History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

My Connection with the Atlantic Telegraph
by James Burn Russell

James Burn Russell as a student at Glasgow University

Introduction: At age 21, James Burn Russell (1837-1904), one of William Thomson's research students at Glasgow University, was invited by Thomson to accompany him as an unpaid assistant on HMS Agamemnon during the laying of the 1858 Atlantic cable.

Between May 6th and October 6th that year, Russell kept an extraordinarily detailed journal of his experiences while working on the cable project. This document remained in the family until 1993, when Russell's biographer, the late Edna Robertson, tracked down his granddaughter, Agnes Rodgers, who had preserved the journal among family papers.

This important journal was completely unknown to researchers and historians until that time, and is now held at Glasgow City Archives, Mitchell Library (TD1434/1). Some parts of the journal are reproduced on this page by kind permission of the Mitchell Library.

James Russell wrote the manuscript journal for his sister Aggy (Agnes) as a record of this time, and it contains much interesting information about the 1858 cable expeditions and the subsequent work in Ireland. It is one of the few hitherto unearthed primary sources and is all the more valuable for having been written by a student of Thomson who had a very good understanding of what went on technically.

The first three sections of the journal describe the events between Russell's departure from Glasgow on May 6th (the day after his 21st birthday) through the arrival of HMS Agamemnon at Valentia on August 5th. This marked the successful completion of the cable between Ireland and Newfoundland, the USS Niagara having laid the other end. Part IV of the journal picks up the story as the cable staff begin work at the Valentia station on August 6th, and continues through Russell's departure from Valentia on September 30th and his journey home to Glasgow. This section's 96 manuscript pages are transcribed below.

Finally, Part V contains additional notes and a chronology of the entire project; there is also a short section of appendices. For easy reference, the page from Part V which contains Russell's broad itinerary for the five-month project is also shown immediately following this introduction. The itinerary also appears, with minor differences, as the last page of Part IV.

Based on the experiences described in his journal, Russell subsequently wrote three articles on the 1858 expedition for The West of Scotland Magazine, and a somewhat shorter version of the story for the Sydney Morning Herald, where his father was literary editor. Extracts from the latter piece were used by Silvanus P. Thompson in his 1910 biography of Lord Kelvin.

Thanks are due to Allan Green for discovering this interesting document in the Glasgow archives in the course of his research, and to Mary Burns for transcribing (and in some cases deciphering) the over 14,000 words of Russell's journal which appear below. A few words could not be resolved or are doubtful, and these are marked with [??].

—Bill Burns

Part IV
Part V
Mr. Varley's Report
Notes on other parts of the Journal


James Burn Russell Journal

Chronology (from Part V)

Left home for Devonport May 6th
Reached Devonport   " 7th
Left Plymouth in Agam. for Bay of Biscay   " 29th
Returned to Plymouth June 3rd
Left Plymouth for rendezvous   " 10th
Reached Rendezvous   " 25th
Returned to Queenstown July 12th
Left Queenstown   " 18th
Reached rendezvous   " 28th
Landed with Cable at Valencia Augt 5th
Left Valencia for home Sept 30th
Reached home Oct 6th



James Burn Russell Journal

Part IV

My connection with the Atlantic Telegraph,
For Aggy.
Itsyoung days

6th Augt. 1858

We awoke to the pleasures of a bright sunshiny morning–All the mountains on each side of the glen in which the town of Cahirciveen is situate standing out clear and bold. Our offices are for the time established in the large slate-works. On the island the most extensive slate-quarries in the kingdom is situate. They are wrought by an English Company and brought down to these works in large blocks which are cut up by large saws driven by steam into flags for pavings &c. The rough walls are


neatly lined with calico and the instrument table is covered with green baize so that the rooms look rather clean and tidy. The window looks right across the strait to the Ferry-house on the opposite side, and up the glen of Cahirciveen overshadowed by Knockmadubber & other rugged mountains. Anderson and I were busy all day preparing to set up Dr. Thomson’s battery. Coil currents were sent and received still. It will be some little time before the Newfoundlandites will be ready either to give or take messages. Anderson went to look out for lodgings in the evening. They are rather difficult to get. At present we sleep in the house of a policeman. Three in one little room, I on a settee & two in the bed. Anderson & a clerk sleep up in some supernal hole; where two men


belonging to the house also stow themselves. It is laughable to se the two come down in the morning in their nightshirts, with their clothes under their arms to stand their turn at the wash hand basin. While Anderson was away I joined a number of the clerks, my old comrades on board ship, in a gloamin’ walk. What a lovely evening–the sky clear, liquid blue, through which the stars were just appearing. The evening star, as it topped the mountain ridge gave me forcibly to understand the phrase applied by Tennyson to stars–“burnished.” The sea shimmery and smooth added by contrast to the dark, guise look of the mountain ramparts rising precipitously up on the further side. Here and there along their foot twinkled a light from some solitary farm-house. We sang (or rather the others did & I growled)


as we went along until the place rang with our merriment and the sober denizens of the surrounding huts opened their doors to find out the cause of the uproar. I believe they thought we were topers.
We felt quite exhilarated, I suppose with the reaction from past anxiety and the pleasure of an accomplished work.

7th. We were at the batteries all day. In the evening we repaired to our lodgings for the first time. It is two miles and a half from Knightstown or “The Port” as the folks here call it. Magiven is the name of our landlord.

8th Sunday. This morning a little, fat, paunchy old gentleman with a pock-marked face, in a long black dressing gown introduced himself to us as the “praist of the parish.” He seems an agreeable old chap. Our landlord is his nephew. The chapel is just over the way. Our house


stands beside a brook at this season all but dried up; but evidently a torrent in winter. The huts on our side are dignified with the name of Ballyhearny. Those on the other form the Village of Tinnies. With it commence the lands of Trinity College Dublin. - Such miserable small, rickety, tumble-down erections! Accumulations of dry stone in all shapes, in size like molehills in appearance worse than a northern pigsty. - The whole is situate in a bleak barren-like basin scooped out on the L. side of Valentia I. The heat was very great. We went to Knightstown and attended service in the office of the slate-works. I enjoyed the service better than any I have heard since leaving home. The sermon was earnest and sound. The priest evidently had a good stock of good words at his disposal though he spoiled their effect by using too many of them higglety-pigglety. After dinner in the Electrical Mess for the


first time we returned to Ballyhearny, Our astonishment may be guessed when, as we drew near we saw a great crowd at the little bridge, and heard the tones of a fiddle playing an Irish jig while two couple danced in the centre. The house we reside in is a public-house. It does no business but on Sabbath. The priest gives spiritual nourishment in the chapel; his nephew gives ditto in his house. When we got inside to our room which is pleasant, large, with two windows and two beds, we could hear the melancholy drawl of a native Irish song, “long drawn out,” over the potheen. In the evening when Anderson & I were taking a walk before lighting up a car drove past with a party, one of whom played an accordion.

9th. It is only about 15 mins walk down the water-course to the sea from


our place. Anderson & I intend to bathe as regularly as possible. We began to-day. This was market-day in Cahirciveen on our way to the office we passed numbers of women with their baskets strapped to their backs with ropes or straw-bands carrying pots of butter, eggs, fowls or in some cases a litter of pigs. Nothing but coil currents have come yet. We suspect a fault in the cable at this end which will impede our progress. It is intended to underrun and test.

10th. When we were drawing near the village this morning, an old Irish woman said - “Happy news, Sur!–Theres a message from Newfoundland.” We pricked up our ears at this and pushed[??] to the office all speed. The following is a copy of the log at this interesting period.

“12.24-A.M.-Sent V’s and B’s at rate


of 40 currents per minute up to 12.32 when we forwarded message as follows. “Signals perfect. Send slower.” (slowly. Reply.)
1.6 to 8–Sent “repeat” with two notes of interrogation.
1.20–Sent V. and B.–“Send V.B.C.” Sent two V’s and then alternate currents.
1.44 to 48–Received signals, some illegible, here note of interrogation, the words “Repeat,” “Please.”
2.5–Sent–“We read you well. Do you read us perfect?” [Morse code inserted here for Repeat Please above]
2.26–Recd. “Please send slower for the present.”
2.28–Sent - “We read you well. Is this slow enough?”

Balcutt, one of the clerks, and an Irishman happened to be in the office at the time. He was so excited with joy that he jumped out of the window, knocking down a case of deal which surrounded part of our machinery; and ran leaping like


a madman down to the hotel to tell Mr. Whitehouse and Dr. Thomson. When the latter came and saw the legible proofs of this scientific triumph he too skipped about through the office. He got up a lot of porter from the hotel and treated everybody, all round, pulling the corks and acting the Vulcan at the feast of the Gods. The signals received are not very strong, but Thomson’s beautifully sensitive - land galvanometer shows a good deflection when the common instruments won’t. By means of a local battery attached to a Morse key which is pressed down by hand or raised in correspondence to the indication, messages are taken off beautifully. The regular relay is also used and Thomson’s by hand is as good. He left for Glasgow and London to-day.

11th.–The effects of the leakage at this end are now appearing. The outgoing currents being strong force through, so that those


in N. foundland can’t read our messages. On the other hand their currents are weak when they get here & do not discover the fault so that the receiving only is impaired. The coils therefore which we have hitherto used are very unsuitable since they give great intensity. In consequence I received orders from Mr. Whitehouse to set up two hundred of Dr. Thomson’s cells which give more quantity. For this purpose all the men were put at my disposal. I was sorry to find that we had only sulphate of copper for 130.

12th–We bargained for porridge to breakfast as a treat we have not had for long. The good-people said they could make “stir-about.” Didn’t we stare this morning when two plates were borne in piled up in miniature mountains and precipices with a stiff, half-boiled conglomeration of corn-husks and whole piles swollen up like barley-pickles. We


made a brave attack, but had not driven our mines far beneath the superincumbent mass when we had to throw down our spoons in despair of success. - The battery is working very well. They understand us better than before. We received the first formal message to-day–commencing–
5.35 Laws to Whitehouse.
Recd. five minutes signal. Coil currents too weak (to) work relay. Try drive slow and regular. I have put in intermediate pulley. Reply by coil.

13th.–We received and sent this morning regular messages, quicker and with stronger currents indicated at this end than hitherto. Still more to increase the quantity of our battery Mr Whitehouse at one had it divided into two series of 60 which were joined up for quantity. At 3 the series was further reduced to 40s. They still complained of unreadable signals. This shows that the fault is becoming very bad. I saw


a real Irish funeral this afternoon. It was the corpse of an old woman who died in a workhouse. She was brought over in a boat from the mainland. The coffin was set down at the cross-roads near the Hotel where the women of the party collected round it on their knees covering their faces with their long black mantles and bending forward towards it in common howling the while in most dismal style. They do the same I believe at all cross roads.

14th–Mr. Canning, the able and energetic engineer to whom belongs the honour of laying the cable and not to Mr. Bright, was Telegraphed for to Dublin yesterday. He arrived this morning and preparations were at once made to under-run the cable. An arrangement was made by which communication could be kept up between the office and the boat engaged in the operation. Clerks were


placed at the office, at the breakwater, on Beg Innis, an island in the course of the cable. They had red flags by the motions of which conversation was held according to the Morse alphabet. I went with the clerk to the breakwater to watch that the signals were properly answered and sent on. The cable had not been far under-run when it was found that it had got entangled in a most complicated manner with a piece of cable laid down for the Magnetic company’s use. It was a work of great labour getting these separated. After underrunning as far as the Agamemnon’s anchorage, a buoy was attached to the cable and it was left–the swell being so great, and the day so far gone that it was impossible to go further. In the process a buffalo horn came up which I got from one of the men. It appears that a Brazilian vessel,


loaded with hides & horns ran into the bay under stress of weather last year, missed stays & was wrecked.

15th. Sabbath. The day was so wet & blustering in the morning that we could not get to Church. I observed the people going to “The Chapel.”–An old man with thin flaxen hair and a rather tawdry dress came out into the rain and rung the bell. (By the bye he does so every morning about 8 for mass, and every evening about 9 for “Rosary.”) Those who had come from a distance and were congregated in groups in the rain flocked in. Old men, old women, boys, girls with their parents dropped out from one wretched hut & another in the village - those who had anything better than common wearing it, those who had not going even in the veriest rags. I wish Protestants would go as indiscriminately to worship. The congregation seemed to


be so numerous that some men and women could not get in. They knelt book in hand, in the mud, beneath the pouring rain!

The cable was tested in the afternoon from the shore to the office and found perfect.

The following message was received this morning.

Com. 8.20   Newfoundland Station
Ended 10.20

To Saward.

E.M. Archibald, N.Y. Telegraphs instructed by Honorary Directors, A.T.Co., and Directors N.Y., Newfoundland, and London Telegraph Co. to state that unexplained delay injures it, rest companies. I replied cause not passing messages—that instruments require great care and adjustment. Doing fast possible. You should not look on cable as on an ordinary short line, as we encounter many little difficulties, but think all


soon overcome. De Sauty.

Director’s Message.

“The Directors of the Atlantic Tel. Co. in Great Britain, to the Directors in America. Europe and America are united by Telegraph. Glory to God in the highest; on earth peace, goodwill towards men.”


16th. I was agreeably surprised on reaching the office this morning to find Mr Kingsford the clerk on duty engaged in sending the Directors message. As this was not to be done until communications was reciprocal & established it betokened good things. In referring to the record it appeared that we had been speaking with ease for some hours, showing that some change had taken place either in the cable or in the instruments on the other side. At 2.35 they desired us to send alphabet which we did. They informed us that they could read it off with but three errors. The message will be found at page 16. It was sent slowly, beginning 8.20 AM ending 11.12, so that no mistake might be made. We appended the instructions–“Repeat back faster.” This Mr. Whitehouse rightly thought the safest warrant that they read correctly. Mr. Whitehouse was in a great state of excitement, half afraid as the ominous–“Please repeat signal” should come. He walked backwards and forwards taking a side look at the strips of paper on which the missives good or evil, would be printed.


At 11.36 the style began to imprint its magic characters. He watched them while they formed letters & the letters words as if half-afraid to look. First came dots & at quicker speed, from which we inferred that the instructions at any rate they had read. There came V’s, a letter which is often given to afford an opportunity to adjust. Soon appeared an–“Understand,” repeated to make assurance doubly sure, and then came “Directors A.T.Co.” We all clapped our hands and hurrahed. Thinking this sufficient to show that we understood the message, the repetition went no further, but the question came - “Will you receive one?” But Mr. Whitehouse would have the whole message repeated, besides being determined to have the Queen’s dispatch before anything official from the Yankees. We accordingly answered–“No! Repeat all back faster! Queen’s next.” This was done with perfect accuracy in thirty-five minutes. Mr. Whitehouse immediately telegraphed the acknowledgement to the Directors in London.–At 11.47


Mr McCurley, Company’s Cashier, put the Queen’s message into the hands of Mr. Whitehouse. On the back of the inner envelope were these instructions.
“When the connection between Ireland & Newfoundland by Electric Telegraph is established, this letter is to be opened and the message contained in it is to be forwarded immediately to Washington.”

Foreign Office
July 1st, 1858

We asked before commencing, if we could send faster. Our answer was “You may send little faster. We receive on Galvanometer. Relay won’t work.”–Accordingly at 2.12, Mr Bartholomew, superintendent of the Station began the message which was couched in these easy and kindly terms.

“The Queen desires to congratulate the President upon the successful completion of this great international work in which the Queen has taken the deepest interest.
“The Queen is convinced that the


President will join with her in fervently hoping that the Electric Cable which now connects Great Britain with the United States will prove an additional link between the two nations whose friendship is founded upon their common interest and reciprocal esteem.
“The Queen has much pleasure in thus directly communicating with the President and in renewing to him Her best wishes for the prosperity of the United States.”

This message being necessarily sent slow took several hours in transmission. This was increased by a stoppage which was rather stupidly made while Canning went out to attempt further underrunning the cable. All hands were pressed into service. On this occasion my post was one of the signalmen on Beg Innis [now Beginish], an island between which & the mainland the cable runs. But it was no use the sea was too rough and we only got ourselves wet with rain and spray to no purpose.


17th.–I was quite surprised to find a calm, bright morning when I awoke. The weather here seems very fitful. Had we seen at Autumn such a day as yesterday was we w’d have made up our minds for a week’s rain. This morning the roads were scarcely wet. Just as I came out on the road with Anderson to proceed to Knightstown, my attention was drawn to a poor looking man, hailing himself along on stilts. When he came opposite the cross on the end of the Chapel, he turned round, uncovered, bowed lowly, extended his hands upwards & gave a supplicating look. I shall never forget the earnestness of those bony hands and that emaciated countenance. Had he directed such a look to the real cross or rather to the Savior extended on it, he could not have gone unblessed.

The sending of the Queen’s message was finished at 6.29 A.M. The repetition of it from N. foundland was begun 6.45 and completed 7.53 This is at the


rate of about word & half per minute. The difference between the speed of sending and receiving arises from the necessity we are under of sending slowly owing to the effect of the fault being entirely at the other end. A message was at once sent off to the Directors in London–“Her Majesty’s message has been forwarded to N.foundland & repeated back correctly. It consists of 999 words and was repeated back in 67 minutes. The repetition of the Director’s message yesterday consisting of 31 words occupied 35 minutes.”

From 8.15 to 8.49 we received the following–“C.W. Field to Directors A.T. Co, N.foundland, Monday. Entered Trinity Bay noon 5th, landed cable 6th, Thursday. Ship at once to St John’s two miles of shore cable with end ready for splicing. When was cable landed at Valencia? Answer by Telegraph and forward any letters to New York.”


[There is evidently some mistake here as to dates for the 5th was Thursday with us. Perhaps difference of time accounts for it] (On subsequent reference to the ship it was found that the figure is 6 & not 6th i.e. 6 o’clock.)

The following came 12.56 to 1.21–“Mr Bernard wishes telegraph McIvor. Europa collision Arabia. Put into St Johns. No lives lost. Will you do it? Stay anxiety–non-arrival.” De Sauty. (Supt)–To receive this commercial message (the first of general interest) was against rule more particularly as the President’s answer had not yet been sent. Still the nature of it was such that Mr Whitehouse, Bartholomew & all of us thought the Company would do themselves great good by publishing it. It would show that there was no preconcerting requisite to get a message read off. Still Mr. W. had to submit the matter to the Directors who said they would


not receive it. In the afternoon we made another attempt at under-running the cable. But the day was so squally & wet. & the swell so great that nothing could be done. My post was with Mr Collett, a clerk on Beg Innis a considerable island between Valentia I. and the mainland. The wind blew so that we could scarcely stand against it to look out for signals. We had a nice pull back against wind. When Mr. Canning got out to the place where he had buoyed, he found that the buoy had carried away & drifted outside Doulas Hd [now also Doulus Head] where he caught it.

Our communication with N. foundland was cut off in the afternoon. We received well but at 1’48 they said that our signals were illegible. I take this as a proof that the fault is near the buoy for the time of its breaking away must have been about one.


18th Augt–This was a lovely morning, very hot–the sky clear as an Italian. Before Anderson and I had reached the Foot, as the country folks call Valencia, the boats had sailed to under-run the cable. The day was very propitious and circumstances pressing. We had been receiving all night questions as to whether we would receive the President’s reply, but could not give them to understand that we both could & would. My post was upon the breakwater again. We watched anxiously the progress of the “hooker” which was underrunning, as indicated by the motion of her mast seen over the low part of Beg Innis. At 12.20 we were rejoiced to receive the signal [??] [??]–We must cut–Are you ready for us to do so?”–We answered–“Ready.” At 12.45 they signalled “Lost.” The end of the part between the office and the boat


being insulated, we found that with 14 saw-dust twelves, there was 45° of earth i.e. our current was weakened to that extent before it had well left our instrument. Mr. Bartholomew thinking it likely that more defects would be found by further underrunning sent out one of the clerks to say so to Mr Canning. I accompanied him. The constabulary rowed us out in their boat and beautifully we went along. We found the boat outside of Doulas Head some distance. The passage out is very intricate; the foam from the beating of the waters on rocks hidden or manifest floating about in all directions. There were great numbers of cormorants nested on one little island to which the Irish policemen talked very funnily. We had a nice sail back. After going out a little further they cut and joined on the new


cable which was leftover when the end was brought ashore; and turned homeward, one boat paying out, the other lifting. When they got within Church Island the fresh cable ran out; and it was found necessary to eke it out with the old, On cutting for this purpose, the wire between office & boat was tested and a leakage of 42° found. This proved that the fault had been in this length and not beyond the Island. A Telegraphic order came at this time from the Directors ordering the cable to be joined up and let alone. Mr. Canning accordingly relaid the comparatively perfect cable which had been lifted beyond the island. This was spliced on to the shore part. At 9.8 signals were resumed by sending V’s by coil and “Do you receive?” To show how curiously the fault thus partially overcome stopped N. foundland’s receiving


but not ours I give a message received at 9.37 A.M.–“President’s message here. If you can receive it, send current in one direction 5 mins. When have received and correct send current 5 mins. again. We have not read single word from you since 8.10 your time.”
Mr. Whitehouse left for London this morning to answer a summons from the Directors. They are playing cross-purposes with him shamefully. Indeed remembering the order sent to Canning, they seem, like other corporate bodies, not to have confidence in their most trusty servants.
19th. On going to the office I found the clerks & Mr B. in the middle of the President’s message. It had commenced 8.25 A.M. From interruption to see whether we could follow, it was not finished til 10.25. It ran as follows.-
“Washington City. To Her Majesty, Victoria, Queen of Great Britain. The President cordially


reciprocates the congratulations of Her Majesty the Queen on the success of this great international enterprise, accomplished by the science, skill, and indomitable energy of the two countries. It is a triumph more glorious, because far more useful to mankind than ever was won by conqueror on the field of battle. May the Atlantic Telegraph under the blessings of Heaven, prove to be a bond of perpetual peace and friendship between the kindred nations and an instrument designed by divine Providence to diffuse religion, civilization and law throughout the world. In this view will not all the nations of Christendom spontaneously unite in the declaration that it shall be forever neutral, and that its communications shall be held sacred in passing to the place of their destination, even in the midst of hostilities.
James Buchanan.”
As soon as this had been fairly read off it was put into the hands of the Magnetic


Company’s clerk who in 5 mins. sent it from Valencia to Dublin, and before he had finished here, the half of it was in London; so that the message was sent from Valencia to London in seven and a half mins and that via–Dublin, Belfast, Carlisle, Manchester!
As the receipt of the above message shows our received signals were good. Still they have difficulty in N. foundland in making us out. At half past 11 we had the following from them–“Your currents much stronger but cannot read your signals–Repeat.”
20th.–At a quarter to ten matter for conversation seemed to be wanting on both sides the Atlantic. The following came–“No more here. Superintendent allows me to converse with you. I am H[??]y. Who you? Is Bull there. We read from Galvanometer and print with Morse key when we see the deflection


relay won’t work. Please ask Bull to write to 106 Brook Street, Kennington Road, London to send me Lloyd’s paper. &c”
It then went on with a request to write to two young ladies, telling them of the welfare of two of the N. foundland staff. - It was curious that Bull happened to be the clerk on duty and at the receiving instrument.
In the morning the following came to hand
Com. 4.3 A.M.
Fin. 4.45-
New York, Augt 18th.
Directors of A.T. Co. London. The directors of N. York, Newfoundland & London Tel. Co. desire to express to the Directors of the A.T. Co. their joy and gratitude for facilities and privileges on coming into closer union and fellowship with their fellow-men throughout the world. May the success that has crowned our


labours secure to the nations of the earth a perpetual bond of peace and friendship.
Peter Cooper,

We were informed by telegraph to-day that the Niagara reached N. York on the 18th, and that Bull’s Arms Station is henceforth to be called Cyrus station. This is a compliment to C.W. Field who will be getting all the credit with the Yankees.–In the afternoon Anderson & I went to Cahirciveen. It is a broken-down, dirty looking town extending along the base of the high hills to the right of the valley and rising partly up their side; so that the whole place might be crushed by stones rolled down. There is a fine Catholic chapel and [??] [??] nevertheless. We had occasion to go to the chief shop. It is the post-office, the drapers, the stationers, the hotel, the victuallers, the everything of the place. I was much


interested watching three wild-looking natives–females bargaining about a piece of cloth for a frock. One was an old woman with tangled black hair, dark, restless eyes & tanned leathery countenance; of low stature, bare-footed, creel strapped on back and tattered [??] over it. Her daughter apparently was tall, stout and pleasant in features though rather begrimed with peat-smoke. A little girl, probably the old woman’s grand-daughter, all in tatters and so covered over in her shawl as to leave only her nose visible, seemed to be referred to as to the pattern. The three could not speak English, but chattered away in their native Erse pointing to the cloth. The little thing seemed hard to please; but at last her taste seemed to be met and the old lady stuffed the bit of print into her bosom, talking to the child with the utmost vivacity, telling her I suppose how nice her new frock would be.


We had capital deflections today, carrying 100 [degrees] for some time, messages being printed off at about two words and a half per minute.–The following was one rather interesting–“Mosquitoes keep biting. This is a funny place to be in. Very swampy.” Mr Bartholomew received notification today from London that for the present Dr Thomson is to be in charge of the electrical department here. This is I suppose until Whitehouse’s affair is settled.

21st.–Dr Thomson arrived this morning. We are still increasing our battery power; & managing arrangements in that department. Things were looking very well today. Mr Canning’s labours seem to have been profitable. For the first time N. foundland receives well. Indeed they became quite bold towards evening and said “Send as fast as you can!”


22nd.–What a superb morning this was–if our Scottish church bells had only been ringing out their grateful music from hidden valley and quiet hill-side. In going to “The Foot” to church we took a new way over the centre of the Island to the road which bends in on the other side. The sun was very warm and everything seemed laid in calm repose. When we got to the top of the hill in the centre we saw the Atlantic and one of the Skeligs [Skelligs] towering sheer out of the sea to a considerable height. A little over the hill and Dingle Bay opened out, the land stretching out around it like a gigantic arm. Like a natural breakwater the Blasquets [Blaskets], grey barren islands lay across its mouth at some distance off. At our feet lay Doulas Head, the lighthouse, Beg Innis, Church Island and Glanleam, the residence of the Knight of Kerry, on


the outskirts of a wooded slope the only one in the island. In the distance winding down from its mountain source, twining in and out like a silver serpent through the barren valley, appeared Cahirciveen river, the bridge at the town seen only as a string of loopholes stretched across. We had a very poor sermon from the parson. What a [??] we got on our way home. Oh! How uncomfortable too was our position, the young men & women fooling[??] it out on the dusty road before[??] our window. I really believe they do it with some sort of religious feeling their countenances & those of the spectators look so solemn. They never laugh or flirt; but preserve the gravest possible mien.

At 11.40 last night the following message came from America.
New York.
The Rt Honorable Sir Walter Carden, Lord


Mayor of London. I congratulate your Lordship (on the successful laying (of the) Atlantic Cable, uniting (the) continents (of) Europe and America, (the) cities (of) London (and) New York, Great Britain and the United States. It is (a) triumph of science and energy over time and space, uniting more closely the bonds of peace and commercial prosperity, introducing an era in the world’s history pregnant with results beyond the conception of a finite mind. To God be the praise
Daniel F. Tiemann, Mayor

Augt. 23d. There was nothing received to-day from 8.20 morning to 9.54 night. We then received the [??]n's[??] signal of a message. The clerks say that Dr. Th. had bungled the connections and just discovered the error there and changed in time to get the close of a message. This is very probable, for the Professor


makes much too great a confusion in the various wires leading to the instruments and the line, by continually changing. Still on this occasion, he can’t have been aware of any such inadvertence as he telegraphed to the Directors his ignorance of the cause.

24th. I noticed on my way down the first of the Valentia harvest - shearing a field of corn. The crops are in general wretched–particularly grains. There is only one field which gives pleasure to look at–one planted with Mangol wurzel & Swedes.

At 11.19 the following answer to the Mayor of New York was sent off.

“The Lord Mayor of London to the Honourable Daniel F. Tiemann, Mayor of New York. The Ld Mayor of London most cordially reciprocates congratulations of the Mayor (of) New York upon (the) success (of) so important an


undertaking as the completion of the A.T. Cable. It is indeed one of the most glorious triumphs of (the) age, and reflects (the) highest credit upon (the) energy, skill, and perseverance of all parties entrusted with so difficult a duty, and the Ld Mayor sincerely trusts that by the blessing of Almighty God it may be the means of cementing those kind feelings which now exist between the two countries.
R.W. Garden,
Lord Mayor.”

Still 24th?
(25th) Mr Gurney, chairman of the Company arrived here to-day. He is M.P. for a Welsh district and a member of the Society of Friends. He is a very charitable good man, ready with his money for every laudable purpose. The people here like him and had bonfires burning in the evening in honour of his arrival. We rigged up one of Dr Thomson’s


key-boards in the afternoon that he might begin sending compensated currents. By his request & received all night with him. Messages were sometimes received beautifully on the Morse instrument. Poor Thomson has great opposition to what is called–his new system. The fact of its being new I think is its chief fault. Mr Bartholomew treats the whole matter with marvellous indifference. The clerks are grievously annoyed with the Doctor’s animation and impetuosity in pursuing an idea through thick & thin to the destruction of their dear old stereotyped routine. They say he makes experiments with mere quantified objects on the cable instead of working right away in a business way heedless of irregularities or their cause. But had it not been for such purely scientific experiments there never would have been a cable, and without them


the cable will never be wrought. What is the cable but a grand scientific experiment, and what are we doing now but proving that the experiment is successful!–Messages were being received so beautifully that Thompson became quite jolly and elevated; foregoing the trial of his currents for the sake of receiving the messages. He and Gurney Determine to make up some news for the “Times” and send it off so as to appear in the morning edition.–“And it will appear in the Paper. News to-day! News today from America!” said Thomson and clapped his hands in an ecstacy of enjoyment. The following are the two messages. The first is in answer to some enquiries from Saward, Secretary to De Sauty, Supt in N.foundland.
Com 10.30
Fin 11.29
“Two miles shore end ample. Have half-mile small cable. Plenty. It is


stowed on beach. Two splicers and jointer here. Six gallons naphtha required. Please send authority to draw on Brooking. £100 required immediately for labourers house in a wilderness. Road to make and woods to cut down and clear. Ought to have more relays. Have only one. Great difficulty in sending letters from here. Have written fully.”

This was at once telegraphed to the Times; and we asked Newfoundland for information about the Persia and news. We received as follows
C. 11.53 24th
F. 12.16 25th
“Persia takes Europa’s passengers and mails. Great rejoicing everywhere in U.S. at success of cable, bonfires, fireworks, feux de joie, speeches, balls, etc. Mr. Eddy - the first and best telegrapher in the States died to-day. Pray give me some news for New York. They are mad for news.”


This was also sent off; and Thompson being in a mood for a lark proposed to telegraph to all the capitals of Europe for news; but he contented himself with telegraphing to London for intelligence from these places. Mr. Gurney sent off a message to Corfu, to Theodore Bunsen. After this paroxysm of telegraphing Dr Thomson tried some compensated currents, but this had been merely one of the cable’s lucid moments. Communication became gradually more difficult. Murray answered us from N.foundland that Thomson’s currents were very bad. I fear we shall never be able to accomplish anything unless the insulation of the cable becomes improved. At six I left for house. Thomson told us to go some time before, but who could leave such a centre of interest as that temporary room in the Valentia slate-works. It is an honour and a


privilege which does not fall to the lot of man to be present where the master minds of the age are realizing their proudest conceptions. What a night’s work, quietly and modestly ha[??]ted while all were asleep–uniting the uttermost parts of the earth into mental unity, holding fellowship with our countrymen through the ocean tossed in its efforts to keep us asunder.

25th. After a four hour sleep I returned to the office. We had returned to the old affair–“Repeat, Repeat.”- We sent the following several times before they could understand–
“Treaty of Peace concluded with China. England & France indemnified. The “N. American” with Canadian, and the “Asia” with direct Boston mails, leave Liverpool, “Fulton,” Southampton, Saturday next. This morning’s papers have long and interesting reports by Bright.”

There is a long, complete summary


of the latest news waiting here if they could only read our signals.

26th.–From 1 PM. to 11 A.M. not a signal was received. The galvanometer gave a strong, permanent deflection of 110 to 130, earth current only. At 11.22 we suddenly began to receive good signals and at 11.39 we began receiving the following.
“We have had heavy storm with thunder. Cable put to earth. Hour and twenty-five minutes strong permanent deflections on galvanometer. Sending at intervals. Take message for Gurney.”

I reckon this the most interesting message yet received. It is a taste of the many opportunities which the cable will open up for the study of yet doubtful phenomena. Here were the effects of a thunderstorm–a disturbance in atmospheric electricity–manifesting themselves in the two worlds at once.

We could not get the Newfoundland clerks


to pick up what we wished at all. We were trying all afternoon to give them to  understand that they were authorizing to draw on Brooking £100.

27th. The clerks spent all night trying to pass a long new message through. In the morning when N.foundland seemed to be understanding, the clerks discovered that their connections were wrong and for an hour or so they had not been sending into line at all. This arises from the innumerable experiments Dr Th. continually makes at the most unreasonable times. The wires are so numerous about the operating table that even when left alone they are puzzling; but when entangled and confused every few minutes mistakes must follow.–We received signals very variable. At 6 P.M. they were splendid, varying 60 (degrees). More frequently they were very weak. Dr. Thomson


says that not a 50th pt of the current which goes in comes out, whereas at Keyham a 10th remained! I expect great good to result from laying the shore ends.

28th. In the morning the signals became good. The Zero varied very much.
10.24 27th
1.6 28th
Received following.
“To the Directors. Take news first. Sir Wm. of Kars arrived at Halifax Tuesday. Enthusiastically received. Immense procession. Welcome address. Feeling reply. Held levee. Large numbers presented. Niagara sailed for Liverpool one this morning. Gorgon arrived at Halifax last night. Yellow-fever New Orleans. Sixty to seventy deaths per day. Also declared epidemic at Charleston. Great preparations at New York and other places for


celebration to be held 1st and 2d Sept. New Yorkers will make it greatest gala day ever known in this country. Herman sailed for Fraser’s River; 600 passengers. Prince Albert sailed Saturday for Galway; 250 passengers. Arabia and Ariel arrived at New York. Anglo-Saxon at Quebec. Canada at Boston. Europa left St. Johns this evening. Splendid aurora at Bay Bull to-night extending 85 (degrees) over horizon. -De Sauty.”

Dr. Thomson made a very interesting discovery; quite characteristic of his sharpness. About 2 P.M. a very sensitive galvanometer known as the Circular G. was being put in circuit for experiment. No sooner was it in, and the needle vibrating with the received current than the clerk watching Dr. Thomson’s instrument began to complain of irregular vibrations in the spot. Dr. Th. at once explained. “Oh! Here’s a


discovery. Now I know why they complain of irregularities in our signals. It is currents induced in the coil of their galvanometers by the motion of the needle.” He put his hands on the shoulder of a clerk standing by, jumped up on the receiving table, and by moving the galv. magnet, or bringing up & removing a separate one, proved that the current thus induced in the coil was actually stronger than that received from Newf. & therefore obliterated and blurred its indications. Other needle instruments did the same. A message was at once sent off to N.fdld on the supposition that they might receive it.

“The irregularities you complain of in our signals are induced currents from the coil of your large Galvanometer or relay due to motions of needle or adjustment magnet. Never receive on two galvanometers at same time. Repeat last word.”


[[??] Prof. Thomson told me that all these rumours are copied verbatim from Hamilton of London. I [??] the statement [??]]

29th Sabbath. Heard an excellent sermon from Parson Landiford on “Lo I am with you always &c.” He is a real Irishman, possessing an extensive vocabulary of good words; but not of the best taste–pouring them out in stream without economy. Sometimes he is led into laughable phrases–one in particular made me smile spite of myself.–Speaking of Paul.–“Lo he went up with merry feet to the judgment-seat, not minding Caesars lions snuffling and howling in their dens.”

About 12 last night some unavailing attempts at speaking were made. The zero varied much all day; and the earth-currents were very strong and violent in their action. Entries in the log, such as this were frequent.

12.25–Zero true. When put onto receive, went to 220° right and rapidly reversed to 150° left.

30th. A little was done during the night in the way of speaking. Received


as follows.

1.25 AM. Can read some of your sending. Take this message.
1.45-2.45–“New York. To the Directors A.T. Co.–Parties pressing upon us messages for Europe. When will the line be open for business? Has Mr. Morgan sailed for New York? Early on the morning of Sept 1st please send me message that I can read at the celebration that day and another on the 2nd I can read at dinner that evening. C.W. Field”.

To show how uncertain and capricious are the phenomena we have to deal with I give the next entry for the receiving period.

3.30 A.M.–Earth currents. Out of range left.

Dr Thomson started for Dublin this morning to attend the Lord Mayor’s banquet and fetch Mrs Thomson here.

At 4.16 Mr Saward, Secretary, telegraphed to the Superintendent two


paid Govt. messages for transmission to N.fdld. They were interesting both as being the first by way of business, and as showing in a very remarkable manner what important services the cable may perform for our Govt.–both in saving money; and in knitting the limbs of empire into one gigantic frame. When we have extended these wonderful wires to India & Australia, Great Britain and her Colonies will resemble in economy the human body. London the seat of supreme intellect, whence the electric lines, the nerves, ramify and distribute themselves, the medium by which her behests are made known and executed in the remotest parts of the huge structure.

These messages ran as follows.

“The Military Secretary to Commander-in-Chief, Horse Guards, London to General Trollope, Halifax, Nova Scotia, - The 62nd Regt. is not to return to England.”


(2)- “The Military Secretary to Commander-in-Chief Horse Guards, London to General Officer commanding, Montreal, Canada. The 39th Regt. is not to return to England.”

It is really most disheartening to have to record that it was found impossible at present to send off these messages. I was employed suspending mirrors and attending to Thomson’s instruments all day. He left me in general charge of these and his affairs here. I feel the responsibility to be great, as on the proper state of these instruments communication depends.–AT 6 P.M. signals, easily visible all day suddenly came to a range of 40°!!

31st. The night’s observations were not at all cheering. Sometimes beautiful reversals came, but no attempts at speaking. Everybody is grumbling against Thomson’s plan of speaking turn about


and sending reversals when they had nothing to say. But this mode was adopted that there might be no chance of each sending at same time. Besides we always speak; why don’t they. They have no orders to the contrary. But this is only one of many instances of an extra proportion of obtuseness at Newf. Earth currents were very strong in the morning. At 9.30, as part of the preparations being made for the arrival of the Directors, the cable was led in by a new way and 69yds 1ft cut off. The new joint being finished we put on to receive and found that we had missed part of a message.–All that could be deciphered was this–“Spot its (is?) difficult tell when you are sending. Field to Directors, but should like to have something intelligible from you ------it.” The currents were evidently coil-currents from the decisive rapidity of their movement.


--We kept asking if they could take govt. mess. At last about half past one, they said–“Try, but will try send repeat.” Betwixt 1.40 and 3.41 the first govt. message was sent. It was repeated back correctly; the message being with that end split in two. At 9 P.M. the second was got through. Employed getting up a new and better observatory for Thomson’s galv. I made an experiment with a bit of zinc and sixpence with paper moistened with saliva between; and the current thus generated knocks the galv. spot entirely out of range. This proves its extreme sensitiveness.

I have been much annoyed to-day with the generally prevalent disrespectful remarks regarding Thomson. Mr Bartholomew throws a slight upon him & his instruments


at every opportunity. He said that a number of rules for the guidance of the clerks would do well enough put up face to wall. I took the earliest opportunity to nail them up as openly as could be.

September 1st–At 12 last night we had the question–“Will you take service message?” The range of the spot was sometimes 170R to 160L. At 5 in the morning we began trying to get a message for Field through. At 11.32 the following was commenced, and received. “-C.W. Field, N.Y. The Directors are on their way to Valentia to make arrangements for opening wire to public. They convey through the cable to you and your fellow-citizens their hearty congratulations and good wishes, and cordially sympathize in your joyous celebration of the great international work.”


In the afternoon a number of the Directors arrived. The battery connected up for quantity, and the coils subsequently were tried; but without producing any good effect.

Sept. 2nd. The Coils and Daniells were used alternately through the night, but without result. Mr. Holmes had his galvanometer in circuit to-day Its principle is a secret. He wants £2000 for it. The coil consists of 1100yds 36 gauge wire. It is very sensitive, but while its index gives a reading of a small fraction scarcely visible, Thomson’s reflected spot describes a large arc.

3d. Nothing doing. Discovered that the leakage of our battery is very great. There is no G.P. to insulate them. By the order of Mr. Saward the cable was lifted at Church Island


and tested. With 6 sawdust twelves, 35° of earth was found between this and the shore. Mr Bartholomew said this was nothing -It may be so as regards our present difficulties, but certainly in so short a length it shows serious defect.–More of the directors arrived. Amongst others came Mr & Mrs Thomson. A board meeting was held at the house of Mr Leckie. Dr. Thomson is afraid that there is dead earth at between 200 & 400 miles off or little leakages between. In the afternoon the earth currents were very strong.

8.47–Reversals seen with great vibration of spot.

9.35–Splendid reversals.

4th. There had been a great take of fish last night. The road presented quite a picturesque appearance


from the number of people conveying home the fruit of the night’s labours. Donkeys with panniers full driven by strapping women or ragged urchins perched atop of all, little carts drawn by the invariable moke; women struggling under huge creels held on their backs by a rope or a straw band over their shoulders, or across the brow; little boys with strings of mackerel; fathers and sons, athletic weatherbeaten-men walking along with their coats over their arms.

At 12 A.M. the spot gave a range of 80°. On putting on to receive flew right out of range; first appeared 250R decreasing and increasing violently.

Mr. Saward asked Lundy, one of the clerks, to take out despatches to Newfdland. Anderson is to leave here for home on Tuesday 7th. I propose staying until October.


5th.–Nothing doing all day. Sometimes desire and fancy made out appearance of reversals. I met Dr. Thomson after church. He said–“Is not this an unhappy termination to our labours?”–Verily it is.

6th. Varley and Thomson both tested today. They agree that the fault is about 200 miles off. On the strength of this the Bilboa wh. was taking in the shore end at Devonport is countermanded. It is proposed to try under-running. I fear this will never succeed at such a depth as this distance would bring them to. At 11.30 P.M. reversals were received at the rate of 24 per min.

7th. AT 12.34 A.M. to 12.45 “movements so rapid as to make the spot in transit almost invisible.”–This must have been some violent magnetic storm. I am told the spot appears only as a streak of light from one extreme


of the scale to the other. Anderson left for home at nine morning. Dr Thomson and the Directors left at same time for the Killarney banquet. I am left in general charge of the Professor’s affairs.–Varley tested today as before. In the afternoon he continued sending a combined positive current into the line from 340 sawdust Dans. 50 liquid Daniells & 12 Smees working through the coils. The negative currents are short-circuited by a key. At 12.30 Sir Charles Bright and his brother arrived at Valentia. There seems to be a deal of conceit about him. Varley thinks the fault nearly 300 miles off. He says the use of coil currents on a line already faulty has destroyed the cable by making it worse. To prove this he experimented with artificial faults, and found that


the coils sparked and sputtered through into­o water when underneath its surface. The question is however would this be the case under the actual circumstances. I can’t believe that this would be like the action some 300 miles off. Varley sent nothing but positive currents to seal up the fault, as he says, by forming a combination of copper and alumina. He seems very anxious to get some words through. It is amusing to witness his attempts to manufacture signals out of mere earth currents. At 8.45 reversals were distinguishable though all but obliterated by earth-currents.

The Magivens [Russell's landlord] had several numbers of the N. York Herald sent by a brother there. The impression of the 16th contains a long leading article by the correspondent who accompanied the expedition [John Mullaly] levelled at


Mr Whitehouse in behalf of Hughes. The lies with which it is crammed are enough to make one laugh were they not wicked as well as absurd. The amount of party-feeling, and the striving one against another which I see daily and hourly in the acts of those around me make me more and more disgusted and eager to get away out of this. For example Bartholomew has been insinuating blame on Thomson on all possible occasions to-day for there being nothing but reversals from Newfoundland, and for other things with wh. he could not in fairness be said to be blameable.

8th.–Constant positive currents were sent into the line all day with the expectation of improving it


sufficiently to get a message through. Experiments as to the effect of coils were continued by Varley. I took a piece of the G.P. covered cable core and sent the current from the coils through it on short circuit. The wire of course became red hot, but the fact wh. is important is this that the G.P. bulged out in bubbles here and there showing the existence of air globules in its substance. The wonder to me is that such an extent of insulating matter as we have in the core of the cable can be had comparatively without flaw. The spare cable in store was measured that Mr Varley might test it for a standard; and found to be 1 mile 403 fathoms 1ft 4in long. Dr. Thomson and Mr Henley arrived in the afternoon.

At 12.20 P.M. rapid reversals were observed.


9.15 P.M.–Rec’d the letter I several times, reversals and letters. But nothing intelligible owing to the influence of earth currents. (The signals like the word “Daniells”).

Seeing that the letter I is represented in the Morse alphabet by two dots (..) no reliance can be placed on these fancied signals. Indeed unless an entire word comes out clear we can’t be certain that they are speaking.

9th. Varley continued sending positive currents into the line as messages, keeping a piece of G.P. below the spring of the receiving key wh. sends a negative. Dr. Thomson placed one Daniell between the line and Galvanometer for receiving; the copper pole being to line, the zinc to earth through the Galvanometer. He calculates from observations by this arrangement that what we receive


from N.fdld equals only a third part of the electro-motive force of a single cell Daniell’s. In evening zinc put to line.

In the morning some unintelligible signals were observed.

7.37–One cell with zinc to line

11.34-11.40 P.M.–A few dits and the [??] signal.

10th–Varley used the coils in the morning. Increased our battery power with 100 liquid Daniells in series with the sawdusts, so that we have now 440 cells in action!–By Dr. Thomson’s orders I divided these into two batteries; one sending a constant zinc current into the line; the other put on the reversing key for working as usual. The result is that the cable is always under the influence of a negative current, for when in sending a positive current is sent in the constant negative destroys it. This will make the fault no better but while keeping it open will deposit metal


or tend to do so at least. Positive electricity again forms an oxide, and mends the fault temporarily but at the expense of the wire wh. is ate away.–Varley drew up his report to-day. He concludes in it that the probable distance of the fault is 267 miles.

11th.–Going way down to mess from ”The Chapel” I went into a large, good building by the roadside wh. had been a national school but through the spirit of Catholic intolerance was put down. The schoolroom is large. The door swings open to the wind: the benches are topsy turvey; the school-bibles and hymn-books lying higgledy-piggledy in a doorless cup-board or strewn in loose leaves over the floor. This is the spirit wh. ruins Ireland.

Mr. Henley was testing today. He seems also to regard the fault as a long way off, more than 100 miles. He


has a beautiful galvanometer very sensitive with three miles 60 gauge wire in the coil. His magnetic machine is on its way from London. The same battery arrangement existed to-day as yesterday.

12th. Sunday. Lundy left this morning for Galway. He is to sail on Tuesday.–Mr. Saward employed himself all day making enquiries at the clerks concerning various facts having reference to Mr. Whitehouse’s letter. Somebody told him that I kept a diary; so he asked me for some particulars out of it particularly as to Dr. Thomson’s movements. One point seemed to astonish Saward–that in last testing with 6 twelves Bartholomew should get 35° earth and call it nothing. I was the only one who happened to notice the deflection. Saward expressed a wonder whether “Whitehouse was not right, after all this science” as to


the position of the fault.–I made some extracts from my “Notes” and gave them to him.

A.M. 9.30-10 Negative earth current overpowering positive of cell. Galvanometer requiring 6 compensating magnets.

A.M. 10.30-11.30 Out of range. Zero adjusted. Deflection 95R, then gradually 100L.

P.M. 7.30-8.30 Decided signs of signals but nothing readable.

P.M. 9.30-10.30 Good reversals.

13th. I was roused about 4 this morning by the banging and thumping of the front & back doors of the house accompanied by the shrill cry of a woman. As I guessed at the moment, it was a call upon the priest to go to a dying man.

Thompson questioned me about Bartholomew’s testing. He seemed surprised. He telegraphed to Galway the following addition to Lundy’s instructions.

“Keep negative current always on


line; never less than one cell Daniells. Send and receive through one cell, zinc line. On no account w positive current either from battery or coils to be admitted to the line till further orders from the Directors. By negative I mean zinc end of battery.”

His object in this is to use the Professors practical expression to “get silver from the sea”; and preserve the conductor.

In the morning the Earth Currents were very strong. Sometimes 4 magnets were requisite to overpower them.

P.M. 1.30-2.40–Received very decided reversals of good range.

465 cells were used for part of the day, 440 for rest. The magnetic cable between Valentia & the mainland is parted. The clerk had to shift over to the White Strand where the Red Iron House where the Company’s Offices were last year still stands.

14th. My ears were saluted the first thing this morning by the dolorous wailing of those who were keening over


the body of the man to whom reference is made under the 13th.

Mr. Phillips, Whitehouse’s assistant left this morning. I went over with Mr. Walker, Magnetic Clerk to the Red house where we remained all forenoon botanizing on the sea-beach with coat & shoes & stockings off.

In the evening Lord Colville, (a Scottish peer) in his yacht–“The Lavrock” [Russell has “Laverock”] entered the Bay. They came ashore immediately and were shown everything about the office by the Professor. Lord & Lady C. are both young, the latter of fine, amiable countenance. On my way home I saw the comet for the first time. It is very brilliant.

1.50 A.M. Beautiful reversals from Newfoundland at the rate of 1 per second.

2-2.10 Out of range and could scarcely be brought back by magnets.

5 P.M. One cell through Galvanometer and earth. viz–copper to copper


earth; zinc to cable earth–80R down to 65° cell thrown out. Earths alone gave 65° coming down to 60R&L.

This is part of several experiments made to test the effect of different earths on the readings.

15th.–Experiments on the earths continued. All the cells of the battery were again joined up; and only negative used. To-day as for the last few days experiments on faults were continued. Th. says one made by the prick of a penknife offers resistance equal 50 miles. The magnetic cable is being under-run. The captain of the “Shamrock” a gunboat employed sounding along the coast told Mr. Walker of a bank called the Coast Guard Patch, where the soundings go from 10 or 14 to 70 or 80 over which he believes the cable to be led. If this be so through the==+ action of the tide it must be chafing gradually away. Yet I scarcely think the very harbours mouth would be left unsounded before


bringing in the cable when even the deep sea was so well explored. I only wish the great bank betwixt deep and shallow had been more thoroughly examined. It may be a downright precipice.

7.30-8.30 A.M. “For last twenty minutes deflections rapidly from zero to 170° & 180°–When at latter great oscillation, out of range and up & down the scale both sides very rapidly indeed.”

16th. Nothing but these vagrant earth currents during the night. Experiments as before on faults. The circuit was complete in water through two slits in two wires. The coils blazed through them making the G.P. float like pease on the top. The battery did not find out a small fault until enlarged by the coils. After burning a conical hole, a positive from the battery was tried & found to mend the fault at once with oxide. There was a blaze below water when the battery passed through. Apparent reversals were produced by the formation and evolution of air or


gas bubbles wh. collecting at the fault, partially closed circuit and then removed so as to open it.  Dr. Thomson said–“There are seen beautiful reversals - Every fish going past gives the air an impulse.”–It was proved that the coils will not burn such a hole as the battery, for one wh. the former has burned to the utmost is burned much more by the battery.

7.21-7.31–Reversals. These I saw myself and certainly they were no impositions. There was a curious double nature. One of earth cur’t shifting the zero practically; another their reversals distinct and clear.

17th. Nothing but earth currents during the night. The usual experiments on faults were continued. Instead of being pricked with a penknife the wire was only punctured by a needle. A positive current was used and oxide of copper was formed. Bubbles of hydrogen


came off. The evolution of each was indicated by a decided jerk on Henley’s little galvanometer on the principle explained above. The addition of 300 miles resistance did not alter the effect much. Dr. Thomson said to-day that he would have any future cable tested mile by mile with the coils, it being submerged.

To-day we had rain as heavy and constant as I have ever seen it. All the roads were flooded and rutted. Going home at night one had to look sharply to their feet owing to the debris of walls &c left by the subsiding water.

I examined the log-book at the period when the cable was under-run by Whitehouse’s directions. I find that even then there are facts enough on record to show that besides the leakage near the shore wh. was then

(77) [page numbering is off, this should be 76]

removed, there must have been at some distance off a great fault wh. was not removed. The state of the case is this.–We had been receiving very well the preceding night. On Augt. 18th the cable was under-run. At 9.8 A.M. it was joined up after the operation. Not only could not they read us but we could not frequently read them; and it was not until 8 a.m. on Thursday, 19th that we commenced receiving the Pres. message.–Mr. Whitehouse plainly I think must be astray in his testing.–Saw Saward’s venomous note in “Times” to-day.

18th. This morning was a perfect contrast to yesterday—so bright, calm and peaceful. All the waters of the sea round the island are red with the earth borne down by the floods. A positive current from ten sawdusts


was kept on the punctured wire all night a copper plate being used instead of another wire to convey the current from basin to earth. The result was the formation of chloride of copper round the orifices like lava round a crater. The earth currents were slower than usual in their action during the night.–This was a “great day” in Valentia. The regatta came off to-day. Nearly all the money was contributed by Atlantic employees and Calcutt one of the clerks managed the whole affair himself. The greatest credit is due him for the manner in wh. the affair went off. The turn-out of people was wonderful both from the island and mainland. The day was bright too so that Knightstown presented a most gay and lively appearance. There were apple and cake women, fiddlers, a bagpiper, a booth for the sale of liquors, and country men and country-women ad libitum all dressed in their “braws.” Perhaps the


most Irish sight in the fair was a dancing master–a clean sallow-faced man in ordinary undress clothes–with his pupils–young men and women neat and trig and good-looking. The pupils danced to the sound of a fiddle, on the street while he superintended their motions in the more intricate parts by giving the name. Had I known more of dancing phraseology I might have picked up some rich specimens of the brogue I suspect. The first race was a sailing match in wh. three started. “The Nancy of Renard” won easily. But the excitement came after the race when the three boats got along side at the landing and one crew began “jawing” another. The scene was very picturesque. The men, fine athletic fellows, in shirt and trousers, with these red handkerchefs twisted turban-like round their heads; their brown features and dark eyes sparkling with animation. Their Celtic tongues went


right merrily, and had it not been for the intervention of some women their brawny fists would soon have been in action. The second race was a rowing match. The third would have been the best race being a Beg Innis against a Valentia crew. But they fouled at first. The one wh. got free first set off & wouldn’t come back. There is however to be a race some other day. Other races followed. But the great hit of the day was a donkey race wh. we got up towards dusk. Walker got 4 or 5 donkeys together. We took them out about ¾ mile and started them each riding another’s donkey, the last to be the winner. Walker, Keating & I ran behind to keep off interested parties from lashing the donkeys. We found however that this plan would not do; so we took them back again and started them in the ordinary way; the first to be winner. The race was capital. I was nearly half dead keeping up with the


mokes. The first got 7/6, the second 2/6.

Lambert told me that each of Whitehouse’s coils contains 5 miles secondary; and about 1½ primary.

1 to 2 A.M. Appearances of Reversals.

12 noon–Absolute amount of cable current 1/16th of what 10 Dans. send into the cable.

19th. Sunday. Show of earth currents.  No reversals.–It is rumoured that Varley is to be our Electrician.

20th. Only Earth currents, except between 7 & 8 A.M. when “something like reversals” is recorded. The “South Western” came into the Pier this afternoon and landed Henley’s monster machine and Thomson’s new recording instrument. This latter is very beautifully made; but as experiments conducted up to a late hour showed it requires some amendments to render it useful. Mr. Bartholomew returned in the afternoon.


21st. Mr. Whitehouse and Mr Phillips left this morning. At 2 P.M. Mr. Henley’s splendid magnetic machine was used in sending for the first time. This is a gigantic instrument of exactly the same kind as his patent used by the Magnetic Tel. Company. The grandeur of the thing is this that by simply moving a lever wh. reverses the poles of two magnets, electricity may be produced to the end of time without batteries with no other consumpt than the food necessary to support an agent. The flame will jump several inches. He tells me it is his intention to adapt it to electrotyping. To do this it must be made to generate electricity in quantity, and not as now in intensity.

Dr. Thomson gave me directions to-day about a plan for imitating cable signals on his quantity system. His object is to find at what speed the clerks can follow the spot and record from it. His arrangement is to have


a closed circuit with one pole of the galvanometer permanently fixed, the other reversing this circuit. The degree of deflection on the galvanometer increases of course as the distance between the fixed & movable poles increases. This arrangement acted admirably.–The race between Beg Innis & Valentia came off to-day, the former proving victorious. They are a crack crew I am told and have never been beaten yet. Their friends prettily cried out to them as an encouragement–Gramachree meaning–My dear heart or darling.–The usual experiments on faults were resumed to-day. Magneto electricity merely dissolves the water. Twenty cells were kept on two faults already spoken of.

8.45 P.M.–The observations show a very powerful negative earth current rapidly diminishing from 8.45 to 9 p.m. (Note by Thomson).

22nd. - Sending with Henley’s coils. Obliged to put off our watches


on entering the room lest the springs should get magnetized. I fear mine is done for already.–The clerks were practising the speed of reading to-day. First two sawdust Daniels, then 5 liquid Dans. connected up for quantity were used.–A villainous letter purporting to have been put in the American papers by Field appears in “The Times” of Sept 20th. I showed it to Thomson. He characterized Field as “an abominable scoundrel” if he really did write such a letter. I intend writing to “The Times,” but they won’t put it in likely.–The clerks sent off a letter of condolence to Whitehouse. They are all on his side.

3.25 A.M.–Decided appearances of signals–afterwards more like reversals at the rate of about 30 per min., with a range of 50°, zero continually shifting–varying from out of range left to extreme right.

11.5 to 12 noon.–Mr. Henley and Dr. Thomson saw distinct reversals with


appearance of dots and dashes.

2.25 P.M. Appearances of reversals.

23rd. The Earth currents were not so outrageous during the night. Two fresh copper earths were laid in the sea each 4 ft by 2 and connected with the office by two lengths of cable (1) 440 and (2) 435 ft in length.–Practising speed of reading as yesterday but with 8 cells. It is quite wonderful with what obstinacy some people oppose anything novel independent of its merits. One of the clerks said to-day he wouldn’t try to read fast–“d—m his new-fangled notions.”–It is sickening to me to hear such poor creatures taking their fun out of a man like Thomson. Even the very workmen in their vulgar way are constantly making a fool of him.

10.27–10.30 P.M. Rec’d reversals recorded on paper at the rate of 19 per minute.

24th. Sent off a letter to “The Times” signed “Clutha”–Went in the afternoon to Cahirciveen, and walked about a mile beyond


to Caran, the birthplace of O’Connell. The house must have been large, but it is now in ruins and covered entirely with ivy. It stands in a sequestered corner by the Cahirciveen river enveloped in trees wh. stretch up the hillsides making the scenery quite pleasant in the eyes of one long resident on Valencia. Delightfully situated in these woods high up the hill I observed a large mansion and began praising its situation &c. I was told that the property is in Chancery and the house in desolation–cows housed in the dining room and the birds build up in the bedrooms!–By this time it was quite dark. Behind us indeed a lovely harvest moon began to rise through the clouds over the hill tops. In the N.W. the comet appeared in great splendour. On our way home we were baited by a bull-dog. I threw a large stone wh. cowed him but drew down the ire of his Irish master who threatened to maltreat

(87 and 88 missing)


wire make the coil, and a semicircular magnet beneath makes the needle stable. It is intended to send the outgoing current through it that any defects may be checked at once. The whole battery of 450 cells gives only 50° on it. In the evening Dr, Thompson resumed his testing. He made a fault by baring about two inches of wire, and found that “the fault is larger because 12 secs. current works the artificial fault up but is not enough to work up the cable.” All the staff is invited out to supper Monday night by Dr. Thomson. I amongst the rest.

12.53 (noon) something like reversals.

26th. Sunday.–Henley’s instrument was used pretty constantly. It is thought from certain appearances of regularity in the periods of signalling that Lundy must probably have telegraphed some of his instructions from St Johns. In order to neutralize the earth currents, one or more cells is divided into 20 parts by a divided conductor of 100 yds, five in each



1.4 - 2.5 A.M. Some distinct reversals followed by four repeat signals. [These seem to have been veritable range[??] away[??] divisions. Collett clerk on duty, printed off the signals as they came, and did not know until he went to the slip & found four repeat signals recorded what they were.]

11.53 Henley’s galvanic circuit. Slight appearance of signals.

5-6 P.M. Reversals, 21 to 24 per sec very regular.

27th.–Dr Thomson was in good spirits this morning. He was describing several new instruments wh. are projected in his brain. One is some writing contrivance on the housebord[??] principle [perhaps a reference to Royal Earl House’s printing telegraph?] i.e. the plan by wh. he has been practicing the speed of reading. It is to be arranged so that by having[??] out[??] characters at one end they will be reproduced at the other. It is not for use in submarine but on land lines.–Henley charged the coils of his machine so as to make the current more intense. I took the full shock twice through my thumb and finger. Thomson was experimenting in the afternoon to divine


the lineal extent of the fault. The supper came off this evening. It was a very fine set out. The Doctor showed himself of a genial and social disposition. He kept the party moving very successfully by calling for songs all round, which he didn’t quite get.–Mr. Henley sat to his left, I to his right. Before parting we joined hands all round and sang–“Auld lang syne” of which I had several copies in my pocket.–It transpired that a vessel is coming round with a portion of the shore end.–Dr. Thomson also confessed himself an Irishman–born in Belfast.

28th.–Went to Cahirciveen where it was market day. The town, though frightfully dirty owing to the rains presented a picturesque appearance. Women with their long dark mantles, clean white caps and coloured cotton handkerchefs tied on their heads so as to fall down on each shoulder and down the back in this form:
Old clothes merchants; a man and two women standing on a cart in the middle of the 


fair amidst a pile of old coats, vests, jackets of all degrees of rank and in every stage of delapidation. There was a scarlet jacket too wh. one man thought would suit him very well–barring the colour. Several gaudy artillery-mens’ jackets were amongst the lot. Donkeys driven by ragged boys with straw ropes passed up and down now and then, some with creels of apples, many with vociferous young porkers. Rude carts too stood here and there with a few sheep or the more prevalent pigs enclosed within a railing. I noticed several people retiring from the bustle of the market place to spend a few minutes in devotion inside the chapel. In the area in front stands a huge stone cross at the foot of wh. an old woman was prostrate. On the chapel-gate were numerous little articles wh. had been left behind after [??] [??] hung up there for inspiration by these women. There were prayer-books, beads, crosses, miraculous


medals and scapulars, little pieces of black cloth with the cross and I-H-S. sewn on them in this fashion:
Thomson prosecuted his testing nearly the whole day.

11.35–11.45 A.M. appearances of signals

29th.–For the last few days, I have been inventorying and packing Thomson’s instruments &c preparatory to a removal. We both leave to-morrow morning. Today I had a regular set to from morning until late at night. Dr. Thomson gave a supper to all the work-men to-night.

This being the last night of my presence in the mess they all assembled to drink my health wh. they did. Then Thompson’s health was proposed & I made them drink it with Highland honours. Then came Whitehouse. We sung “Auld Lang Syne” before leaving the [??] in wh. was about 12.30. They all went with me to “The Chapel”. This was one o’clock in the morning. All were in bed. They sang–“Auld Lang Syne” before the door & wakened them up with their stentorian lungs. After a short parley, for I suppose they thought they were


surrounded by savages, I was admitted. The jolly band sung the grand Scotch hymn once more and went off.–I had every article to pack after this so that it was fully three before I could turn in.

30th. I shall skeletonize my observations now & bring this long journal to a close.

Dr Thomson posted. I took the Mail car from Cahirciveen to Killorglin, where another car went off to the left for Tralee where I slept.

It gave me much sincere satisfaction to find how warm the feelings of the staff were towards me. It has been no easy matter seeing they were all for Whitehouse to uphold Thomson’s name & maintain friendly relations with all.

Oct 1st.–Took the 3-horse coach for Tarbert. Got the railway steamer “Kelpie” for Foynes, from whence the train brought me to Limerick by 4.30 time enough to see the chief street, the “Quay”, The Treaty House, the Castle, Cathedral and Exchange.

2nd. Started by 4-horse coach for Killaloe at 6.45. Left


Killaloe at 8.30 by the “Duchess of Argyle”. Sailed up the Shannon to Athlone which we reached about 4.

Oct 3rd. Sunday. In my bedroom there is a rudely hand-drawn image of a heart with a cross sticking out of the aorta and something like a band of thistles (perhaps thorns) round it. Underneath was written in a cramped hand.–“The true image of the sacred heart of Jesus as revealed in a celestial vision to the venerable mother–Mary Margrit.” After Church drove to Auburn “The deserted village,” a distance of 8 miles. We saw the parsonage, mill, church, site of the [??] & thorn-tree[??]. It was frightfully wet all the time.

4th. Took the 9 o’clock train for Dublin where I arrived about 12.30. Mr Keating was in waiting and we at once commenced sight-seeing. We saw the Phoenix Park, Glasnevin, St Xaviers, the National Schools, Nelson’s


monument–Sackville Street–The Post Office, The Bank, College &c &c. At night we went to Jude’s saloon.

5th. Started again through the city–St Patrick’s Cathedral, Exhibition of Irish Industry; the chief squares, the College Buildings & museum, The Bank including manufacture of Bank notes. It was by this time close upon 1 when I took train for Belfast. The “Elk” sailed thence at 8 for Glasgow.

6th. After a rough passage we got to Greenock about 6 a.m. Took train there and cab at Glasgow, reaching Auburn [Auburn Cottage in Rutherglen was the family home] in time to join the family [??] at breakfast.

And so we were all once more met, I fear on my part not with sufficient thankfulness to a kind and watchful God. I shall never forget these 6 months. I have lived more in that time than in all the preceding years. But now it is all over, and it seems like a dream, for Memory dwells close upon the shadowy boundaries of dream-land.



Left Auburn May 6th
Reached Devonport   " 7th
Left Plymouth in Agam. for Bay of Biscay   " 29th
Returned to Plymouth June 3rd
Left Plymouth for rendezvous   " 10th
Reached Rendezvous   " 25th
Returned to Queenstown July 12th
Left Queenstown   " 18th
Reached rendezvous   " 28th
Landed at Valencia Augt 5th
Left Valencia for home Sept 30th
Reached home Oct 6th

By ship's log, the Agamemnon went, from 29th May to 5th August, over a distance of 6267 nautical miles.

The Agamemnon was launched, 1854.

2014 road route of Russell's journey back to Scotland after the conclusion of his cable work at Valentia. Traveling by coach, ship, and train, he left Cahirciveen on Thursday September 30th 1858 and arrived at the family home, Auburn Cottage in Rutherglen, Glasgow, in the early morning of the following Wednesday. Note that the map does not accurately show the sections where he went by train or ship, as it is restricted to present-day roads.


James Burn Russell Journal

Part V
My notes connected with
the Telegraph after my departure
from Valencia, Sept. 30th 1858.

Extracts from
Instructions taken out by Lundy

At 9 a.m. (G.T.) Wednesday Oct. 13th use reversing key with full battery (460 cells), negative for dots and dashes, positive for blanks.

At 9 a.m. (G.T.) Thursday, Oct 14th apply Whitehouse’s coils.

At 9 a.m. (G.T.) Friday Oct. 15th apply battery as on Wednesday. [At Valencia, Mr. Henley’s Instrument is to be used on this day.]

At 9 a.m. (G.T.) Saturday Oct 16th apply the battery and coils in series.

Afterwards use the full connection to the Morse key until further orders.


Each end sends and receives in alternate hours, N.fdland commencing from 9 a.m.

from Additional directions left by
Prof. Thomson Sept 30th
showing his plan for neutralizing E. currents.

Receiving Galvanometer to be kept on right side of zero by compensating battery.  If full power (24) does not suffice in consequence of a strong negative earth current from line which would send image to left add a cell or more to compensating battery which however may generally consist of only 2 slate cells.*

Plan of connections for compensating battery and apparatus.

*N.B. Join wire from line to south terminal of receiving galv., wire from north terminal goes to earth through compensating key, &c.


In receiving Galv. use only one small adjustment magnet.  One of the larger square bar magnets is always to be kept at hand to be used if necessary in cases of doubt as to the freedom or adjustment of the needle.  The five magnets of this size may sometimes be used for experimental purposes and the wooden bar below is left to support them in such cases.  But these must be carefully removed from the galvanometer in all ordinary observations.  Before switching on to receive test if necessary and correct the zero of the receiving galvanometer the screw may be used for this purpose generally.  But the shadows of the two points must never be sensibly doubled, and when necessary to avoid this the adjustment magnet must be slided by hand.  At the beginning and end of every hour observe and record the earth current unless out of range in which case record the degree of compensating power required to bring it to some position right of zero.  Let the record regularly bear what degree of compensating power


is on at each time.*  Enter frequently every day observations on the effect of 6 [degrees] of compensating power, say 11 on to 17 or any two numbers differing by 6 that give convenient readings.   Watch carefully the condition of the compensating cells.  When, either by their own appearance or by their effects shown by the observations on 6 [degrees] they appear to have run down, substitute fresh cells.  In any case do so at least once a week.

The North galvanometer is to measure the current into the line.

The Tangent galv. is always to be kept in circuit between the sending keys and switch. 

The battery is to be divided into 40’s for convenience in testing each Saturday.

*N.B. These degrees of compensating power give nearly an average effect of 100 [degrees] on scale of galv. as at present adjusted, Sept. 29–1858

Smith–Valencia 7th Oct.

“We continue the hour system and in sending use Prof. Thomson’s Daniells alternately with Henley’s instrument.  We have all received a letter stating that our services will not be reqd after 30th Nov.


Kingsford –Valencia, Oct 21st 1858

Would you believe it–but it is not very incredible as it has several prototypes in former acts–the Board sent a message to Mr Bartholomew on the 13th that no other currents but those generated by Henley’s magnet were to be sent into the cable–after sending Lundy out to arrange quite otherwise!!  The days you mention* were not marked  by any special appearances on the galvanometer but you will be glad to hear that yesterday evening (20th) was, for we received a message with several intelligible words.  It was as follows.–

Two hundred ard (sic. i.e. and) forth (sic. i.e. forty)” followed by a horrid jumble–then beaming out again thus–“Daniells now in circuit”; the words double-lined [here italicized] being perfect. Mr B. took it but did not know what he printed.  It came very slowly but some of the signals were beautifully powerful - ranging

*See page one


oftentimes 50 divisions.  They repeated it and it was partially read again later in the evening –so Mr. B. telegraphed for permission to use his discretion as to sending with Daniells which he obtained.

22 October

Captn. Kell–but not the shore end–has arrived.  That is in the vessel (a small craft) at present at Falmouth.  XXXX It has been a lovely day and the event has been the arrival of Mr. Whitehouse.–We gave him a hearty welcome.  He is looking well but thinner than when he left.

Lambert–Valencia, 22 Oct. 58

After giving a similar account to the above he proceeds –“This was received at 5 p.m. and at 8 p.m.  We received the same words and a great many unintelligible signals but nothing further was made out or have we received anything since.  Prof. Thomson’s Galv. still goes on very well although the clerks very often lose their “zero”, and get into a mess with it but “your humble”


servant general manages to set it to rights. 

XXXX Capt. Kell, arrived here on the 14th and is waiting for the Billy-boy with the cable which left London about 9 days ago.  He received a telegram this morning stating that contrary winds have compelled her to run into Falmouth.  She has nearly 8 miles of shore end on board, and it is Capt. Kell’s intention to join on to the present 4 miles, so I have great hopes it will be the means of re-establishing communication.


Mr. Varley’s Report (copy)

At the desire of Prof. Thomson, I beg to forward you the following report on the state of the Cable for the information of the Board on Saturday next.

There is an “earth” or leak in the Cable of great magnitude at a considerable distance from Valentia by which the electric currents passing through the Cable are greatly reduced in power.

By testing the Cable at different times and in three different ways the following conclusions have been arrived at.

First–the resistance of the Cable


between Valentia and the great fault is equal to 143½ units of my standard resistance.

Secondly–The resistance of the fault itself I estimate at about ten units; but not being able to get a current of known strength sent from Newfdld this point cannot be ascertained so exactly as desirable; but I think it may be safely estimated at not less than six units or more than 14–mean 10.

Each unit of resistance on my standard is equal to the following lengths of Atlantic standard.

(1)–According to the wire of high conducting power supplied by the Gutta Percha Co. to the E. and I. Telegraph Co. for the new Dutch cable
        1 unit = 1.7 miles of A. strand.

 (2)- According to Prof. Thomson’s medium standards.–1 un = 2.103 miles Atlantic strand.


 (3)- By measuring the resistance of a piece of cable in this yard of 1 mile 403 fathoms in length, I get 1 unit = 2.13 miles of Atlantic strand.

I am informed that at this end of the cable there are about 70 miles of cable of low conducting power.

Probable Distance of Fault

Measured Resistance   143½ units
Resistance of fault   10      
70 miles of low conductivity = 41     units
197   "      "   medium    " = 92½  

                267 the probable distance of fault from here.

Supposing the Cable were of the same conducting power as the short piece of 1 mile 403 fath. Before alluded to the distance of the fault would be


297 to 305 miles from Valentia.

State of the Cable beyond the fault

There is no appearance of any other fault on this side of the one alluded to; but from the extreme feebleness of the currents received from Newfdld there is great reason to fear that the insulation on the remainder of the cable is partially defective.  However were the great fault cut out, it is my opinion that the cable could be worked.

In fact there is a possibility of getting some correspondence through the cable in its present state were an understanding come to between here and Newfdland to repeat everything two or three times in order that the signals obliterated by the Earth currents in the one copy may be legible from the second or third.

The fault cannot be less than 240 or more than 300 statute miles of 1760 yds from Valentia.

[Sept. 10th]


Notes from my Journal
of various matters connected with
the Atlantic Cable

Left home for Devonport May 6th
Reached Devonport   " 7th
Left Plymouth in Agam. for Bay of Biscay   " 29th
Returned to Plymouth June 3rd
Left Plymouth for rendezvous   " 10th
Reached Rendezvous   " 25th
Returned to Queenstown July 12th
Left Queenstown   " 18th
Reached rendezvous   " 28th
Landed with Cable at Valencia Augt 5th
Left Valencia for home Sept 30th
Reached home Oct 6th

First Voyage Out.

Left Plymouth–June 10th

First beginning of storm Sunday June 13th

Height of Gale                       do       do  20th


June 22nd.  Began adjusting the main-coil

——   26th. Adjustment completed.  About 90 miles recoiled. -  Spliced for the first time.  Broke in about an hour by fouling on board the Niagara.  6.26 G.  Line spliced again
      Keep Ships Watches–

——   27th. Broke again at 3.30. Not known how. Between 40 & 50 miles paid out

——   28th Spliced again.

——   29th. Broke about 11.30 p.m. some 7 fathoms over the stern. 147 miles paid out.

——   30th. The main-coil unravelled cable was recoiled on the upper-deck.

Queenstown July 12th –18th

July 29th. At Rendezvous.  Spliced about mid-day.  Anderson & I had the first watch.  We also had the second dog-watch; 6-8 ship’s time.  Loss of continuity showed just after we


had sent our 40 mile signal;  and were receiving the Niagara’s acknowledgement (10 mins. constant).  Signals failed at 10 and returned about 11.30 p.m.

(Sunday) August 1st. Certain dubious variations observed about received signals this evening.  First see about midnight between 31st July & 1st Augt.  About that time three splices went over the stern.  Had paid out between 300 & 400 miles. (Say 360).

[Additional note against this date on opposite page:
Increase of outgoing curt. nearly a 10th on the average of each 3 hours.]

Pretty good during day.  About midnight became very bad.

August 2nd–All indications of a strong leakage into water.  Weak current signal sent.–Disch. taken at 1 sec equal only what used to have at 3 sec.  Anderson & I had morning-watch 4-8 a.m.  Disch. often dead earth; and recd. signals a mere flicker; espec. between 12 & 1 noon. –In afternoon considerably improved.  When this the most serious fault appeared we had payed out 520 naut. miles; were about 420 do from land & had only to pay out about 490 miles

[Additional note against this date on opposite page:The Upper & Orlop coils were cut out about mid-day and joined up again in the afternoon.].


Augt 3rd.–Part of cable again cut out and again joined up.  Out-going current still greater;  disch. less than formerly.

On trial for E. currents slight deflections of two to three divisions obtained.

At mid-night we (Anderson & I being on watch) sent the 200 fathom sounding signal.  Paid out about 850 miles.  Still to pay out 160.

——   5th.–Landed with cable.  Disch. scarcely half what it had prev. been for a corresponding charge.  Each vessel had payed out about 1010 naut. miles.

On Shore

6th. 7th. Setting up batteries.

9th.  Nothing but coil currents.  A fault suspected near this end.  Talk of underrunning & testing.

10th. 1.44 a.m.–Recd. first message: “Please send slower for the present.”
Thomson left for London.

11th. Receive well, but they (in Newf.) do not. Use Thompson’s galv.  Ordered by Whitehouse to set up 200 of Dr. Th’s cells


12th. First formal message. –[??] that “Coil currents were too weak to work relay.”

13th. Received and sent pretty freely.

14th. Canning arrived by Whitehouse’s orders & preparations for underrunning.  Underrun as far as the Ag’s anchorage & buoyed.

16th. Director’s message sent.

At 2.12 p.m. Mr Bartholomew began the Queens’s message.  Interrupted by underrunning operations–Finished at 6.29 next morning.–Repeated back in 1h 10 m.

17th. Cunard message.

Attempt to complete underrunning & failure.  Communication entirely stopped this afternoon though we received well.

18th. Underrunning competed.–45° of Earth found between office & Dowlus Hd.

[Additional note against this date on opposite page: Under date 18th Sept I find in my journal that I examined the log at this time.  We had been rec. well the preceding night. On the 18th cable underrun, and all joined up anew at 9.8 p.m.  Not only could not they read us, but frequently we could not read them; and not until 8 a.m. next day (19th) did we begin to rec. the Pres. message.]

Mr. Whitehouse left for London.

19th. President’s message sent.

20th. Message telling us that they read from Galv. & print with Morse key.  Received capitally to-day.


Deflections ranged 100 [degrees] for some time.
Mr. Bartholomew informed that Prof. Th. is now in charge here.

21st. Dr. Thomson arrived.
Newfoundland received well; requesting us to “send as fast as we can.”  Increasing battery power.

23rd. Nothing received all day.

24th. Mr Gurney (Chairman A.T.C.) arrived.  In the evening communication was very free.  Messages sent to “Times”.

26th. Not a signal read from 1 p.m. to 11 a.m.  This owing to thunderstorm.

After 29th. (circa) great deterioration.  Rapid predominance of earth-currents.

30th. Dr. Thomson left for Dublin, to Banquet.

31st. The two govt. messages got through.


1st. Sept. Coils tried, but no good.

2nd. Holmes trying his galv.

3rd. Cable lifted by Saward’s order at Church isld.  tested and 35° Earth found.
Mr. Thomson returned; Directors.
Nothing but reversals & earth-currents now.

6th. Varley & Thomson testing.

7th. Varley testing.  Sent + curt. of 34o sawdust 50 liquid Dans. & 12 Smees working through the coils.

8th. Constant + curt. into the line all day.  Mr Henley arrived.

9th. Varley still treats the line with +.  Thomson applied between line & rec. galv., one cell Dans. copper to line (i.e.+). In evening altered to Z.

10th. Varley used coils in morning.  Thomson divides battery into two, one half being kept constant Z. to line.

11th. Henley testing.


13th. Thomson telegraphed to Lundy orders not to use copper or (+) to line, always Zinc (-).  465 cells used part of the day.

15th. To-day and for past few days experiments of Dr. Th’s on faults.

16th. The battery does not discover a small fault until enlarged by the coils.
Reversals seen by myself to-day.

21st. Henleys Engine used for first time.

22nd. Decided appearance of signals–i.e. reversals & attempts at dots & dashes.

24th. Tested the cable alternately with an artificial fault resisting 280 miles; found the effects exactly similar.  With a positive curt. the res. of the fault varies from 2 to 3 to about 15 miles.  With a neg. it equals 1 mile of cable only.  In its av. state it probably resists less than two miles.


25th. Experimented with a piece of the cable in wh. about 2 miles of the strand were bare.  The fault must be larger as at 12 secs. curt. works up the art. but not the real.

26th. Distinct reversals & repeats.

Method of neutralizing & measuring earth-currents by applying fractions of one or more Dans. elements.

Left Valencia on 30th Sept.

Three articles in West of Scotland Magazine for Jany. Feby. and July 1859.

Agamemnon payed out at from 6 to 7 miles per hour.  Niagara quicker.  Strain from 1000 to 2000 lbs.


James Burn Russell Journal


[Note: At the moment only Appendix III and Appendix IV are available.]

Appendix III
Regular Signals

To be used for shewing the amount of Cable payed out from each ship.

1. During the first operating period after each ten nautical miles has been payed out from either ship; instead of the usual succession of signals a constant current shall be sent in one direction during 4 minutes and 54 seconds, and after a 6 sec. pause a current in the contrary direction during the remaining five minutes except in the cases of 50, 100, 150 miles &c.

2. The signal for 50, 100, 150 miles shall be five currents alternately in opposite directions each current being held on for 1 min 54 sec.

3. The signal for 100 miles, 200 and 300 miles shall be a current for 1 min. 54 sec. then, after a 6 sec. pause, a current in the contrary direction for 4 min. 54 sec. and, after another pause, as usual, a current in the first direction during the remaining three minutes.

4. Any of these currents on being received is to be answered by a constant current during 10 min. to shew that it has been understood.  Failing such answer the signal is to be repeated but in no case is the ordinary ten mile signal to be repeated more than twice.  The 50 mile signal or the 100 mile signal if not duly answered may be repeated four times but not more.

5. In cases of coincidence as to time each ship’s own signal is to have the priority over its answer to the signal received from the other ship, and its answer to the signal from the other ship is to be made during the first operating period available after its own signal has been made and answered.


Appendix IV
Extraordinary Signals

The following 5 signals may be looked for from the “Niagara”, and should they be observed they must be specially reported to the superintendent as well as entered in the observations book.

I – Ten Currents alternately reversed instead of the usual currents.

II – Five currents alternately in opposite directions and five minute’s constant being the exact reverse of the usual system.

III – Three currents alternately reversed then five minutes constant and these two currents alternately reversed.

IV – Three minutes constant then five alternately reversed, then two mins. constant.

V – Two alternately reversed, five mins. constant and two alternately revd.


Ist If the “Niagara” is going to cut & buoy.

II – If she is going to give a stoppage of signals of not more than two hours duration.

III – Implying that our signals are weak.

IV – If they warn us to expect weak signals from them.

V – Implying that she is in 200 fathoms water.

Other parts of the Journal, not yet available here, are noted below. The entire Journal may be viewed at the Glasgow City Archives, Mitchell Library:

Part I. May 6th through July 12th, when the first expedition of 1858 returned to Queenstown.
88 pages. Page 88 has the end of a humorous dedication to Russell's sister Agnes, signed “Lord John” (in quotes).

Part II. July 12th through 17th. The gap between the first and second expeditions.
“Notes of Atlantic Telegraph Expedition for Aggy. Doings on Shore.”

Part III. July 18th through August 5th.
“Notes of Atlantic Telegraph Expedition for Aggy.”

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Last revised: 7 November, 2016

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