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

CS Sherard Osborn
by Bill Glover

CS SHERARD OSBORN

Built in 1878 by Scotts and Co., Greenock.

Length 274.7 ft.  Breadth 32.2 ft.  Depth 21.0 ft.  Gross tonnage 1429.

Twin screw. Compound engines 900 hp. Schooner rig.

Aden: Steamer Point. The Inner Harbour and Landing Pier.

The white ship is the Sherard Osborn.

The red roofed building is a sub office of the main cable station, used to relay last minute messages to and from ships in the harbour

Designed and built as a cable ship for the Eastern Extension, Australasia and China Telegraph Company. Launched 4 April 1878 and named after Rear Admiral Sherard Osborn, Managing Director of the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company from 1867 to 1874.

Fitted with standard paying out-picking up machinery, three cable tanks and bow and stern sheaves. Based at Singapore until transferred to the Eastern Telegraph Company in 1903.  Following the loss of Great Northern, Sherard Osborn moved to Zanzibar in July 1903, remaining there until 1919 when replaced by Cambria. At Zanzibar Sherard Osborn was responsible for the maintenance of cables running down the east coast of Africa from Aden to Durban.

Sold in 1921 to C. G. Smith and Company of Durban and converted into a factory ship producing fish oils. Shortly before being scrapped the ship was renamed Citta di Torino.

CABLE WORK

Captain Worsley
1883

Hong Kong - Wusung, Shanghai, China

   
1884 Singapore - Hong Kong; Renewed large part of 1871 cable
1884 Hong Kong - Tonkin
1884 Hong Kong - Macau
1885 Flinders, Victoria - Low Head, Tasmania
 
Captain Worsley
1885

Saddle Island - Port Hamilton

   
1889 Hong Kong - Saigon; Renewed large part of 1871 cable
1895 Australia - New Zealand; Renewed large part of 1876 cable
1897 Madras - Penang
1897 Manila - Capiz (Philippines)
1897 Taburam - Escalante (Philippines)
1897 Bacolod - Iloilo (Philippines)
1900 Foochow - Shanghai; Renewed large part of 1883 cable
1900 Tsingtau - Tschifu; 2 cables laid over this route
1900 Woosung - Tschifu

The Straits Times issue of 24 August 1878 had this report on the commissioning of the Sherard Osborn:

The Sherard Osborn is 270 feet long, 32 broad, and 23 deep. The twin screws are driven by engines of 900 horse pow­er nominal. The registered tonnage of the vessel is 875 tons, the gross tonnage, however, is 1,429 tons. There are four cable tanks, and water-tight bulkheads allow water ballast to be used to counteract the loss of weight when paying-out cable.

On Monday, 3rd June, in response to the invitation of Mr. John Pender, as chairman of the company, a large number of scientific gentlemen and others interested in the cause of electrical progress proceeded by special steamer to Greenwich to inspect the Sherard Osborn and the works of the company. The ship, fresh from the builders’ hands, and gaily decorated with bunting in honour of the occasion, excited the unqualified admiration of her visitors, who were none the less pleased that her fittings throughout betokened that strength and utility had not been sacrificed for the sake of mere outward effect. Admirably adapted for the performance of her special duties as a cable ship, the Sherard Osborn is however, not lacking in the elements of comfort necessary to those engaged in the arduous work of cable-laying in the burning climes for which she is destined.

The four large tanks were as yet empty. At the works, however, to which the visitors next proceeded, the cable about to be embarked was rapidly approaching completion, so that the elaborate process could be examined in all its stages. The experience gained during the past few years has shown that the deep sea cable has many foes, and a new feature in the construction of the one destined to form the first cargo of the Sherard Osborn had for its object the defeat of that most pertinacious enemy, the teredo navalis. For this purpose, amongst the eight coverings with which the precious copper is protected there has been introduced a wrapper of brass tape, and it is confidently anticipated that this final precaution will baffle even the teredo navalis.

Note: The “teredo tape” described in the article above had only just been introduced in 1878 by Henry Clifford, Chief Engineer of the Telegraph Construction & Maintenance Company, at whose premises the Sherard Osborn was moored.

Last revised: 14 October, 2011

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