Friday, July 27, 2007

July 27, 1866 - Connecting Old World to New

This day in July 27th, 1866 the trans-Atlantic cable was successfully laid and first put into operation:

The idea of a trans-Atlantic cable had been proposed by many when it seemed technologically feasible, but the name of Cyrus Field, a wealthy New York merchant who eventually arranged for funding of the project, is the name that pops up most frequently in its early history. Field came on board in 1854, a year after the USS Dolphin completed a 1,600-mile sounding between Newfoundland and Ireland that revealed a smooth plateau, ideal for laying cable. Field convened a number of investors and the New York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph Co. was formed.

The cable was almost laid in 1855, but bad weather at sea and the refusal of a ship's captain to follow orders scuttled that attempt. Cable was successfully laid across Cabot Strait in 1856, completing a linkup between New York and Newfoundland. The cable was a third of the way home. Both the British and American governments agreed to supply additional funding for the project, and in 1857 success was nearly at hand when cable being laid by the USS Niagara snapped in heavy seas. Hundreds of miles of cable were lost and that, coupled with a bank collapse in the United States, caused the project to be shelved again.

More disruptions followed, including an interlude known as the Civil War, which soured relations between the United States and Great Britain when London openly sympathized with the Confederacy. By 1866, however, the war was over and a new ship, the 693-foot-long Great Eastern, was ready to lay cable. Weighing anchor after the shore end of the new cable was laid at Follhummerum Bay, the Great Eastern made a smooth passage to Heart's Content and the old world was joined to the new on July 27.

From: 'July 27, 1866: Trans-Atlantic Cable Connects Old World to New'


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