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

The Submarine Cables of the World - 1892

From Manufacturer and Builder, Volume 24, Issue 5, May 1892, published by Western and Company, New York.

A survey of the cable network, which in 42 years had reached almost 300,000 miles of lines worldwide.

The Submarine Cables of the World

In looking over cable charts showing all the submerged wires lying in every sea and connecting every land, it is observed that the longest unbroken lines of cables are those crossing the North Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe. The shortest over-water distance between the two continents is 1,630 miles, but the shortest under-water distance followed by the cables at the bottom of the sea is nearly 1,900 miles.

There are ten submarine cables lying along the floor of the North Atlantic Ocean between America and Europe, and these ten lines of wires are the property of five corporations. Three of the lines lie between Valencia, Ireland, the western-most part of Europe, and Heart's Content, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, the eastern-most part of America, a distance as run by the cables of 1,880 miles, and are the property of the Anglo-American Telegraph Company. This organization was founded on the old Atlantic Telegraph Company of which Cyrus W. Field was the promoter and which was the company that laid the first Transatlantic cable in the Great Eastern, between the above termini. A fourth cable belonging to the above company runs between Brest, France, and St. Pierre, Miquelon, a cable distance of 2,680 miles.

A second corporation covering the same ground is the Direct United States Cable Company. This company controls a single cable between Ballenskelligs Bay, Ireland, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Length of line 2,560 miles.

Another Transatlantic association is the Compagnie Francaise du Telegraphe de Paris a New York. It operates a single line 2,242 miles long between Brest and St. Pierre, Miquelon. The other cable following this route is the property of the Anglo-American Company.

The fourth company holding cables in this part of the sea is the Western Union Telegraph Company. Its two cables stretch between Penzance, England, and Canso, Nova Scotia, a length of wire of 2,530 miles each.

The last company to lay wire in this North Atlantic region was the Commercial Cable Company - often called the Bennett-Mackay Cable Line. It possesses two lines connecting Waterville, Ireland, with Canso, Nova Scotia, a cable distance of 2,360 miles.

If all the above cables were spliced together a total length of 22,958 miles would be the result.

It may not be uninteresting at this time to take a hurried glance at some of the more important other great routes of submarine electric communication:

The best known telegraph company to Americans is the Western Union. It is essentially an American institution and its land wires are run on poles in every nook and corner of the United States, When it leaves its aerial station some of its wires - as seen above - run to England. There is also a double line from Key West to Havana, which places the Western Union in connection with the wires of other companies leading to all the West Indies and Windward Islands, the East Coast of South America, the Isthmus of Panama and the West Coast of America.

Another American organization is the Mexican Central and South American Telegraph Company, with headquarters at New York. The cables of this company leave Galveston, Texas, for Vera Cruz, making a stop on the way at Tampico. At Vera Cruz a land wire crosses Mexico to Salina Cruz on the west coast of Mexico and joins a cable that makes three ports before touching Panama. From Panama the line runs to the southward to Callao, Peru, making four ports of call en route. Last year this South American Telegraph Company further prolonged its cables from Callao to Iquique, the great niter depot of Chili, and thence direct to Valparaiso. All told, this association has sunk some 5,500 miles of cable.

The two Chili ports above are also touched at by the cables of the West Coast of America Telegraph Company. This corporation, whose headquarters are in London, operates 1,700 miles of cables between the termini Callao on the north and Valparaiso on the south, making intermediate stops at the principal ports of Chili. North, the cable connects with the Central and South American Company, and so to the United States and Europe; and at Valparaiso it connects with the land wires running across the Andes and the Pampas of Argentine to Buenos Ayres where the River Platte Telegraph Company's short cable of 32 miles connects with the Western and Brazilian Telegraph Company. This company, with headquarters in London, runs its cables into nigh a dozen Brazilian ports, as far north as Para, where it meets the French company's wires that go to the West Indies and Cuba and then by Western Union into the United States and thence to Europe. The length of the cables of the Western and Brazilian Company is 3,760 miles.

At Pernambuco, Brazil, the above company is put in connection with the Brazilian Submarine Telegraph Company. The cables of the latter company are doubled over the entire route, and thus the length of the submerged wires is 7,326 miles. The lines run from Pernambuco to St. Vincent, Cape Verde Islands, a distance of 1,850 miles; thence to Madeira, and thence to Lisbon, whence all Europe and the rest of the world can be brought into connection.

This Transatlantic system of the Brazil Company might under certain contingencies prove of inestimable value, for should the ten cables of the North Atlantic be all damaged at the same time there would remain but the Brazilian lines to communicate with the other continent.

Reference has been made above to the French Societe Francaise des Telegraphes Sous Marins. Its headquarters are at Paris. From Vezen on the coast of Brazil (connected by land wire with Para) the French cable extends to Santiago de Cuba, making stops at Guiana, Martinique and Hayti. From Cuba the route is to Key West, the States and so to Europe.

Before leaving American waters mention must he made of the West Indian and Panama Telegraph Company of London, operating 4,119 miles of cables among all the Islands of the West Indies and the adjacent mainland. This company runs a line from Cuba to Jamaica, to Colon, thence to Panama and the West Coast of America. Another line runs from Jamaica to each and every Windward Island, reaching the mainland at Guiana, whence the French line is brought into the circuit and so Brazil and the Brazil Submarine Company.

Two new lines are projected in American waters, the one from Nassau to the Florida coast, the other from Honolulu to California. The former will be laid within a few months, the later not for some time.

There are other lines in operation that are not mentioned, notably that from Halifax to Bermuda. While important, they do not form properly a part of the great systems of the world.

The longest and doubtless the most important cable service in the world is that under the supervision of the Eastern Telegraph Company of London. The length of its cables is approximately 25.000 miles. Beginning at Falmouth, England, cables are laid to Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar, thence to nearly all the Mediterranean ports in Europe and Africa. From Gibraltar also a direct wire is sunk to Malta and thence to Alexandria, Egypt. Next the wires of this company take the water at Suez and run the length of the Red Sea to Aden, and thence they make Bombay and so bring into the circuit, by land wires, the whole of India. At Aden the Eastern Company makes connection with an East African system running to the Cape and thence up the west coast back to Gibraltar.

The Eastern Extension Company, practically the same organization as the Eastern company, begins an extensive submarine cable system at Madras, to which place the land lines bring the Eastern's business. From Madras the lines are laid to the Malay Peninsula and Singapore, that thriving half-way house between Europe and the East. From Singapore one branch line goes up the sea to Hong Kong, China, and Japan. Another branch goes to Java and then to Australia, where it joins the land lines to the Southern and Eastern coasts, meeting the cables to Tasmania and New Zealand. The whole number of miles of cables under the direction of the Eastern Extension Company exceeds 15,000 miles.

There are several other private submarine telegraph companies besides those mentioned above. Altogether there are 25 such associations, having under their control 247 different cables, of a grand total length of about 110,000 miles.

In addition to the cables owned by private corporations, there are 26 separate governments having under their control 800 cables of a total mileage of more than 12,500 miles. It has been estimated that if all the submarine cables, long and short, laid throughout the waters of the globe were added together a grand total length of nearly 300,000 miles would be the result.

Copyright © 2007 FTL Design

Last revised: 30 November, 2008

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