrives at New York, three or four days after passing Cape Race...
From "Cape Race, Newfoundland" in
The Illustrated London News London, England, 24 August 1861
http://cti.library.emory.edu/iln/browse.php?id=iln39.1104.060



The Cabot Strait
Telegraph Cable


Seven Years at the Heart
of Transatlantic News

1859-1866

NEWS EASTBOUND (from North America to Europe)
"By the steamer City of Washington we have received New York journals to the 18th ult. and a short telegram from Cape Race to the 22nd..."
The Illustrated London News London, England, 2 November 1861
http://cti.library.emory.edu/iln/browse.php?id=iln39.1115.127


Interpretation:—   The steamship City of Washington departed New York on 18 October 1861. As was usual for all ships departing New York for any distant port, it was carrying the latest copies of New York newspapers ("journals"), brought on board at the last minute before the ship cast loose its lines and steamed away from the dock.

This was the way the news was distributed in those days.  Each ship carried copies of newspapers from its departure point, and when the ship arrived at its destination – in England or France or Brazil or Australia or wherever – those newspapers were hurriedly taken ashore and carried to the local newspapers for reprinting, and to the local electric telegraph office for transmission around the country, bringing to the local population the very latest news available from New York, and thus from the United States.  If the ship took fifteen days to reach its destination, that meant that the latest United States news available there would be fifteen days old (a fact that today we have great difficulty comprehending).

A steamship departing New York would normally take about ten days to arrive at Liverpool, England.  When the ship arrived at Liverpool, the New York news would be taken ashore and quickly telegraphed throughout the United Kingdom and all Europe.  This was the latest news available, but it was ten days old.

After the Cabot Strait telegraph cable was laid in 1856, there was a continuous electric telegraph line from New York to Cape Race.  This means that messages could be sent in either direction between Cape Race and New York in a couple of hours.

After the steamship City of Washington departed New York on 18 October 1861, on its way to England, it took about four days to arrive near Cape Race.  As the City of Washington steamed past Cape Race, the latest news carried on the ship was then four days old, but, at the Cape Race telegraph office, the latest news from New York was only two or three hours old.

If the ship could get this up-to-date news from the Cape Race telegraph, it would arrive in England with news only six days old, instead of ten.  Cape Race could cut four days from the age of the news as it arrived in England and all Europe.  But the ship could not stop at Cape Race even for a few minutes to pick up this late news – there was no port or dock at Cape Race large enough for an ocean-going steamship, and anyway these transatlantic ships ran on tight schedules and would not take the time for even a brief stop in a port.

Remember, there was no radio in 1861; there was no way to send a message from Cape Race to any passing ship other than to write that message on paper, put the paper in an envelope, and carry that envelope in a small boat from Cape Race out to sea, find the ship, go alongside the ship, and somehow transfer the envelope from the small boat to the steamship – on the open sea, a dangerous undertaking at the best of times.

The demand for fresh news was so intense, that's exactly what they did.  For seven years, from 1859 until 1866, scheduled passenger steamships passing Cape Race eastbound toward England would be handed a small package of the latest news telegraphed from New York.

After the steamship City of Washington departed New York on 18 October 1861, on its way to England, it took about four days to arrive near Cape Race.  As the City of Washington steamed past Cape Race on 22 October, the latest news from New York – only two or three hours old by the new electric telegraph – was carried out to sea and handed on board the City of Washington.

This is what the London Illustrated News meant by "a short telegram from Cape Race to the 22nd." When they went to press on November 2nd, they had news from New York as recent as October 22nd – although it was only a "short telegram" (probably less than a thousand words) – there was at least a brief mention of any very important event that happened during those four days, from 18th and 22nd of October, after the City of Washington steamed away from New York.

During the entire American Civil War, 1861 to 1865, all news that reached Europe about what was happening in the United States and the Confederacy, was carried across the Atlantic by steamship.  When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865, this news reached England and Europe more than a week later.


On their way from New York to Cape Race,
– from the United States to Europe –
these late news items travelled through
the Cabot Strait telegraph cable.

"By the arrival of the steamer North American we have advices (news) to the evening of the 26th ult. (26 October 1861).  The most important event of the week has been the completion of the great continental telegraph line, uniting San Francisco with New York, and so with Cape Race, Newfoundland – a connected line of 6000 miles (10,000 km], and the longest in the world.  It was finished on the 25th ult. (25 October 1861)..."
The Illustrated London News London, England, 9 November 1861
http://cti.library.emory.edu/iln/browse.php?id=iln39.1116.134


The Cabot Strait telegraph cable was a crucial link in this
"great continental telegraph line...the longest in the world"





The last telegraph cable was laid into Newfoundland in 1953.  The Heart's Content office (then of Western Union) finally closed in 1965.  Telephone cable traffic more and more replaced telegraph through the 1960s and 1970s, and that too is now gone.  By the late 1990s the only underwater communications cables to operate to Newfoundland were two large fibre optic connections across the Cabot Strait.
Excerpted and adapted from: The Electric Age
by Ross Peters, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Memorial University of Newfoundland
http://www.engr.mun.ca/~gpeters/eplec1c.html






Links to Relevant Websites

Laying the Cabot Strait Cable, 1855 by Peter Cooper, president of
the New York, Newfoundland, & London Telegraph Company
    http://www.alts.net/ns1625/telegraph02.html#cabotcable1855


Laying the Ocean Cable by Peter Cooper, president of
the New York, Newfoundland, & London Telegraph Company
    http://www.atlantic-cable.com/Article/CooperOpinions/index.htm


1862 List of Submarine Telegraph Cables manufactured and laid down
by Glass, Elliott and Company, London

This list is organized chronologically, with the earliest cable at the top.
Number six on this list is the 1856 Cabot Strait cable, 85 miles 137 km long.
    http://www.atlantic-cable.com/CableCos/BritishMfrs/GlassElliottLetter2.jpg


History of the Atlantic Cable & Submarine Telegraphy
    http://www.atlantic-cable.com/


1858 New York Celebration After the first messages were transmitted over
the Atlantic Cable in August 1858 between Valentia, Ireland, and Trinity Bay,
Newfoundland, September 1st was declared as the official day of celebration
in New York City...
(All telegraph messages transmitted across the Atlantic to the United States
in 1858 were carried through the Cabot Strait cable between Newfoundland and
Aspy Bay on Cape Breton Island.)
    http://atlantic-cable.com/1858NY/index.htm


Transatlantic Telegraph Companies
    http://alts.net/ns1625/telegraph02.html


1897 Atlantic Telegraph Cable Map
published by the International Telegraph Bureau, Bern
This map shows Nova Scotia's central location in the international
telecommunications business in the 1890s (which continued into the 1950s).
    http://www.atlantic-cable.com/Article/1869French/BrightMap1.jpg


On Submerging Telegraphic Cables presented to the
Institution of Civil Engineers, London, England, on 16 February 1858
    http://www.atlantic-cable.com/Article/1858ICE/index.htm


Wire Rope and the Submarine Cable Industry by Bill Burns
A good description of the earliest (1850-1857) underwater electric telegraph cables.
The first underwater electric telegraph cable was laid across the English Channel
between England and France in August 1850...
    http://www.atlantic-cable.com/Article/WireRope/wirerope.htm


Submarine Cable Timeline: 1850-1900 by Bill Glover
    http://www.atlantic-cable.com/Cables/CableTimeLine/index1850.htm


Facts and Observations Relating to the Invention of the Submarine Cable
by R.S. Newall, 1882
    http://atlantic-cable.com/Books/Newall/index.htm


Cyrus Field and the Epic Struggle to lay the First Transatlantic Cable
Failure Magazine, December 2002
As late as the 1860s the only way to transmit information across oceans
was by ship, which meant weeks of lag time between sender and receiver...
    http://www.failuremag.com/arch_history_cable_ready.html


Atlantic Sentinel by Donald Tarrant
    http://www3.nf.sympatico.ca/dtarrant/sentinel.html


The Transatlantic Telegraph Cable: The Eighth Wonder of the World
by Gillian Cookson, in History Today magazine, March 2000
    http://www.findarticles.com/cf_1/m1373/3_50/60081469/print.jhtml




Submarine Cables Making A Comeback
2001


Submarine Cables:
A Traditional "High-Tech" Ocean Use

Maritime Affairs magazine
The Naval Officers Association of Canada
    Glen Herbert and Scott Coffen-Smout work with the
    Oceans Act Coordination Office,
    Department of Fisheries and Oceans,
    Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Management Project
In 1858, Newfoundland and Ireland were connected by
telegraph cable... This article provides a snapshot
of the international submarine cable industry, with
a particular focus on the Canadian context...
Marine communications is one of the fastest growing
areas of ocean technology worldwide. Canada's seabed
is being used increasingly for the laying of submarine
fibre-optic telecommunications cables to all parts of
the globe... Owing to their lower cost and longer lifespan,
submarine fibre-optic cables have now largely taken over
from satellites as the principal means of delivering
international telecommunications traffic...
    http://www.naval.ca/article/herbert/oceancables_byglenherbert.html



The Anatomy of Submarine Telegraph Cables
Conductor, Insulation, Inner Jute, Inner Sheath, Outer Jute, Outer Sheath...
    http://www.porthcurno.org.uk/html/submarine.html


Faults in Submarine Telegraph Cables Some of the things that could go wrong...
Poor Splices, Fishing Gear, Anchors, Toredos, Crabs, Sharks, Perished Core...
    http://www.porthcurno.org.uk/html/faults.html


Gutta percha
    http://www.porthcurno.org.uk/html/guttapercha.html


The End of the Transatlantic Telegraph

The First Transatlantic Telephone Cable September 1956
    http://www.sigtel.com/tel_hist_tat1.html


Transatlantic Telephone Cables, 1956-1990 Wikipedia
    http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transatlantic_telephone_cable


A chronology of Telegraph, Telephone and Radiotelephone, the three services
reaching across the Atlantic before the 1960 Echo satellite

by Alan Leon Varney, AT&T Network Systems
    http://www.netvalley.com/archives/mirrors/telegraph__radio_timeline-3.htm







Photographs of War Memorials, Historic Monuments and Plaques in Nova Scotia
    /remem/plaques.html



John Cabot 1497 memorial John Cabot 1497 memorial Aspy Bay
    /victco/aspycabot.html


Bell National Historic Park A.G. Bell National Historic Park Baddeck
    /victco/bellhistpark.html


Bell, Baldwin, McCurdy Three plaques: Bell, Baldwin, McCurdy Baddeck
    /victco/bellmusbbm.html


Baddeck: First Aeroplane Flight monument First Aeroplane Flight monument Baddeck
    /victco/baddckcrth.html


St. Margarets Village war memorial St. Margarets Village war memorial St. Margarets Village
    /victco/stmargvillm.html


South Harbour war memorial South Harbour war memorial South Harbour
    /victco/southhbrm.html


Neils Harbour war memorial Neils Harbour war memorial Neils Harbour
    /victco/neilshbrm.html


Ingonish war memorial Ingonish war memorial Ingonish
    /victco/noringonishm.html


Indian Brook war memorial Indian Brook war memorial Indian Brook
    /victco/indianbrook.html


Belle Cote war memorial Belle Cote war memorial Belle Cote
    /inverco/bellecote.html


Cheticamp war memorial Cheticamp war memorial Cheticamp
    /inverco/chetcmpwar.html


French Mountain war memorial French Mountain war memorial French Mountain
    /inverco/frenchmtn.html


North River war memorial North River war memorial North River
    /victco/northriver.html


Port Dauphin Naval Base monument, 1713-1719 Port Dauphin Naval Base monument, 1713-1719 Englishtown
    /victco/portdauphin.html


Englishtown war memorial Englishtown war memorial Englishtown
    /victco/englishtownm.html


Middle River war memorial Middle River war memorial Middle River
    /victco/middlerivr.html


Inverness coal miners memorial Inverness coal miners monument Inverness
    /inverco/invminemem.html


Whycocomagh war memorial Whycocomagh war memorial Whycocomagh
    /inverco/whycocom.html



Go To:   Index to other online Nova Scotia History
    http://alts.net/ns1625/histindx.html

Go To:   History of Railway Companies in Nova Scotia
    http://alts.net/ns1625/railways.html

Go To:   History of Electric Companies in Nova Scotia
    http://alts.net/ns1625/electric.html

Go To:   History of Automobiles in Nova Scotia
    http://alts.net/ns1625/automobiles.html

Go To:   History of Telephone Companies in Nova Scotia
    http://alts.net/ns1625/telephone.html

Go To:   Home Page
    /index.html


  


First uploaded to Internet:   2003 June 30
New photographs installed:   2003 September 06
Cabot Strait map installed:   2003 October 27
New historical material:   2005 July 18