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The first major undersea link, connecting England to France, was not completed until after several failed attempts. The idea of a transatlantic cable was first proposed in , only a year after the first practical demonstration, but the far greater distances and greater depths presented formidable problems. On the American side Cyrus W.

The Story Behind the First Reliable Trans-Atlantic Submarine Cable Laid Years Ago - Ciena

Customers at the New York offices of the Atlantic Telegraph Company in top ; making a cable splice aboard the Great Eastern as it lays off Valencia harbor in Ireland bottom. See the first issue of History Magazine for the rest of this article. In , a new transatlantic telegraph cable shrank the world further—suddenly, messages could be sent between Europe and North America in minutes rather than days.

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Queen Victoria and the President of the United States of America, James Buchanan, became the first heads of state to exchange greetings via the new transatlantic submarine cable. But disappointment soon followed—within weeks the cable failed and the connection was lost. By that time, however, its backers had demonstrated that transatlantic telegraphy could reduce the time taken to communicate between Europe and the USA from a few weeks to less than a day. The implications for business were profound. Laying a cable across the Atlantic would be costly and technically difficult. The shortest sea route, between the southwest coast of Ireland and Newfoundland, Canada, covered over nautical miles.

Thomson had developed in instrument called a mirror galvanometer that was sensitive enough to detect and display the weak signals that emerged from undersea cables. Field promised investors that the company would lay the cable by the end of The plan was to load half of the cable onto each of two ships—Agamemnon and USS Niagara—and join the two lengths together while at sea.

Atlantic Telegraph Cable Timeline

The manufacturers made more cable over the winter, and in Agamemnon and Niagara sailed to the middle of the Atlantic. There they joined the cables and each set off for their home shores, paying out the cable as they went. Everyone held their breath as engineers made the first test, but the cable worked as expected and they successfully sent and received signals both ways.

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The formal exchange between the President and the Queen went ahead as planned, and journalists excitedly reported the technological feat:. Field did not give up. He set up a new company in , chaired by the engineer Daniel Gooch of the Great Western Railway, and raised the money to manufacture an improved cable. After over two weeks of trying, at the end of August they managed to hook the end of the cable successfully and bring it aboard.

Who was behind the ambitious project?

Early on Sunday 2 September they took it to the instrument room. Navy's largest steam-powered ship, U. Niagara sailed to England and rendezvoused with a British ship, H. Each ship took on 1, miles of coiled cable, and a plan was devised for them to lay the cable across the bottom of the sea. The ships would sail together westward from Valentia, on the west coast of Ireland, with the Niagara dropping its length of cable as it sailed. At mid-ocean, the cable dropped from the Niagara would be spliced to to the cable carried on the Agamemnon, which would then play out its cable all the way to Canada.

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August 6, The ships left Ireland and began dropping the cable into the ocean. August 10, The cable aboard the Niagara, which had been transmitting messages back and forth to Ireland as a test, suddenly stopped working. While engineers tried to determine the cause of the problem, a malfunction with the cable-laying machinery on the Niagara snapped the cable.

The ships had to return to Ireland, having lost miles of cable at sea.

It was decided to try again the following year. March 9, The Niagara sailed from New York to England, where it again stowed cable on board and met up with the Agamemnon. A new plan was for the ships to go to a point mid-ocean, splice together the portions of cable they each carried, and then sail apart as they lowered cable down to the ocean floor.

June 10, The two cable-carrying ships, and a small fleet of escorts, sailed out from England. They encounter ferocious storms, which caused very difficult sailing for ships carrying the enormous weight of cable, but all survived intact. June 26, The cables on Niagara and Agamemnon were spliced together, and the operation of placing the cable began. Problems were encountered almost immediately. June 29, After three days of continuous difficulties, a break in the cable made the expedition halt and head back to England.

July 17, The ships left Cork, Ireland, to make another attempt, utilizing essentially the same plan. July 29, At mid-ocean, the cables were spliced and Niagara and Agamemnon began steaming in opposite directions, dropping the cable between them. The two ships were able to communicate back and forth via the cable, which served as a test that all was functioning well.

August 2, The Agamemnon reached Valentia harbor on the west coast of Ireland and the cable was brought ashore. August 5, The Niagara reached St. John's, Newfoundland, and the cable was connected to the land station. A message was telegraphed to newspapers in New York alerting them of the news. The message stated that the cable crossing the ocean was 1, statue miles long.

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September 1, The cable, which had been operating for four weeks, began failing. A problem with the electrical mechanism that powered the cable proved fatal, and the cable stopped working entirely. Many in the public believed it had all been a hoax.