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

Cable History at the Valentia Heritage Centre
County Kerry, Ireland

The Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry, on the southwest coast of Ireland, is one of the most important areas in the world for cable history - the starting point of many Atlantic telegraph cables, from the first attempts in 1857 and 1858 and the first successful cables of 1866, through the rapid expansion on the route in the 1870-1900 period, all the way to the end of the Atlantic telegraph cable era in the 1960s. The area was recognized in 2000 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers as an "Electrical Engineering Milestone", and this is commemorated by plaques at the appropriate locations.

Valentia Island was the base of the very first attempts at the Atlantic cable laying in 1857 and 1858, and of the successful expedition of 1866, and is the location of the oldest Atlantic cable stations in the world. The 1857 and 1858 cables were laid from Ballycarbery at Valentia Harbour, while the 1865 and 1866 cables originated at Foilhummerum Bay. The map shows the many cable locations on the island.

Cable sites on Valentia
Click image for large version
Image courtesy of Margaret Brown, Old Cable House

The Valentia Heritage Centre is just outside the centre of Knightstown (marked with an asterisk near point B on the map above; see also this Google map showing the Heritage Centre—the large building on the north side of School Road). The Heritage Centre's own website has further information.

The Centre has several rooms of local history displays, one of which is devoted entirely to the cable. There are cable samples, instruments, and other artifacts, and some excellent display boards on the history of Valentia and the cable, with many photographs. The staff at the Centre are most helpful and informative, and are happy to talk about the history of the island and its industries.

Visitor Information

The Valentia Heritage Centre is open from 10.30am to 5pm daily, April to October, or by appointment by telephoning or e-mailing.

The entrance fee is 3 Euros for adults, with a family rate of 8 Euros for two adults and two children.

Email address: cablemuseum@eircom.net

Website: vhc.cablehistory.org

Telephone:
International: +353 66 9476411
Ireland: 066-9476411

For more information on the cable history of County Kerry, and detailed descriptions of the sites on Valentia, see the Cable History Trail page. For general information on Valentia Island visit Cathal Guiney's site. See also the Telegraph Field website for details of the original installation on Valentia.

Here are some views of the cable history room at the Heritage Centre:

Cable and telegraph equipment on display

A souvenir of the 1858 cable - framed sections of
the cable, with photographs of the two main ships
of the cable fleet, the Niagara and Agamemnon

Research Material Needed

The Atlantic Cable website is non-commercial, and its mission is to make available on line as much information as possible.

You can help - if you have cable material, old or new, please contact me. Cable samples, instruments, documents, brochures, souvenir books, photographs, family stories, all are valuable to researchers and historians.

If you have any cable-related items that you could photograph, copy, scan, loan, or sell, please email me: billb@ftldesign.com

—Bill Burns, publisher and webmaster: Atlantic-Cable.com