REPAIR SHIP RESUMING PATROL
Vessel Ready to Resume Patrol of Undersea Networks
in the Caribbean
Skipper of the All America Tells How She Finds and Mends Breaks,
Halifax to Peru
ONE RIP MADE BY WHALE
Snarl Strangled it as She Stood By With Gear That Keeps Messages Moving
By GEORGE HORNE
One of the two cable vessels
now under the American flag has been in port since last Friday for quick
repairs and stores. She will depart late today for her patrol of southern
communications routes, ending her first visit to New York in twenty-two
She is the steamship All
America, owned by All America Cable and Radio, Inc., a subsidiary
of American Cable & Radio, Inc., one of the affiliates of the vast
Inter national Telephone and Telegraph Corporation family of communications
Capt. Frederick Hack of
Hempstead, L. I., her veteran skipper, has commanded far-ranging cable
ships for sixteen years and has been a seaman for most of his life
"We will sail out
tomorrow and head back for the Caribbean again, and we won't get far on
the route without a message about some break or a fault in the cable network,
and off we'll go to fish it out of the sea and make repairs," he
The All America has just
returned from the Caribbean area where she followed the unseen strands
in 2,650 fathoms off Watling Island, and another stretch of the cable
running from Guantanamo Bay to New York.
In patroling the undersea
networks from Halifax to Peru, the 1,819-gross-ton ship carries red-leaded
marker buoys, twenty miles of wire rope of eighteen-ton strength, miles
of heavy armored cable of three dimensions for different water depths,
and a weird assortment of grapnels.
What Can Happen to
Captain Hack and John
D. Bull, an English expert who is rated on the ship as the cable engineer,
explained the intricate business of tracking down breaks and flaws that
either cut off the flow of messages or weaken and confuse them.
Once near Lobos Island,
off Peru, they sighted a big sperm whale threshing on the surface, with
three turns of the weighty cable they were seeking coiled around his body. [see photos above]
"He had apparently
been feeding along the bottom at 400 fathoms and ran into our cable,"
Captain Hack said. "A whale can't reverse, you know, and he kept
pushing ahead and finally choked himself and drowned.
"That deep sea cable
is 0.98 inch in diameter and in water it weighs a ton a mile. There are
two other sizes, up to the 3.15 inch stuff for shore-end laying, which
weighs nineteen tons a mile in water."
detect a mishap to the cable and start a system of intricate electrical
tests to determine whether it is a break or a flaw. Many faults develop
by chafing, by undersea upheavals or simply by long submersion.
With Mr. Bull working
on the ship, and the station crews on the ends, the experts determine
first whether the mishap is an actual break or simply a bad spot, and
then they run down its location with uncanny accuracy. The All America heads for the spot and usually hits it within a half mile.
Then begins a series of
right-angle dragging runs with various types of grapnels - the flatfish
drag for mud and sandy bottom, a chain-type, a common grapnel and a rock-holding
grapnel with a wooden peg that gives way and permits the cable to be caught
and held for raising to the surface.
Cable is laid with an
8 per cent slack, meaning that over a given mile there will be 8 per cent
more cable than necessary. Despite the slack it is almost impossible to
pull up the cable for splicing and repairs without breaking it.
"Sometimes it's pretty
deep," the captain said. "The deepest I've worked is about three
miles. You can rarely pull it up without a break as you'd be lifting cable
for twenty miles along the line. It breaks 90 per cent of the time."
The repair experts pay
out cable at four to six knots, pick it up, or drag at a mile an hour
with the almost rigid wire rope by using a series of "sheaves"
which are really heavy pulleys strung in tandem along the foredeck. A
six-foot drum hauls or pays out the lines winch-style. In a storm work
eases after the broken ends are attached to buoys.
Under the main deck are
wells into which the cable is coiled-300 miles of it when the vessel is
Normally the patrol route
is from Valparaiso north to San José, Guatemala, but occasionally
the All America gets into the North Atlantic as far up as Halifax.
She is the only American ship on the run, but there is another, the Restorer,
working out on the West coast.
The two officers agreed
that "you never know when a cable will go." Some lines lie on
the bottom for fifty or sixty years without needing attention, while others
develop repair needs a month after laying, due to damage or flaws. Corrosion,
teredos that bore like sea-going termites, chafing, imperfect manufacture
- all are contributing causes.
Strangely, the gutta percha
covering over the heavy metal strands almost always outlasts the steel
The 296-foot cable vessel
was docked during her lay-up here at the terminal of Brooklyn Piers, Inc.,
at Twenty-third Street.
[Source: New York Times, 29 May 1950]
Returns After 5 Years
Of Lonely Two-Ocean Patrol Duty
The All America,
trouble-shooting cable ship of the All America Cables and Radio, Inc.,
is back in port after five years of patrolling in the Caribbean and off
the west coast of South America. The 1,819 ton yacht-like vessel is undergoing
extensive repair and refurbishing in the Todd Shipyards Corporation yard
in Hoboken, N.J. In six weeks she will head to sea again on one of the
loneliest assignments in the maritime field.
The All America and her sixty man crew are charged with maintaining and renewing 23,000
miles of submarine cables, some parts of which are as much as three miles
below the surface. The vital work keeps the ship at sea almost interminably
with only monthly calls for provisioning and cable replenishing.
Faults in the cables, which
stretch from New York to Valparaiso, Chile, with numerous offshoots to
Latin and South American countries, are detected by measuring the cable
from shore to the break by its resistance to the flow of electricity.
Consulting charts giving
the exact location of the faulty line, the All America criss-crosses
the area, dragging a giant grapnel until the cable is hooked. Brought
to the surface, it is tested and either replaced or spliced.
Capt. Frederick F. Hack,
acting marine superintendent of the cable company, which is a subsidiary
of the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation, said that the All America can carry 200 to 400 miles of cable depending on its
[Source: New York Times, 21 January 1955]
HACK, 61, HEADED CABLE SHIPS
Capt. Frederick F. Hack,
marine superintendent of American Cable and Radio Corporation and in charge
of its fleet of cable ships since 1958, died Friday of a heart attack
in St. Vincent's Hospital. He was 61 years old.
Captain Hack, who lived
at 223 Nassau Boulevard, Garden City, L.I., commanded far-ranging cable
ships for twenty-seven years before 1958. He was a seaman most of his
life and had been associated with American Cable for thirty-nine years.
He graduated from New York
State Maritime College and received his master's license in 1935.
Captain Hack formerly commanded
the steamship All America of the cable company, which patrolled southern
communication routes. In the Caribbean area his ship patrolled and repaired
cables from Halifax, N.S., to Peru.
[Source: New York Times, 27 March 1961]