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

1982 Burgau-Dakar and 1983 Burgau-Arzila Cables

In the early 1980s, Burgau, a fishing village in the Algarve region of Portugal now mostly known for tourism, became the landing the site of two cables.

In 1982 Section 2 of the ATLANTIS cable was laid from Dakar, Senegal to Burgau, the complete route being Brazil-Senegal-Portugal. The cable was made by Câbles de Lyon; Alcatel manufactured the repeaters. Laid by CS Vercors for CPRM/Embratel, the system length was 1570 nm and the cable provided 2580 x 4 kHz channels. This section of the cable was commemorated by a medal, the reverse showing a map of the route:

Cabo Submarino Atlantis 1982

Medal diameter 80mm
Bronze

CPRM telecomuniçacöes internaciones
CompanhiaPortuguesaRádioMarconi

Esc[ultura] Soares Branco
Med89.GR.Medaglis

In 1983 ATLAS was laid from Burgau to Arzila/Asilah, Morocco, also by CS Vercors. The cable was made by Câbles de Lyon for CPRM - MATELCA; system length was 193 nm. and the cable provided 1260 x 4kHz channels. This cable also had a commemorative meda; in this case the obverse shows the routel.

ATLAS was withdrawn from service in 1999.

Cabo Submarino Portugal Marrocos
Burgau - Asilah

Medal diameter 80mm
Bronze

Sistema Atlas 1983

CPRM telecomuniçacöes internaciones
CompanhiaPortuguesaRádioMarconi

Atlas medal images courtesy of eBay seller Bargainblasters

While the cables are no longer in service, a sign on the beach at Burgau warns passing ships of their location, and three cables may be seen running down into the water.

“Cabos Submarinos”
Detail of sign

Shore end cables, protected by
cast-iron cylinders

The cables are protected at the shore by an outer casing of interlocking cast-iron cylinders, of about 6" diameter. This type of pipe may be seen at about 13 minutes into the film on the 1964 laying of the Hawaii-Japan cable, TPC-1, on the CS Long Lines page, where it was used to protect the shore end from coral at Midway Island.

In his excellent article on the FLAG cable system, Mother Earth Mother Board, Neal Stephenson also remarks on these cylinders:

Shallow water is the most perilous part of a cable’s route. Extra precautions must be taken in the transition from deep water to the beach, and these precautions get more extreme as the water gets more shallow. Between 1,000 and 3,000 meters, the cable has a single layer of armor wires (steel rods about as thick as a pencil) around it. In less than 1,000 meters of water, it has a second layer of armor around the first. In the final approach to the shoreline, this double-armored cable is contained within a massive shell of articulated cast-iron pipe, which in turn is buried under up to a meter of sand.

The articulated pipe comes in sections half a meter long, which have to be manually fit around the cable and bolted together. Each section of pipe interlocks with the ones on either end of it. The coupling is designed to bend a certain amount so that the cable can be snaked around any obstructions to its destination: the beach manhole. It will bend only so much, however, so that the cable’s minimum radius of curvature will not be violated.

Detail of cast-iron cylinders


Burgau photographs courtesy of and copyright © 2010 Bob Rogers, by whose kind permission they appear here.

Last revised: 23 December, 2012

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