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

1890 CS Westmeath Cable Survey

Introduction: Julian Sahu shares information on his soundings sample case from a cable survey made by CS Westmeath in 1890. Included is a chart of the survey positions, together with detailed descriptions of the location, depth, and sea-bed composition of each of the samples.

Special thanks to Bill Glover for scanning the documents and transcribing the survey details.

--Bill Burns

CS Westmeath, built in 1882, was owned and operated by W.T. Henley's Telegraph Works and was chartered in 1887 to La Societe Française des Télégraphes Sous-Marins to lay cables in the Antilles.

CS Westmeath shown on Bermuda 55c stamps, 1990 and 1991

In 1890-1, cables were laid from Para, Brazil-Cayenne, French Guiana-Paramaribo, Dutch Guiana-Fort de France, Martinique-Charlotte Amélie, St Thomas, DWI-Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic: Martinique-Guadelope-Marie Galante: Guadelope-The Saints. System lengths: 556 + 278 + 704 + 403 + 403 nm.

Henley's made half the core; the French company La Société Générale des Téléphones (formerly Rattier et Cie.) made the other half. Henley's did all the armouring and cable laying.

As with every cable, a survey was made of the ocean floor for each part of the route. For the section of the route in the vicinity of British Guiana, Martinique, and Barbados, site contributor Julian Sahu has a case of glass-tubed sounding samples, a chart showing the position of each sounding, and detailed notes on the soundings, which were made in November and December of 1890.

The survey sample case, with chart (see below)

Julian notes that in the 1970s he had an interest in geology, and his father bought the set for him at a junk shop in Leicester.

“There are in total 47 soundings (one was broken when my father purchased the box) - each one has its original label, a detailed description of where the sounding was taken, and what the sample contains. The material is all by a D. Wilson Barker who I presume was the ship's ‘geologist’. I also have the original cheque that D. Wilson Barker was paid for his work - two pounds nine shillings and ten pence which is dated 3rd May 1892.

“The soundings appear to be taken in four groupings: a set between St Lucia and Barbados, a set to the east of Tobago, a set to the east of the mouth of the Orinoco River and a set to the east of Guyana / Surinam.”

Click on each section of the chart for a larger view



Chart showing the positions of 50 soundings taken by CS Westmeath

Six pages of handwritten notes:
Preliminary Report on the Soundings
See details below

Background: David Wilson Barker and W. Sharpey Seaton

Accompanying the survey documents is this cheque issued by W Sharpey Seaton to D Wilson Barker on 3rd May 1892, with a later note on the back:

24 March 1920

The previous and following cheques (709 & 711) are duly perforated with date of payment but not this one.

In Passbook it appears on 9th May 1892.

On counterfoil I have "Soundings Expenses".

The cheque is endorsed by D Wilson Barker, and is for the amount of two pounds nine shillings and ten pence. The note on the back was presumably written by Sharpey Seaton.

William Sharpey Seaton, Director of the Westmeath Expedition, was an electrical engineer who had worked with Sir William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) and Fleeming Jenkin. At the time of the Westmeath survey Seaton was engineer in chief of the Compagnie des Câbles Sous-Marins (the French PTT), based in Paris.

Sir David Wilson Barker (or Wilson-Barker as his name is often shown) was a famous naval man He lived from 1858-1941; he was knighted in 1920. He was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and the Royal Meteorological Society (of which he was President from 1903-1905). In his earlier career he was Staff at R & H Green, Blackwall Line, and later commanded SS Dacia of Silvertown Telegraph Works. His profession on election to the F.R.S.E. was given as Royal Navy, Meteorologist.

Shortly after the Westmeath survey, he was appointed Captain Superintendent of the Thames Nautical Training College, HMS Worcester, a position he held from 1892 to 1919.He was a friend and correspondent of Joseph Conrad, whom he met in 1911, when Conrad's son Borys joined the Worcester.

Wilson Barker wrote books which are still in use today: the Manual of Elementary Seamanship (1896), and (with William Allingham) Navigation: Practical and Theoretical (1896). He was also the author of The Antarctic Manual, for the Use of the Expedition of 1901, Things a Sailor Needs to Know, and Nature Notes for Ocean Voyagers.

Transcription of the six-page Preliminary Report on the Soundings shown above
Preliminary Report on the Soundings
taken by the SS "Westmeath" in the West Indies
for the Société Française des Télégraphes Sous-Marins under the direction
of W. Sharpey Seaton, Director of the Expedition
No. Date Latitude
deg-min N
Longitude
deg-min W
Depth Fathoms Designation Description of Sounding
1 2/11/90 10-57 57-44.25 2000 Foraminiferal ooze Orbulinæ, Globigerinæ, Miliolidæ; a few fragments of small broken shells; a few minute quartz grains; & detrital mud
2 2/11/90 10-57 57-51 1720 ditto Orbulinæ, Globigerinæ, Miliolidæ, Rotaliæ, Peneroplis; a few minute quartz grains; & fine detrital mud.
3 2/11/90 10-57 58-2 1400 Sand Fine, medium & coarse grains of clear (rare) brown, & yellow sand; a number of curious little yellow-brown cones (apparently, polyzoe); foraminiferæ scarce, only orbulinæ & globigerinæ; fine sand mud
4 2/11/90 10-57 58-16.5 1315 Foraminiferal ooze Orbulinæ, Globigerinæ, Miliolidæ; a few broken sponge spicules; a few minute grains quartz; a few broken dentalium shells; a minute bivalve & a few other minute shells; small particles of broken shell & fine detrital mud.
5 2/11/90 10-57 58-7.25 1434 Foraminiferal ooze & broken shells Globigerinæ, Orbulinæ, Hastigerinæ; fine grains sand, broken fragments of shells (Mollusca & Scaphopoda); & fine detrital mud.
6 3/11/90 9-13 56-54.5 1803 Foraminiferal ooze Globigerinæ, Hastigerinæ, Orbulinæ, Discorbinæ; with much detrital mud
7 3/11/90 9-15.5 57-5 1700 Foraminiferal ooze Globigerinæ, Orbulinæ, Hastigerinæ, fine grains sand; broken fragments of Scaphopoda shells; fine detrital matter.
8 3/11/90 9-17.5 57-15.25 1670 Foraminiferal ooze Globigerinæ, Hastigerinæ, (rare); fine detrital matter of an unpalpable nature
9 3/11/90 9-20 57-25 1717 Foraminiferal ooze Globigerinæ, Orbulinæ, Hastigerinæ; portions of polyzoæ; & a great deal of fine detrital matter
10 3/11/90 9-22 57-36.25 1693 Foraminiferal ooze Globigerinæ, Orbulinæ, Hastigerinæ; & fine detrital matter
11 3/11/90 9-24.5 57-47 1607 Foraminiferal ooze Globigerinæ, Orbulinæ, Peneroplis; a few quartz grains; a few black grains; fine detrital mud and broken shells
12 3/11/90 9-27 57-58 1580 Foraminiferal ooze Globigerinæ, Orbulinæ, Hastigerinæ; small pieces broken shell; minute lamellibranch; fine detrital mud
13 3/11/90 9-29.5 58-8.75 1500 Foraminiferal ooze Orbulinæ, Globigerinæ, Rotaliæ; a few quartz grains; & fine detrital mud.
15 4/11/90 11-14.25 57-40.5 1963 Foraminiferal ooze Globigerinæ, Orbulinæ, Hastigerinæ; fine quartz grains; few sponge spicules; & fine detrital matter.
16 4/11/90 10-57 58-42.5 1134 Foraminiferal ooze Orbulinæ, Globigerinæ, Miliolidæ; fragments of dentalium shells; a few quartz grains; & fine detrital mud.
17 4/11/90 10-57 59-3 867 Foraminiferal ooze Globigerinæ, Hastigerinæ, Orbulinæ; a few fragments of scaphopoda shells; fine detrital matter.
19 5/11/90 13-7.5 59.46 495 Foraminiferal ooze Globigerinæ, Orbulinæ, Hastigerinæ, Miliolidæ; quantities of fine grains sand & fine detrital matter
20 5/11/90 13-9.5 59-51 826 Foraminiferal ooze Globigerinæ (some stained red), Orbulinæ, Calcarinæ; & a good deal of fine detrital matter
21 5/11/90 13-19.5 59-57.5 866 Foraminiferal ooze Globigerinæ (many stained red),  Orbulinæ; minute Gasteropodæ shells; minute quartz grains; and fine detrital matter.
22 5/11/90 13-29.5 60-3 827 Fine sand & broken shells Chiefly fine sand; broken sponge spicules; Foraminiferæ (Miliolidæ, Orbulinæ, Globigerinæ, Rotaliæ); little yellow rods (probably minute worm cases) of agglutinated broken sponge spicules; broken dentalium shells; broken molluscous shells.
23 5/11/90 13-39.5 60-8 909 Foraminiferal ooze Globigerinæ, Hastigerinæ, Orbulinæ; sand grains; sponge spicules; pieces of scaphopoda shells; small pieces of molluscous shells; & fine detrital matter
24 5/11/90 13-45 60-11 900 Fine sand Fine sand, with a few black grains; Foraminiferæ (Orbulinæ, Globigerinæ, Miliolidæ); & fine detrital matter.
25 6/11/90 13-49.5 60-14 980 Fine sand Fine sand; Foraminiferæ (Globigerinæ, Hastigerinæ, Orbulinæ, Peneroplis); fine pieces of molluscous shells; a few fragments of scaphopoda shells; & fine detrital matter.
26 6/11/90 13-54.5 60-17 920 Fine sand Fine sand with many black grains; Foraminiferæ {Globigerinæ, (some stained red); Orbulinæ, Miliolidæ, Dicorbinæ}; sponge spicules; pieces of scaphopoda shells; small pieces of molluscous shells; & fine detrital matter.
27 6/11/90 14-0 60-20 972 Foraminiferal ooze Globigerinæ, Hastigerinæ, Orbulinæ; fine grains sand; pieces of scaphopoda shells; sponge spicules; fine detrital mud.
28 6/11/90 14-5 60-23 1013 Fine sand & Foraminiferal ooze Fine grains sand with a few black grains; Globigerinæ; pieces of dentalium shells; & fine detrital mud.
29 6/11/90 14-10 60-25.5 1056 Foraminiferal ooze Globigerinæ, Orbulinæ; fine grains sand; sponge spicules; pieces of scaphopoda shells; fine detrital matter.
33 6/11/90 14-31.5 60-39 789 Foraminiferal ooze Globigerinæ, Orbulinæ, Rotaliæ; dentalium; minute pieces of broken shells of; sponge spicules; minute gasteropoda shells; fine quartz grains; & fine detrital mud.
34 6/11/90 14-6.5 60-42 562 Fine sand Fine sand; sponge spicules; Foraminiferæ (Globigerinæ, Orbulinæ); pieces of dentalium shells; fine detrital mud.
35 6/11/90 13-58.5 60-37.5 784 Foraminiferal ooze Globigerinæ, Hastigerinæ, Orbulinæ; small pieces of molluscous shells & of scaphopoda shells; a quantity of fine detrital mud.
36 6/11/90 14-2 60-29 873 Foraminiferal ooze Globigerinæ, Hastigerinæ, Rotaliæ; pieces of scaphopoda shells; a few minute sand grains; & much fine detrital mud.
37 6/11/90 14-5.5 60-34.5 745 Foraminiferal ooze Globigerinæ, Orbulinæ; sponge spicules; small grains sand; pieces of scaphopoda shells; & much fine detrital matter.
42 17/11/90 7-21 56-3.4 98 Fine sand Fine sand, some coarse grains stained yellowish brown; Foraminiferæ (Rotaliæ, Orbulinæ, Globigerinæ, Discorbinæ).
43 17/11/90 7-22.8 56-3.4 230 Mud A fine impalpable mud, probably chiefly due to disintegration of the tests of Foraminiferæ (Orbulinæ; Textulariæ); sponge spicules; minute quartz grains.
44 17/11/90 7-23.8 56-3.4 360 Mud ditto
45 17/11/90 7-23.8 56-6.4 335 Mud ditto
46 17/11/90 7-23.8 56-9 237 Foraminiferal ooze Globigerinæ, Textulariæ; fine grains sand; broken sponge spicules; fine detrital mud of a greasy nature.
47 17/11/90 7-22 56-7.5 96 Sand & broken shells Fine colourless sand grains with sharp edges; numerous grains much larger much worn & of a brown colour, no intermediate sized grains; broken shells; sponge spicules; Foraminiferæ (Globigerinæ, Hastigerinæ); & fine detrital mud.
49 17/11/90 7-21.2 56-4.6 79 Fine sand, broken shells Fine sand; broken shells; minute worm tubes or broken shells; Foraminiferæ (Globigerinæ, Rotaliæ); minute gasteropoda shells; small ????? spines & portions of tests; sponge spicules; & fine detrital matter.
50 17/11/90 7-19.4 56-3.3 60 Sand & broken shells Sand; broken shells; Foraminiferæ, (Orbulinæ, Globigerinæ); sponge spicules;
72   7-16.1 55-47.1 50 Sand & shells Sand with a few black grains; shells (broken & perfect); Foraminiferæ (Globigerinæ); pieces of scaphopoda shells; Fragments of polyzoe.
87   7-18.5 55-45 75 Polyzoe Polyzoe; serpulæ tubes; small gasteropoda shells.
103       62 Sand Sand; Polyzoe; Foraminiferæ (Globigerinæ); minute gasteropoda shells; sponge spicules; & fine detrital mud.
125 24/11/90 6-11.5 53-36.5 20 Fine sand Fine sand; broken sponge spicules; a few bits of vegetable debris; some grains black stuff.
126 24/11/90 6-15 53-37 22½ Fine sand & broken shells Fine sand; broken shells; some fine black grains; Foraminiferæ a few; some perfect gasteropoda & lamellibranch shells.
127 13/12/90 19-19 73-10 1054 Fine sand Fine sand; Foraminiferæ (Globigerinæ); nullipore; shell; one particle of pitch; fine detrital mud.
 

Printed versions of the details of the soundings


Copyright © 2007 Julian Sahu and FTL Design

Last revised: 22 January, 2008

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