James Burn Russell as a student at Glasgow University
Introduction: At age 21, James Burn Russell (1837-1904), one of William Thomson’s research students at Glasgow University, was invited by Thomson to accompany him as an unpaid assistant on HMS Agamemnon during the laying of the 1858 Atlantic cable.
Having left Glasgow on May 6th to join the project, Russell kept an extraordinarily detailed journal of his experiences at sea and on land from June 10th until his arrival home on October 6th, after five months away. This document was known only to the family until 1993, when Russell’s biographer, the late Edna Robertson, tracked down his granddaughter, Agnes Rodgers, who had preserved the journal among family papers.
Photocopies of the journal were subsequently given by Robertson to Glasgow City Archives, Mitchell Library, and are available to researchers by appointment (TD1434/1). Some parts of the journal are reproduced on this page by kind permission of the Mitchell Library.
James Russell wrote the manuscript journal for his younger sister Aggy (Agnes Bryson Russell, born 11 September 1838) as a record of this time, and it contains much interesting information about the 1858 cable expeditions and the subsequent work in Ireland. It is one of the few hitherto unearthed primary sources and is all the more valuable for having been written by a student of Thomson who had a very good understanding of what went on technically.
According to the chronology in Part V, Russell left Glasgow on May 6th (the day after his 21st birthday) and proceeded to Devonport and then Plymouth. From Plymouth he sailed on HMS Agamemnon for tests in the Bay of Biscay on June 29th, returning to port on June 3rd. He then spent a week in Plymouth before sailing again on June 10th to lay the cable, which is where Part I of the diary picks up the story.
Parts I, II and III describe the events of the 1858 Atlantic cable project from June 10th up until the arrival of HMS Agamemnon at Valentia on August 5th. This marked the successful completion of the cable between Ireland and Newfoundland, the USS Niagara having laid the other end.
Part IV continues his account as the cable staff begin work at the Valentia station on August 6th, and describes the events there until Russell’s departure from Valentia on September 30th, followed by the details of his journey home to Glasgow. This section’s 96 manuscript pages are transcribed below.
Finally, Part V contains additional notes and a chronology of the entire project; there is also a short section of appendices. For easy reference, the page from Part V which contains Russell’s overall itinerary for the five-month project is shown immediately following this introduction. The itinerary also appears, with minor differences, as the last page of Part IV.
Based on the experiences described in his journal, Russell subsequently wrote three articles on the 1858 expedition for The West of Scotland Magazine, and a somewhat shorter version of the story for the Sydney Morning Herald, where his father was literary editor. Extracts from the latter piece were used by Silvanus P. Thompson in his 1910 biography of Lord Kelvin.
Thanks are due to Allan Green for discovering this interesting document in the Glasgow archives in the course of his research, on which he posted a brief note at the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, and to Mary Burns for transcribing (and in many cases deciphering) the over 33,000 words (so far) of Russell’s journal which appear below. As we are working from second-generation photocopies of the manuscript pages, a few words are doubtful or could not be resolved at all, and these are set off with brackets: [ ].
James Burn Russell occasionally uses Scottish dialect terms and quotes various lines of poetry and classical literature. I have added links and notes to explain the context of some of these.
James Burn Russell Journal
Chronology (from Part V)
|Left home for Devonport
|Test voyage to Bay of Biscay:
|Left Plymouth in Agam. for Bay of Biscay
|Returned to Plymouth
|Part I - First expedition of 1858:
|Left Plymouth for rendezvous
|Returned to Queenstown
|Part II - A few days off between expeditions
|Part III - Second expedition of 1858:
|Landed with Cable at Valencia
|Part IV - Working the cable at Valentia
|Left Valencia for home
|Part V - Supplemental notes
James Burn Russell Journal
[the first expedition of 1858]
Atlantic Telegraph Expedition,
June 10th Thursday–After four this morning my rest was rather disturbed by the racket and row wh. attend preparation for sea. The lively notes of the fiddle by wh. the men at the capstan timed their tramp reached me in the subaqueous depths of the cockpit. By the time breakfast was half-over, two tugs took the Agamemnon on each side and lugged him along, like the Satyrs “[??ering]” drunken Bacchus. What a delightful morning we found on mounting the spar-deck. The slight mist floating over the country made me rather sentimentally but only mentally “babble of green fields.” I just thought what a profitless life is a sea-faring life for studying creation and experiencing the delights wh. it was intended to impart. [In getting] out of the Sound beyond the Breakwater, the coast of Cornwall, or at least a snatch of it, lay fronting the sunlight. The village of Corson, on
the outskirts of this old British refuge looked very fine straggling up the wooded shore. Above it elevated but a little from the slope stood a very unpretending fort; - one however wh. has the heaviest metal around Plymouth. We intended to have sailed after the tugs had thrown us off, but the wind was right ahead so that we had to lie logging about until steam was got up. We have sailed, however, after going in search of a fair wind & finding it, using the screw as an auxiliary to give us a shove on now and then. The Niagara, Gorgon & Valorous have lodged about with us all day, now before, now behind, now far off, now near. About eight P.M. when the watch was called the order was given–“All hands on deck to lift screw;” but the wind is so light that we make but slow work of it. Nothing could be smoother that the motion of our good ship under full sail. About eleven, just before turning in to bed I took a peek up on deck. There is something very mysterious about the aspect of a ship’s rigging clothed in canvass, as seen from the main deck through the main-hatch at night. The night was
pitch dark, and the light from the sentries lanthorns added to it apparently, so that the great sails looked phantomlike against the sky. The ghostliness of the scene was doubly enhanced by the phosphorescence of the sea. I don’t remember having seen such a more grand and overawing sight. The Ship gliding on steadily, slowly, without a tremor; the night “murky,” the sea all around black, but starred with the light of breaking wave-tops, and with the light of the rest of the squadron; the ripples from the bow spreading into a sheet of light every second or two, and the water line marked with a streak of fire. I thought of phantom ships and seas of flame; but neither Dante nor Milton ever dreamed of such a scene.
June 11th. Found the watch letting down the screw, and the rest of the hands taking in the sail, the wind, such as it was, had become right ahead. About ten the Niagara lay to until we were alongside. She really is a perfect model of marine architecture and looked very noble though so sadly out of trim and overladen. We have made
very little progress during the night; and are not much more than off the Scilly Islands (At mid-day Lat. 49° 50', Long. 6° 44'). Mr Cyrus Field came on board from the Niagara about 11-30. A conclave met in the Captain’s sitting room immediately after but the results have not transpired. Our course is N.W. and we are steaming very slowly along to as to save our coal for the laying of the cable. I was much delighted tonight as I have often been before, with the hilarity of the sailors after supper and just before they are piped up for their hammocks. There are two fiddlers amongst them who scrape away gloriously at their strings. The sailors gather round in a group and sometimes sing in unison, sometimes dance in couples with all the formalities of the ball-room, [xx] the pipes wh. gentleman & lady generally have stuck between their teeth. There is something curious about the effect of music on me, I know not whether peculiar or no. Even this strumming does me good. The men are very jolly; they have their funny hands who seem overflowing with all sorts of tomfoolery. When
the dancing commenced, the cry went round for “Baltic.” “Baltic” soon appeared & began dancing in full sailor-fashion. The night closed in on us much more clear than the day, but before bed-time it was raining furiously, a slight head-wind, and the ship going like a snail at the gallop. We are going about 5 knots an hour, consuming 12 cwt of coal.
June 12th. Found all sail set, and the sun shining brightly. But oh! how little wind. The captain, the engineers tell me, is getting very fidgety about our supply of fuel. Well he was, for if it runs done when the cable is threequarters down it will be a fearful business. (Lat. 49 43, Lon. 10 8). After breakfast I took a turn on the poop luxuriating in the sunshine, and watching the porpoises blowing all round. The spout looks like a jet of steam rising from the sea. I believe a shark followed us yesterday all day close by the stern. A bait was thrown over but did not prove acceptable. I wish I had seen him. About one the wind freshened a little and we “up screw.” I got into the ward-room and saw the prop.
When one looks at the immense mass of brass he can scarce imagine it whirling round in the water at the rate of 60 or 65 revolutions per minute. It is set in a frame wh. would present a profile something like this at a side view.
This is hauled up by two enormous ropes working on two large wheels at A. The light falling on the water surging up and down in the well gave it a curious light, luminous blue colour. All the squadron sailed along. Our studding-sails are all set. To-night “divisions” were terminated by the quick, alarming [tinkle] of the fire-bell, and the first lieutenant bawling out–“Fire in the main-coil.” This is intended to test the vigilance of the men. Such a helter-skelter ensued. Some up the rigging to reef the sails and bring the ship to windward, some to the pumps, some to the hose, some to the fire-buckets. Sentries to the boats with muskets, &c &c. After tea while standing on the poop we were signalled by the Valorous wh. although by much smaller than the rest being a paddle wheel steamer
like our largest Clyde-boats, carries the senior captain of the squadron, and therefore can order us about at will. The signal was–“Where are you going.” i.e.–Why don’t you follow me?, and the result was that we all changed course very beautifully. Just before going down to my duty, my attention was drawn to some curious fish gamboling about just off the Port gangway. They turned out to be porpoises–a shoal. We could see them like a flashing yellow light passing along close below the surface of the water. Sometimes they went along like a pair of grey-hounds in couple, keeping exactly in line. Then the would give a leap up showing their dorsal fins about the surface, then down, then along, then down with a jerk at right angles to their former course. To-night again it rained violently. But about eleven it cleared up and the stars shone out very brilliantly, a fine smart wind carrying us on at between six and seven knots.
June 13th–Sunday on board a man of war is a day specially devoted to cleaning, scrubbing, rubber brushing, sweeping, washing, dressing and every manner and mode of purification. The first
sound I heard on awaking was the grinding of the “holy-stone” (pumice) along the decks. On going to the poop I found all the boys on board ranged in a row on the quarter deck. Fine hardy, open-faced little fellows they are; all clean and big. Everywhere, as I have said, the marines & blue-jackets were preparing for “divisions” or muster. The marines assembled on the poop in full rig, and such a scanning they underwent–back and front–from their bayonets to their buttons. They were made to run their ram-rod down, then rest its head on the muzzle of their rifles for inspection. The lieutenant rubbed it with his white glove to see if the least particle of oil or rust was present. But the blue jackets looked best all drawn up in two rows on each deck, with their clean worsted jackets, and the great collar of their blue-striped shirt hanging over their backs. Before then I had myself made ready for the Sunday inspection of cabins by the Captain. The marine Taylor had swept it out nicely and made the bed. I sorted the books in the little book case & made all things very tidy. Afer divisions, at eleven divine service was read. A table was set at the main-mast, on
the main-deck. A cushion was laid for the officiating officer to kneel upon and overall one of the signal-flags having a large black cross upon it, was draped so that the cross was in the center of the table. The fourth lieutenant has a fine Harmonium on wh. he is continually playing. He got his instrument out on the main-hatch and had it nicely enclosed with three signal flags. He also formed a choir at the captain’s request. The component members were rather motley–The Times junior correspondent, some electricians, an engineer, two marines, and a number of sailor-boys in their clean blue clothes with their knives all tied round their waists. The boys had beautiful voices, and considering the amateur nature of the attempt, it was successful. The instrument was a fine one. Before the choir and desk were seated the rest of the boys and marines, behind them a little the sailors. Aft the desk were chairs for the captain, officers of the ship and those connected with the expedition. But what formality was all this. The first lieutenant read the service - a splendid sailor and a fine fellow in the light of all on
board, but one whom I have heard screaming a bit at the men. The call to service was the [gentle] tolling of the ship’s bell. Just at this time, it begain to get gusty and to rain heavily. The wind freshened and the rain poured all afternoon. We are scudding along under canvas at about ten knots–very good for a ship so heavily laden and out of trim as the Agamemnon. We had a jolly dinner to-day. Thursday and Sunday are the ”dough-days” (duff-days). One of the desert dishes was a very good bread-and-butter pudding. As I ate some of it, I thought of Auburn and Aggy and the dainty productions of her housewifery, and wished I could have a bit chat with her. About three thirty it came on to blow quite a gale. All hands were piped up to shorten sail. The rattling and cracking of the sails, the whistling of the blast through the rigging, the shouting of the captain & lieutenants who had all turned up on the alarm, and the whistling of the “bo’son’s” pipes were very exciting. After a time’s struggling with the blast, we were going along steadily under dou-
ble-reefed topsails. The dangers of the sailors life began to appear though on so slight an occasion as the present. Just about this time the sun shone out, and the wind being fresh the manes of the whitehorses looked beautiful, and the Niagara riding over the waves was very noble. The sea gradually rose with the strength of the wind. At tea we could just keep the tea-things on the table. I saved my tea-cup saucer and two plates when on the verge of the precipice. About eight the sea was well up, the spray was breaking over our bulworks, though they are high. The ship rolled and pitched terrifically. Just when hands were piped up for hammocks, she gave a fearful lurch. Ever so many marines “whummled” over hammocks and all and part of our paying out machine was upset. When at supper about nine she took more fearful lurches. Once, all at the table went whirling chairs and all into the scuppers, the bread-basket with the sea biscuit following around their feet. Again, one of the engineers went in his chair with his glass of grog in his hand right against the bulk-heads, back again to the table
and off again to the bulk-heads. There is some fear of the spar-deck coil going overboard. If it does it will be a fearful job. A great number of our fellows are knocked up. I feel quite jolly. It is very amusing & exciting to watch the big waves coming on, and tell before when the ship will give an extra lurch. The windows of some cabins on the main deck are smashed. All the ports however are now fastened firmly down.
June 14th–I did not get a wink of sleep all night from the creaking of the ship’s timbers. They absolutely roared every lurch she gave. My bed is a swinging one, but as my chum Anderson has a bed at night at right angles to mine it has no room to swing, but comes now thump on the bulworks, now “thud” on the foot of his bed. While dressing I could scarce refrain from choking with laughter at my attempts to keep my feet while washing, and at the uproar on the orlop deck. The men were at breakfast and seemed to be upset by one fearful lurch, tables and all. Such roars of laughter found their way to my ears. Then
the men in the cockpit were trying to wipe up the water but their buckets were breaking loose and careering over the deck. On going up to the electrical room to see if all things were upright, I found water an inch deep over the floor and the seams leaking on our instruments from the straining of the deck coil on the bulworks. (Lat. 50° Long. 19') An [engineer, crossed out] captain of the Royal engineers sleeps in a berth next, and his sword, wh. he had put on the partition betwixt us is lying covered with the flood on the floor. I thought we were not to get breakfast at all. The first cooked was upset at the galley and before we could sit down to another some device for holding the dishes on the table must needs be found. We had no fiddles i.e. paddle shape across the table in this fashion,
but we extemporized them with ropes. What fun it was, lashing our chairs to the table legs and sliding backwards and forwards with the lurches of the ship, drinking our coffee scalding hot lest we might lose it altogether, and hunting knives & forks over the floor. My chum Anderson and many other of the electricians
laid up in bed. While setting up a new keyboard of Dr. Thomson’s, all hands were piped up to shorten sail. I went up to enjoy the exciting scene, & found it a repetition of what occurred yesterday. A smart wind [cralling] through the rigging, the sea like milk, and the usual medley of voices shouting and pipes piping. In our wake I noticed with interest a flock of [swallows crossed out] Stormy Petrels pursuing their prey close along the surface of the yeasty waves. About one it blew still harder, so that we had to shorten sail still further, and the sea rose still more. The sailors now allowed that it was a gale in no mistake–“a full gale.” At dinner only three of our boys appeared, but the sport of keeping our places and eating our service before it [ran] off was renewed. After dinner I took a peep on deck; the wind was blowing hard and the sea shining beautifully. On our starboard bow a vessel was visible on the horizon–a barque the signal-man said. As she came near the Agamemnon and Niagara hoisted their respective ensigns. In reply she showed the French flag. There was something wh. struck me as very beautiful
in this silent salute. The barque rode most gallantly over the waves. Just after a squall came wh. we could see coming on our port quarter for some time before. We reefed topsails and took in main sails. I went to the electrical room, and was busy at my wires when she took such a lurch to starboard. The main deck ports wh. form our windows were buried in the water. I was forced to put my hand nearly through into the green waves wh. bubbled up over the [port]. This was fortunate for I just managed to catch a clock and machine attached to register the cable as paid out, when about to run out at the window. A great uproar arose outside. On opening the door to see the row I found that a boy had just tumbled a somersault down the orlop-hatch with a mess-can of hot tea wh. of course was poured out rather soon, and the pen in wh. four sheep are kept had broken from its moorings and was careering back and forward with the startled animals sliding about in it. About five the worst squall we have had came on. The hands were [all??]
and at their posts ready to shorten sail still more. That we could not do so yet as the Niagara was to windward, and owing to bad management on her part always drifting down though we were keeping off. At last she also kept off and we separated by some distance. The spray was coming over our bows. I saw the Niagara ship a [regular] sea over her bows. I guess we shall have a great sea resuming in a short time if it goes on to blow great guns as it is now doing. (The birds noticed as swallows before were stormy petrels–Mother Cary’s chickens. But I saw a real swallow last Saturday wh. was tired, poor thing, and would have alighted had the sailors allowed it. We saw them also in the Bay of Biscay.) The gale continued. While at supper in the gun-room, in wh. the tiller works, men came in and put up the reeving tackle as a reserve to keep the rudder amidships if the tiller rope should break. Such fun as we had keeping our places. I moved myself or rather my chair at the head of the table and held on. This was nearest the scuppers and the others came flying past me chairs and all. [Name]
a fine open-hearted, jolly fellow went right through his chair. Such laughter when I picked up the back from among the debris and held it up to view. Shortly after he went right bang into the scuppers, sliding with the chair on his back. One fearful lurch sent three of them, chairs and all, topsy turvy; one nearly got a black eye, another gave his hand a twist. Our books were drenched with grog and I got a glass in my face. I went to bed about 11, but it was no use. The creaking of the timbers racked and strained by every lurch was such that it was impossible to sleep [ ] I gave my sick companion Anderson, who had been unable to rise during the day, my swinging cot. His is fixed and athwart the ship so that the sleeper is placed alternately on his head & his heels. This however would not have troubled me had there been no noise. The matches (contraband by Capt Preedy’s orders.) were damp but after keeping them close to my person for a bit, I managed to strike a light and sat on the edge of the bed, with difficulty holding on sometimes, reading ‘The Heart of Midlothian’
About one, sleep overpowered the racket around and I fell asleep.
June 15th. A fine fresh breeze carrying us on with topsails, fore sail, and jib full set. At breakfast all were talking about the fearful lurches our good ship gave towards morning when I was sleeping. The engineers spoke of one especially towards two, when she went so much on her beam-ends that is was some minutes before she recovered. The spar deck coil is working the bulworks away from the deck on each side so much that all the cabins are flooded with the water making its way down from the scuppers through the crack. It has been shored up from the deck instead of from the bulworks, but anything in this [way] is very little to resist the weight of some 240 tons when the ship goes on her beam-ends. The wind veered round almost ahead about midday so that we have to alter our course from the directions. We are still between five and six hundred miles from our destination. (Lat. 51° 25' Long. 18° 55' I think last entry is wrong. I got it second-hand). There is a nasty chopping sea run-
ning wh. knocks us about at a rare rate. The Niagara we can see poking her nose out pretty often. Towards morning it came on[this word ends with a descender] our [consolation] that one of the large beams wh. support the main deck is broken through. The fact is that the vessel is being torn asunder piecemeal. They say in the engineers’ mess that she will have to be taken near all down after this expedition is past. All our electric operations are at a stand until something is done to ward the water off our instruments. We took them all down to-day. We are going to have an awning of canvass spread over the table. As the ship is under sail, the engineers also are idle. I have several of Scott’s novels and they are so much in request that I can scarce keep one for myself. Chess and whist are also in vogue. They are a jolly, manly set of fellows. They have all seen service in the Baltic and Black Sea, some in Burmah and China, some in the seas about Jamaica. Some are men of great intelligence as well in literature as in their own particular branch. At night, until ten when all
lights must be extinguished; they simply play the flute or amuse themselves otherwise. G[ ] Harvey sings excellent comic songs. Indeed he is intensely comic in his ideas. Before turning in I went to the poop and wasn’t the “[ ]” [fitting]. I never understood fully before what sea songs say of the freedom and liveliness of a sea life. When one stands on the deck and feels the good ship mounting a great swell bows up, then bounding down the other side stern up, it imparts electricity to the spirits, just as if one were taking a hedge on a good hunter.
16th. Through previous want of sleep, I was so tired last night it that in spite of the [ ] all were [?ing] I had a pretty good sleep. All were talking about our pitching. Landsmen’s opinions are not generally true as to the sea, so instead of giving mine, I shall merely record that in our mess, those who have been all over the globe say they never knew a ship pitch as she did. Poor Anderson is losing heart. He said he wished we were safe back again. I rather enjoy the fun of watching the swell coming
and the ship bounding over it like a grey-hound. Not withstanding our unwieldy load, she rises to it beautifully. But my feelings would be vastly less sentimental were I sick! (Lat. 52° 5'–Long. 21° 2' - From our destination 480 miles.) Another beam has broken close to the one wh. already went. The sea fell a little towards evening, a fresh breeze still blowing. I saw a pair of gulls today picking up the refuse of the ship. How they get on I can’t imagine being so many miles, some four hundred, from nearest land.
17th. When I awoke this morning about six, my ears were saluted by the sound of water “jabbling” about in close proximity to me. On looking over my bedside, I saw my shoes and stockings and sailor hat cruising about over the floor. After lifting them out and puzzling myself a little
as to how the deluge occurred, I turned over to sleep. After a little a stoker came in and began washing up the water. The stokers bath is quite close and they had left the cock wh. supplies it unturned, so that when the sailors began to pump water to wash decks all the cabins on this side were inundated. I doubt “wee Grannie’s” socks have not been improved by the water getting through my trunk. The morning was wet and uncombortable in appearance. The sea however was a little down. We were sailing close-hauled with a fresh but not favourable wind. I believe a sailor was heard saying this morning “all this is ’cause they played that bloody hurdy gurdy last Sunday. (Lat. 52° 40', Long. 23° 12') About one we hoisted our top-gallants for the first time since Sabbath. We commenced
making alterations in the electrical room in order to lessen the water wh. stopped our operations this week.
18th. Waterloo day. Last night before going to bed, I had a long talk and walk on the poop wih Mr Clements senior assistant engineer. During the Russian war he was out to China in the Encounter corvette hunting out pirates in company with the Barracoota. They destroyed 80 junks in one place and the Encounter alone 60 on another occasion. They also took the French Folly Fort, a very stiff affair. Commander Elliott who declined an engagement with the Russian fleet and incurred much odium on that account volunteered to go in search of them again. The two vessels went with them that their force might not again be unequal to the task. On reaching the mouth of the River Ansoor after cruising
along the coast of Kamschatka in a bootless search, they saw a great pile of timber, cut and sorted. The boats were manned to destroy this store, but no sooner had they got within cannon range than they were saluted by showers of grape. Several men were severely wounded. Thinking their reception rather hot they retired. On making a survey from the masthead, a light smoke was discovered curling up in the air. This denoted the presence of a village. So they blazed away with red-hot shot and shell at the smoke and burned down the unseen houses. To draw out the Russian artillery they sent the boats to make a feint on some point of land. This drew out their fire, and our guns were at once levelled on the spot. Experience however soon taught the enemy to be quiet. All this time not a vessel was to be seen. They were
safely in hiding up the Ansoor. My friend’s vessel and the Barracoota volunteered to go up and try to find them. After threading their way though shallows and windings for a considerable distance the Barracoota [ran] [ ] ashore, the tide wh. was very strong their, left her in the mud. They determined upon throwing her guns overboard and receiving the crew in the Encounter, if the enemy appeared; but they did not and after taking out her water tanks, provisions and guns &c, they drew her right through the mud-bank and saved her. (Lat. 53° 15'.Long. 25° 51'). Nothing noteworthy to-day. We had some rain. Owing to the wetness of the decks from this and the sea wh. leaks in through the ports, there is a great deal of sickness among the crew.
A fresh wind but not a favorable blew all day. We are far off our proper course. The Niagara signaled in the afternoon–“Why don’t you steam?” We answered–“Because there is so much sea on it would do us no good.” I observe a considerable difference in the temperature; it is much colder. I thought of Grandpa in connection with this anniversary of Waterloo. How few are his comrades!
19th. I remarked this morning something wh. brings out the immense size of the Agamemnon. Orders first emanate from the lieutenant on the poop to the boson. He tells his mate who sounds his whistle and shouts down through the hatch to the main-deck. A boson’s mate is attached to each deck and the order is passed from the main to the lower, from the lower to the orlop deck. My
cabin is on this latter and I can not hear the first whistle and cry it is so far up. The sun was shining and a brisk breeze blowing when I went on deck. We were going five knots. A merchant ship was in sight on each beam going the same course as we were. At breakfast we had a sharp discussion about the admission of Jews into Parliament. I am happy to say nearly all were against the Lords. I would never do for a lawyer in respect of coolness in argument. Nothing of interest occurred to-day. We are still steering out of our course. Dr Thomson told me to-day that it would be Wednesday or Thursday before we reached our ground. Then if the weather continues so squally we can’t do anything even if there. We have not what can be called bad weather now for this part of the ocean, but the sea is not sufficiently smooth for the making of the splice wh. is to be done in a boat be-
tween the ships.
“Sweet day so calm so cool so bright
The bridal of the earth and sky!”
These lines are brought forcibly to my remembrance through the force of contrast. Last night we all remarked in going to bed how smoothly the vessel was sailing. On awakening this morning about seven she was rolling and pitching at a fearful rate. The wind had been unsteady during the night and about four it blew a gale. With some stratagems I washed, dressed and got to the messroom. Only the chief assistant engineer was there, and only a round of corned beef and his own breakfast dishes on the table. Nothing would stick there. Coffee was upsetting. Sugar basins rolling over. But this was nothing we got our breakfast. I went up with [Banks], who takes charge of the Company’s instruments, to see how things were setting up in the Elec-
trical room. We found things pretty safe, excepting that the water wh. we thought to have avoided had come down over the newly erected instrument table. All this time the Agamemnon was rolling fearfully. Just as we were leaving she took an extra fit. I was looking with seriocomic feelings at the result of one lurch. A boy with a jug of scalding water was upset and scalded; a marine was pitched into the scuppers head foremost and rolled backwards & forwards in the water.
Suave mare magno &c [Lucretius]
All at once I myself was thrown against the weather side next the electrical room door, but not down. The scene was alarming and beyond my power to describe. She lurched her “gunnels” under. All the windows on the weather side were smashed. The sea came gushing in like a torrent and over the deck through each door. In the cabin next our room, three clerks
sleep. One of them was in bed in the topmost of two bunks. The sea cleared both away and landed poor Lundy down amid the wreck. He came out on the deck in his night-shirt, as pale as a ghost. But the worst incident is yet to be told. To make room for the main coil the ships coal-bunkers had to be greatly cut down; so that the coal is packed in bags along the lower and main deck aft. All the coal on the weather side broke loose and was projected forward to the lee side. Some went down in a shower mixed with the sea through the hatchways carrying away ladders and window-lights right down to the orlop deck. The bustling about of the surgeon and his two assistants told me something was wrong. Harvey, engineer, the most amusing and heartsome of our mess was just coming out of the mess room when the coals went and jammed him up against a post. He cried out to the sentry who pulled him out when the next lurch eased the load off his body a little. He was carried
to the sick-bay (the hospital at the bow). None of his ribs were broken, but his chest and shoulders were severely injured. The Naval buttons on his vest left their impress in his flesh. The drummer happened to be passing and was entirely covered up. On being excavated his arm was found to be broken in two places, the bone sticking through the skin. Another man had his fingers crushed so that one had to be cut off. It was supposed for some time that one of the boys was buried under the bags but happily it was not the case. Amidst the confusion the boson’s whistle sounded from the spar-deck and the word was passed - “Wear ship.” This gave no relief to the labouring ship. She rolled as if she would roll her masts out. Just about this time a sailor fell and broke his collar-bone. It gave me a strong idea of an engagement seeing one and another led past injured, some pale as death and tottering with faintness. My companion Anderson and other electricians stood holding on beside the mainmast looking rather blue: certainly not without cause.
It being Sabbath, I was clad in the best of my wardrobe, so seeing so many things in our flooded room to secure I managed to get to the cockpit intending to change myself. On opening the cabin door I found the chest of drawers broken from its moorings and come into two halves, the slop-pail & water-can upset, and water surging backwards and forwards against my prostrate goods & chattels. After digging out my old coat I went again to the main-deck, and assisted Banks in closing the ports and securing the things. It was no use however. We were knocked about from side to side of the room in a most dangerous fashion. I took my stand outside and held on by an iron pin by wh. the guns are unshipped, as the old Aggie was rolling dreadfully. Some lead weights of great weight wh. we use for our electric clockwork broke loose inside the room; knocked the door from its hinges, took the legs from
me just in time for me to be pitched by a tremendous lurch to the opposite side of the deck. Happily I lighted flat on my face unhurt. I felt more alarmed at the idea of these weights careering across the decks, endangering peoples limbs than at any other occurrence. Several sailors and marines were prostrated at the same time, but we secured them without further damage. Things went on in this fashion all through the afternoon. Seeing the deck all afloat I doffed my shoes and stocking and turned up my trousers wh. was much more comfortable than having the water [gushing] about ones feet. When we began to reckon up our numbers we found one–Smith–wanting. Thinking he might be in the mess-room I went down there; but the coals had fallen right across the door. On hailing him from the warrant-officer’s room I found that he, the steward, and a marine were inside. Watching a favourable time in the motion of the ship I crawled on all fours between the coal-bags and the
beams and managed to wriggle in at the door. What a scene! The floor drenched in water. The chairs tied together in bundles on the floor. The steward sitting on his “hunkers” (No English for this position) with his back against a post at one corner of the table. Smith perched on a chair tied to another post, one arm round this post and the other holding to the lashings of the chair. He seemed very glad to be piloted out over the coal-bags. We all began to feel very hungry. After another journey over the coals I got some Irish stew wh. was very sweet though gobbled up with legs planted out like the legs of a pair of compasses. Such a Sunday! I’ll never forget it. Every part of the ship was drenched. Each lurch took in a lot of water at the lower deck ports wh. though closed were not water-tight, so that many tons of water were dashing about with every pitch and roll. I went below to see what prospects there were of a night’s rest, but there were none. With every lurch I
heard the water rumbling over the lower deck wh. was above me, and then down came a rush of it through the hatch forming a temporary cataract. It then found its way into the cabins. In mine the water bottle, the tumbler, the little jug Grandma gave me for my milk, &c, &c, were smashed. The contents of a bottle of hair-oil were sprinkled over Anderson’s bed. With the straining the ship’s sides were sweating rusty water over mine. After spreading my water-proof over it, fastening the upset chest of drawers so that they might at least not lurch about and fishing my trunk out of the slush I left in disgust. It still blew a hard gale. We were all alone on the ocean. The Niagara was last seen about four o’clock; and our tenders are no one knows where. After another journey over the coals I got tea. We had to take only the cup and swallow its contents with all haste. The sugar-basin went fly. There
being not a place to sit down I got on my great-coat and dodged about the ship. A detachment of marines was busy re-stowing the coals. The deck-coil wh. is the cause of so much uneasiness among the officers of the ship, sticks fast, but with every lurch, the bulworks open from the deck nearly two inches. The Main-coil has [started]. It is down in the in the hold and with every roll moves about flake over flake. It being so very coarse, the sailors “spliced the main-brace,” i.e. had extra grog served out to them. The state of the cabins on the main-deck was deplorablein the extreme, and no less so that of the inhabitants. Bed-clothes hanging in bundles from the beams dripping. Here a lot of clothes trussed up in the same fashion and there boots and shoes–all soaked in salt water. I left my chum and two others lying in one small bunk, like herrings in a barrel, not sleeping but in a half-stupefied state, and went on deck determined in my mind that it would be better for my
health to knock about on foot during the night than to lie in discomfort. (I forgot to state in the proper place that just before the coals gave way, the capstan bars fastened overhead in the beams were rolled loose and severely injured two boys. They are great thick pieces of wood each as long as the least of our ladders) About ten Dr Thomson happened to come out of his cabin a little, and I told him how things were going. He, in his usual kind way, said he would get me into the captains sitting room and give me his plaid to wrap myself in. About eleven I turned in; but what a night. This room is in the stern of the ship on the spar-deck and so high that when in harbour I used to compare it to a Venetian abode with the waters of the lagoon rippling against the walls. But at this time the comparison did not hold. The windows looked out upon a stormy sea over wh. a gale chased us howling in the rigging and whistling
about the sashes. I lay down on the sofa but found I could not keep my position there. I went to an easy chair wh. was moored in the opposite corner of the apartment. I was pitched right out of it across against the sofa hurting my leg with the blow. Thinking this rather serious I took the sofa pillow, rolled it in one end of the plaid so that it might not escape me; wrapped myself in the rest, and lay down on the floor with my arms entwined about the sofa-leg. But sleep was impossible. I could not compare the tossing and swaying, thumping and bumping of our good ship’s stern to anything but what I imagine tossing in a blanket would be. Towards morning it became bitterly cold. About four I rose from my hard bed, and went below to my cabin. But the roaring and creaking of the stressed beam, the lashing of the water over the floor and the heat of the engine rendered it useless to attempt sleeping. We had steam up on Sabbath afternoon.
It was found that one of the steam pipes was broken with the working of the ship. After some delay it was repaired, otherwise our position would have been very bad, with this our last resource in difficulty cut off.
21st. On gaining the deck about seven, I found the watch engaged in making the shrouds tight by a system of ropes & pullies. The rolling had stretched these so that the men were scarce able to hold on with the jerking; and there was nothing to keep the masts from [going] by the board. About eleven we were forced to put about and run before the wind under triple reefed mainsail, topsail, and the foresail. The rolling of the ship had become terrible. The extent of some of them was fifty degrees! The coals broke loose again and carried away the after main-deck gangway, just when I was at the top of it. The main-coil is turning topsy-turvy. One of the men who were trying to secure it got his legs slipped into the space left when the coil shifted and severely jammed. A sea smashed the windows of the wardroom (wh. is on the main deck aft) and swept through
it, knocking about chairs and bottle &c &c. We were now going along at the rate of eleven knots betwixt steam and sail. Yet the waves were going faster, giving us now and then a “thud” on the stern wh. made the ship tremble. After a tea taken in the same fashion as before I went to the poop with some of our mess. We were just then passing an American merchant ship lying to under close reefed main & top sails. (Lat. 54° 35' N) The evening looked especially wild. The big waves were chasing and overtaking us, lifting up our stern and passing out at our bows boiling with foam. Just as they came up their tops broke into a little creamy foam, and immediately beneath the dull sunlight showed a rich bluish green. Far astern in the winds eye the sea was black as ink with the shadow of the coming squall. As it came nearer we could see it sweeping the foam from the waves in spray. Then it whistled through our rigging, driving
us on so fast that we seemed to skim over the waters. In the west the sun was about disappearing. The sky was streaked with those long dark lines wh. constitute the phenomenon called in country parlance–“The sun drinking up the rain.” I think they must have given the ancients their idea of Jupiter Pluvius whom they depicted as a man with arms outstretched and shaggy hair hanging from them to his feet. After watching the American rolling & pitching until she retired into the darkness wh. was settling down, I thought on bed. In the afternoon I doffed shoes and stockings, turned up my trousers, summoned the two marines who help us in the electric room & as our servants; got blocks of wood, hammer & nails and went below to try to set things right. In spite of the obstinate rolling of the ship we did manage to set the drawers up, fix our trunks on stilts and dry up the
water. Anderson got into a berth on deck, the rest slept on boxes &c about the engine room. My bed was rather damp, but I risked it and had a good sleep. The Captain passed the word that he presented his compliments to the Ship’s company. He says he never saw a crew work so spiritedly as this did on Sunday night.
22nd. Things were much the same this morning as last night; although there were appearances of change. We were still running before the wind. At 9-30 we signalled a ship astern on the same tack under full sail. She proved to be the “Neptune,” an American. We said–“Please report my ship to any man-of-war you may meet.” At three we put the ship about. Preparations were begun for [saving] the main coil. It is in a frightful state, twisted and [twisted] and twined. If it were not that the Niagara will likely be knocking about for us at the rendezvous, we ought certainly to go back. This cable cannot be put into a state fit for
paying out until we go home. Our instruments and batteries are out of condition. Our coals won’t carry us home in case of need, if we steam much longer. But besides that it would not do for us to leave Yankee, if she be waiting; it is believed that once let us return, and the Admiralty would not allow the vessel to go out again in her present trim. The master, Moriarty (one of the ablest in the service) said last night in my hearing. “The ship is not sea-worthy. She is laden beyound her tonnage.” Our main topsail sheet carried away this morning. In shifting the coals to make room for the cable to be unravelled from the mesh in the hold, a bag fell on a marine & broke his leg. We have a fuller sick-list from accidents and the wet state of the lower deck than if we were on a war ship. There are fifty on the list. At 1-10 we signalled another ship, making the same request. The wind had been gradually subsiding, and by night there was a calm, so that we had to get up steam. What a con-
trast the sunset of to-night was to that of last. The sea was smooth as a mill-pond. The line between sea and sky well defined, not serrated with the outline of waves. The clouds were stretched like an eyelid over the golden sun. From beneath a flood of yellow light came streaming over the waters. Other clouds stretched like bars across the entire eastern quarter of the horizon, flecked with patches of many hues. As the sun disappeared the sea assumed an intensely dark blue colour, almost black. I forget the Homeric phrase for this appearance. (Lat. 54° 25' N Long 27° 28' W). To-day Anderson and I took a look through our things. What a mess! The water wh. came into the room was full of coal-dust. All Anderson’s shirts are speckled; A suit of new black clothes stained with sooty water; his bible dyed black, and many other etceteras damaged. I fared better. It had been a matter of lament to me that I had my good clothes on during the gale; but now I find it to have been better thus. My old college trousers & vest wh. were in the drawers are
thoroughly steeped in coal-dust & salt-water. My collars are destroyed, and in fact everything in my drawers damaged less or more. But my good suit is scatheless and the shirts, flannels, handkerchiefs &c wh. were in my trunk are only damaged a little. Anderson is heartily disgusted with the whole expedition. He and the rest of the staff vow that once let them get ashore if this trial fails and they won’t come out again. Banks has ague.
23rd–The morning was very beautiful & the sea smooth as possible. We set about rigging out our instuments in the electrical room, getting the ports open and new panes of glass put into the windows. Everything seems to be going against us. Our battery leaks fearfully through the wetness of all the wood-work. All we can tell is that the continuity of the cable is not entirely gone, but our instruments will tell no more. We sighted one of the Cunard line of packets, whether the Persia or not she was too far off to tell. (Lat 54° 57'). At five a slight breeze sprang up and we set full sail. We were going nine knots
between sail & steam. Shortly we stopped screw. Dr Thomson did a little with his instrument this evening. He is wretchedly unwell, and all through reaction from overwork. He has a very bad cough. The clerks are feeling the effects of the late turn-up–ague and cold. The sailor fiddlers were at play tonight. One who is a connoisseur in music, was quite delighted with the performance. He closed up with–“God Save the Queen” in fine style.
24th–The morning was very hazy; a smart breeze blowing along a clinging mist. There was great concern in our mess lest it should come on to blow again. Amongst those who have had most experience of sea-life, this concern is greatest. I went down into the hold and examined the main-coil. They have now got forty miles unravelled and re-coiled on each side of the after main-deck gangway. Although fifty more I feel sure must be lifted, it begins to look much better. We are now drawing near to the rendezvous. At [ ] we
were some forty-five miles off. But here our want of coals, as on many other occasions, hampers us. So that what with tacking & leeway to make up it will be tomorrow morning before we reach the place. I believe, from what the engineers say that we may beat about for some time before we get hold of the Yankee. The first assistant tells me that the Pacific squadron, on one occasion, with a pre-arranged latitude & longitude was six weeks in getting together. This arises from mistakes extending frequently to some miles in getting the position.
25th–A fine bright morning and a smart breeze carrying us on merrily. A ship in full sail seen about eight, but not of our squadron. We had got fifteen miles past our rendezvous in the night. At ten got steam up. About half past ten the man at the mast-head sang out “ship ahoy.” It proved to be the Valorous. A little before twelve, a little steam-boat passed close under our bow under sail. She was not so large as the “Royal Burgh.” After seeing
such a cock-boat in the middle of the Atlantic we ought to hold our tongue who are in this leviathan. At 12:30 the Gorgon hove in sight on our port-bow, and at 2:30 the top-gallant masts of the Niagara began to appear like sticks above the horizon to leeward. The day would have been auspicious for splicing–sunshiny and smooth. We stopped screw and made topsails and foresail to keep the ship under way that she might not roll. (Lat 52°–2' N Long 33° 5' W). The little steamer before alluded to had her name painted on her paddle-box–“The Blue Jacket.” There were three men and a boy on her deck. At five the Niagara came alongside and moved slowly round our bows. Captain Hudson was on the poop and addressed our captain–“How are you all?”–“Very well, thank you.” “When shall you be ready?”–“To-morrow at noon.”–Capt. Preedy–“Shall I come on board,” Capt. Hudson–“Yes.”–The first cutter was accordingly manned and he went off to the Niagara. We expect to splice to-morrow. The only hindrance now is the accident to the main-coil. This morning about seventy
miles were taken up and put on the main-deck. About twenty miles more must be taken up. The Valorous signalled to us when we met–“The weather has been as bad as possible.” and afterwards that the Niagara was at the rendezvous on Wednesday. There was something to me very beautiful in the exactitude with wh. all four vessels met in one spot, in one day. The Gorgon not taking to her steam, though always in sight, did not make up until dark. Went on to the poop before going to bed, and found it drizzly but still in air and sea. Astern lay the Yankee, visible only by the light suspended at her Main, bow, and starboard gangway. To the left the Valorous displayed one light. The Gorgon had not yet come into position. I was astonished by hearing a sound like the cry of a partridge. The signalman informed me it was the call of “boobies,” - that stupid sort of bird of wh. I have often read in stories of the sea. They seemed to fly round the stern of the ship picking up our refuse.
26th The ship lay very quiet all night only giving us a [hitch] now and then just to keep us from the delusion that we were on terra firma. Men were hard at work on the coil opposite the door of my cabin. During the night, I dreamed I was sleeping in my own bed at home, and that some men were talking loudly below my window ready to break in. I just came to consciousness when stepping out of bed to give the alarm. The morning was calm and mild–a diffused light over a sea smooth as glass. The squadron lay–“like painted ships upon a painted ocean,” their bows all one way, lying to - First the Agamemnon, then the Niagara, then the Valorous, then the Gorgon. Preparations were being made all morning for the grand splice. Hudson, capt.of the Niagara, Aldham, capt. of the Valorous, Mr Cyrus Field &c came on board after breakfast. Murray* one of Thomson’s staff in the Niagara came off with letters to post when we get to Ireland. The Yankee had made
*[John Murray, one of a group of Thomson’s “laboratory experimenters” ]
worse weather of it than we have. She lost her jib-boom, one of the large buoys tied at her gangways to moor the cable to in case of accident, and sprung two leaks. Two of the Valorous’s boats brought a hawser from the Niagara on board at 20 ms to 1 (Hitherto I have given ship’s time wh. varies with her position. After this I shall give Greenwich time. This is the first) At 1:13 the cable was brought in at the starboard gangway where the splice was made. The Capts. of the Agamemnon, Niagara, Valorous, Mr Field, Professor Thomson, Mr Canning, Mr Bright and Mr Clifford, engineers; the first lieutenant of the Agamemnon and his fellows, the surgeon and assistant surgeon, the Master and second master &c &c. and lots of blue jackets and marines were present to witness the marriage ceremony. The splice is made in such a way as to prevent any strain from coming on the joint. This is managed by a wooden apparatus of wh. there is a rough sketch on the other side. Each end is brought in and a bend round an iron eye taken. The lines in the sketch represent grooves cut in the wood. The grooves for the eye are A and N. The ends to be spliced are brought outside and hang
down when joined as represented.
Thus the strain all comes on the eyes A and N. B. represents a lead bob intended to assist in sinking the whole. The process of joining is long and done with great care. First a stretch of sheathing is unrolled; then the gutta percha is stripped off the wire for about two inches. The ends are soldered to prevent the strand from unravelling; then they are filed down at angles so as to join perfectly, and soldered together. A coating of fine copper wire is wound over the joint and soldered; then another and soldered. The gutta percha next the wire is heated so as to draw out over the joint; a strip of gutta percha cloth is wound several plies above this, and finally a piece of thick gutta percha is put over all; the sheathing interwoven, paid over
with strong iron wire and then with tarred rope. The splice was commenced at 1.20 and at 10 minutes to 2 the first current was sent from us to the Niagara. At 3 ms 30 s to 2 we received signals from the Yankee. Just as we were preparing to submerge the splice, it began to rain and a damp fog spread over the water. The splice was slung by a rope with a loop. This was put through a loop at the end of a whip from the mainyard and fastened by a pin attached to a rope. I went out on the starboard chains to see the submerging operation. Just when the splice box got under water, the pin was drawn (2.38) and the splice of course let go. At 2.40 the paying out wheels were set agoing. I repaired to the electrical room where the signals were being commenced by wh. the safety of the cable is from second to second ascertained. But, alas! the splice described above with so much minuteness was not the splice. At 3.25 while sending signals to the Niagara something suspicious was noticed in the indications of Thomson’s beautiful Marine Galvanometer. At 3.28
these suspicious indications were confirmed, and the Professor, himself present, panting with excitement declared–“Earth at the end of 1500 miles.” The Niagara was not far off but the fog was such that signals could not be read. She soon however put about and shortly was alongside of us. The break occurred on board the Niagara through the fouling of the cable in the machinery. We cut our end and let some three miles go to the bottom. Preparations were at once made for another splice. About 6.25 the Niagara end was brought to the starboard gangway; and five minutes after the splice was commenced. At 7.1 the first curt. was sent to the Niagara, while the splice was yet incomplete. Anderson and I are to assist the clerks in keeping watches in the electrical room, as they are so few. We form a band of six in this way and follow the system of the ship’s officers as to watches. They are four hours each, but the watch from four to eight is divided
into two, the first and second dog-watches. By this means, each has his own share of night and day work. Thus Anderson and I had the second dog, six to eight, and will have from four to eight in the morning. Next day we will have the first dog, and the middle-watch; receding every day a watch. As, “sister [N...]” will know time is kept on board by bells, and the bells are arranged to suit the watches. The half hours are indicated by odd numbers, and the full by even. The bells never exceed eight. From half past twelve to four, the bells go from 1 to 8.–4:30 is one bell and so on to six–the first dog. 6:30 is one bell and so to eight–the second dog. 8:30 is one bell and so on to twelve. Thus the round goes. When I turned in after the second day, the cable was passing out most beautifully. So beautifully that one would see no reason why it should not go on until we reach Ireland.
27th–Before going to bed we made arrangements with the sentry to be knocked up at 3:30. But somehow I had a curious
presentiment that the cable was broken by about midnight. This must have been from feeling the engines stopped; at least this first certified me as to the fact that something was wrong, when I waked. The sentry, when he rapped at the door, said- “Three bells. The cable has parted, sir.” On going to the electrical room, all was dark. I groped for the record-books, and found that the first deficiencies occurred at 3:28, and at 3:30 Thomson’s instruments confirmed the break once more at the Niagara. We were under sail, about fifty miles from the rendezvous. We fought away against an all but head wind until 8:45 when we got steam up. The want of coal hampers us very much. Indeed if we go on dodging about in this fashion, we shan’t be able to lay the cable for want of fuel. The only incident note-worthy to-day was the appearance of five of the crew on the guarter deck with their mess-tins containing some compound of flesh and bone supposed to be eight pounds of beef. The ship’s allowance is eight pounds of meat for eight men–it may happen
to be all bone still the most infinitesimal portion of flesh is sufficient to satisfy [form]. The rule is that if after boiling this piece weighs four pounds all is right; if a quarter pound less it is made up. In the present case there was only 3½ lbs of very black suspicious looking garbage. (Lat. 52° 27' Long 31° 59') There was lately an investigation into the diet, &c of soldiers, but Jack needs much more some one to speak for him. His invariable routine of provision is ½ pint cocoa, 1½ oz sugar, 1 lb bread (i.e. biscuit), ¼ oz tea, ½ gill rum; 1 lb beef or pork; ¾ lb flour, - 1 pint of pea-soup. ½ pint vinegar per week; ½ pint lime-juice when at sea. When the beef is served out, the flour and some suet is also supplied for “duff”: on pork days, the pea-soup comes. There is never any change on this routine. The ½ pint cocoa and biscuit form his breakfast.–At 8:45 we got up steam to go to windward. On parting from the Valorous who still kept to the sail, Capt. Preedy made a long communication to her. It is really quite astonishing with what rapidity
and accuracy signals can be made and read off by the navy system of flags.–The plan is this that every letter in the alphabet and numerals has its own flag and different words and scraps of sentences are indicated by different arrangements of these letters.
28th Steam was taken off at 4:30 (ship’s time) A.M. When I got on deck at eight we were just taking a new tack, on the ground but no Yankee to be seen. This delay and loss of this fine weather is most annoying. There is some mis-management on board the Niagara. If as much caution were exercised there as here, these humbugging accidents would not occur. Ths morning was sunshiny and calm–the water ruffled into liveliness by a nice smart breeze. At 12:45 a sail was announced on the lee bow. This turned out to be the Gorgon. Just before going to dinner I waw a man arranged on the quarter-deck before the Captain & first lieutenant for stealing meat from the galley. The witnesses were called up and the form of a court of justice kept inso
far as possible. Afterwards another was brought up for stealing clothes. Both were condemned to “choky” (i.e. Black-hole. This is sailor’s name) and to have their hair cropped off as close as possible. I saw it done and felt the degradation more than the men did. I’d rather see a man hung. (Lat. 52° 24' Long 32° 59'). This being the Queen’s Coronation Day, the Valorous wh. caught up with us in the morning, and ourselves had up-blue at the Mizen, Red at the Main, and White at the Fore. At 5:30 the Niagara, to our great delight, hove in sight. Just at this time the sky was draped with lovely, white, fleecy clouds, so white and so fleecy that I could scarce keep my eyes off them. About six we just [ ] a fog wh. came over the water dark and gloomy, mantling the sea with its shadow. By 6:30 we had drawn near enough the Niagara to see a signal flying wh. being interpreted meant–“How was the cable broken?”–This was exactly the question wh.
we expected them to answer. Of course we could only reply that it did not part with us. Immediately a boat shoved off from Yankee in wh. we saw, as it passed under our stern, Mr Field, Mr de Sauty, electric superintendent, Mr Everett and the first lieutenant of the Niagara. On comparing notes they found that they agreed to a minute in the time they lost continuity, but neither can explain where or how the breakage took place. It is an unfortunate occurrence this, seeing that even after seeing the cable safely over our stern, we cannot be certain as to its remaining so. We conjecture that it may have ruptured from there not being sufficient slack in proportion to the enormous depth & the vessel’s speed. The Niagara’s end was brought in at the starboard gangway for a new splice at 8.47, and the whole affair was submerged at 9.48 m 30 s. At ten the machine started, Anderson & I had the second dog-watch, and all went well during it. The first signal was sent to the Niagara at 9.20 P.M. By the kindness of one of the clerks (Mr Bull) I am enabled to give some particulars about the first break on board the
Niagara. His friend’s letter says–“The first break occurred through two turns getting into the same groove. We put up some bars to prevent a repetition. After the second splice we steamed gently away at 3 miles, cable running out about 3.5. After we lost sight of you we gradually increased speed to 3.5, 4, 4.5, at latter speed the cable going out at 5 or 5.5. The strain was 24 cwt. xxx At 3.30, or thereabouts signals from you ceased. It was communicated to the engineers who slowed down the speed of ship’s engine & paying out machine to 2. After running so about half an hour, no signals coming, we began to pull in the cable, and got up about forty fathoms, when it broke. That wh. was recovered was kinked & twisted worse than any I saw during the experimental trip. We had paid out altogether 43¼ miles. xxx Law’s testing makes out the break at the splice. Murray at 75 miles from us wh. wd. make it in your ship. De Sauty I believe agrees with Murray.”–Law’s is nearest the truth evidently.
29th. Anderson and I had the watch from four to eight, A.M. (ship’s time). The signals came beautifully. It is rather an exciting think to watch the tell-tale sig-
nals. It makes even the most indifferent “hold his breath for a time”* to see something dubious about the indications. We are regarded by the engineers about the paying out machine as birds of evil omen. Whenever any of us approach their quarter, they look as a Roman husbandman might have done, at a crow perched on a blasted tree. The electric room is on the starboard side forward. Our instruments are arranged in circuit on a table. On one side stand the “Detectors” of the old system, and Whitehouse’s beautiful “Magnetometer;” on the opposite Thomson’s Marine Galvanometer wh. acts so perfectly that it might be trusted with the work of all–indeed it does the work of all most exquisitely. There is an observer constantly stationed on each side, during the paying out. We send and receive signals during alternate ten minutes. Whilst sending, a particular reading is taken on Thomson’s instrument wh. tells to a certainty the state of the cable. Three seconds before it is taken, the clerk at the opposite side
*[Thomas Campbell: The Battle of the Baltic]
who takes charge of the timing says–“Look out.” The other clerk at once fixes his eyes on the spot of light, and immediately the word is given–“Now”–makes his observation. Everything is entered in a book, and afterwards copied out fairly. The cable continues to go out nicely. At 8.20 we had run 43 miles and paid out 53. At 10.30 we made sail in addition to our steam. The morning was lovely–still the same mellow sunshine–the same lively breeze. (Lat. 52° 12' Long. 31° 11'). I took a turn to-day at the paying out machine recording all the minutiae of the operation. It is quite wonderful what an amount of ingenuity and scientific skill is concentrated on this one object. The paying out machine is a great device in itself. There is also a beautiful engine close by ready to throw into gear for lifting part of the laid cable, if necessary. (Experience has shown, however, that cable so lifted is absolutely useless) Attached to the machine is a roto-
meter to register the number of revolutions made by the paying out wheels, with a clock by wh. to find the number per minute. To the left of this is an instrument for registering the length of cable paid out, in hundreds, miles and fathoms. A little from the machine is a new dynamometer wh. registers the varying strain on the cable, and fronting it is a wheel by wh. the officer on duty regulates the friction of the breaks in accordance with these indications. At the stern there is a large wheel from wh. the cable takes its departure for its deep sea journey. To the axis of this wheel another kind of rotometer is attached. Close by these are two indices movable over a graduated quadrant by wh. to ascertain the horizontal and vertical angle of the cable in entering the water. Observations are taken from all these every few minutes; besides the speed of the ship, revolutions of the screw, distance gone by Massey’s patent log, &c &c. At 1.15 (12 ship’s time) we had paid out 88 miles and gone 70. We were then distant
770¼ miles (all these are nautical miles) from the station at Valentia. At dinner to-day Mr Clements gave us some yarns about his travelling experience. I have already recorded something about the Ansoor and the Russians. While cruising there they caught sight of a [Russian] dispatch boat. The Encounter at once manned a cutter and gave chase. The struggle was long and exciting; but at last our boys pulled so fast up that the enemy ran their boat on shore and made off. On landing our tars found that they had had a number of sledge-dogs on board wh. they had fastened to the boat on leaving. These fellows were large & shaggy and growled and pulled so hard against them that the Encounter’s men could not move the craft off or scarcely get near. They did drive them away at last, keeping one wh. proved to be a fearful glutton, and a great savage, I suppose like his masters. At Petrogradski he saw the sledge wh. brought
all the way from St Petersburgh orders to dismantle and desert the fort and town. It was drawn all the way by dogs. All afternoon the cable went out well. At 4.17, we had out 100 miles: at 9.45 135 miles. We had the first dog-watch, wh. brings with it the Middle Watch–12 to 4. (Ship’s time). I ought to have turned in about eight to get a sleep; but could not from anxiety. We have paid out nearly all the spar-deck coil and are preparing to shift to the main-coil in the hold. This operation is a very ticklish one and all things were going on so smoothly that I could not think of the chance of accident without being concerned. We were going about 5 knots, at nine–too fast it seems to me for the rate of paying out. I went to the stern and watched the cable going over. The strain was so great that the sheathing was twisted so as to be almost strait when it entered the water. How thin and insignificant it looked just where it disappeared in the
wake of the vessel! When one calls to mind that this line has to descend some 2000 fathoms and that at a very small angle before it reaches its resting place, he cannot help being convinced that the undertaking is grand and bordering on the marvellous. If we succeed we shall certainly oust the seven wonders of the world, and reduce their number to one.
30th June. I did turn in about two hours before my watch came on, filled with uncertainty as to whether all would be right or no when I rose. The men who were preparing for the change to the main-coil made some noise, but I got to sleep and was not at all pleased when the sentry opened the door and said–“Quarter to twelve, sir.” His next words, however, thoroughly woke me up.–“The cable has parted, sir.” I had not undressed, so hurrying up I found blackness & darkness in the electrical room. Seeing a light in one of the clerks’ cabins I went in and learned that the cable had broken about seven fathoms over the
stern at 11.40. The last signal was received at 11.34. We had 147 miles out, and were 114 miles from the rendezvous. No one appears to be able to explain this deplorable occurrence, except by supposing a weak part in the cable. If it had not been necessary to slow the ship, and alter the rate of paying out on account of shifting, I think we might be going on still. The vessel was at once put about for the rendezvous once more; but I have no hopes now of success. During last consultation on board, an agreement was [ ] by Thomson, Field &c &c that if the cable broke when the ships were within 100 miles from the rendezvous, they were to return; if when beyond, they were to go to Queenstown. Now we were beyond the distance and why we are going back I don’t know, except if be lest the Niagara should be within! Besides we have barely cable or coals to carry us to Valentia. There are but 270 tons coals on board. The wind freshened gradually until towards night it blew rather hard. (Lat. 52° 5' Long. 31° 19'). At noon we were still 80 miles from the rendezvous. The vessel pitched about a
little as the sea got up. The absence of the deck coil has given immense relief to her. She is well up by the bow and rides like a duck over the swell. But we are not to be long in this comfortable condition, as men are already re-coiling the disturbed main-hold cable in the place of that paid out. I am sorry at this seeing we know that it will put her nose down more than before. Seeing we are to cruise about on the ground a week, if we don’t see Yankee at once, I hope we may have moderate weather. Another rather important point is this that we are already short of provisions and next thing to being on ship’s allowance. What this is I have already recorded. I only discovered the other day that this is all [ ] allows to any one from the Admiral to the lowest class boy. All the provision made for messes is paid by the members themselves, and an allowance is made whilst they don’t lift their ship’s grub. We are coming by degrees to this latter extremity. Salt pork figures on the table
every-day, and ship’s biscuit is gradually insinuating itself into the place of bread. No beer is to be had. The alternative is water, lime-juice, or wine. Lime-juice is a most pleasant drink.
1st July. To-day completes three weeks out of sight of land. It always chafes me when I consider that all this sailing is to show me nothing but “the dreary waste of barren foam.”* It always reminds me of Grandma’s story of the innocent who complained of a certain funeral that it had “nae grave at the end o’t.” The vessel rolled about in a most abominable style all night. I sleep in a swinging cot, but owing to Anderson’s “bunk” it has no room to swing, but goes now bump against the great iron [knees] supporting the beams at the ship’s side, then thump upon the foot of the bed. Thus there is not only the noise sufficient to waken the seven sleepers; but when the swing is thus violently interrupted, so much
*[Tennyson: “Most weary seemed the sea, weary the oar, Weary the wandering fields of barren foam.”]
impetus is imparted to one’s body that it is hard to avoid being pitched out. I was so sleepy, and still unable to sleep, that I completely lost my temper towards morning, and wished Agamemnon real flesh and blood instead of a wooden image, that I might have a talk with him over the matter! The morning was very hazy, the wind dying away and the sea gradually settling into the lazy Atlantic swell. Happening to go forward to day I noticed a piece of new carpentry work. This marked where a sea struck us in last gale on the port bow. It stove in some three yards of the hammock-nettings [i.e.] that part of the bulworks in wh. the hammocks are stowed. Though they are called “nettings,” they are substantial wood and iron. Part of the strong staging commnected with the under-running of the cable was also unshipped. At dinner to-day we had salt-horse & salt-pork neat:- salt-horse minced up with potatoes (this
is called “twice-laid” and is very nice) and something astonishingly like pig-skin done up with mustard. There was also, as a setoff, rice and preserved vegetables. I had a good dinner, however; although strongly reminded of another of Grannie’s stories about “kail and taties and beef,” and “beef and taties and kail.” Our boys are not at all in love with this fare. One of the engineers, however, grumbles most about all these little bits of inconveniences. I really can’t understand what that chap is doing wearing the badge of H.M. navy. He is subject to sea-sickness every storm. This would be nothing: but besides he is a regular “spooney”–continually talking of “’ome,” sighing after the “comforts of ’ome,” and wishing we were “omeward bound.” He is continually feeling queer tastes in his food–altogether he is too delicate a chicken for sea. Unfortunately he is the only one in the mess who has any good about him. I say unfortunately, because the scepti-
cal at once attach the fault of this sheepish, unmanly bearing to religion. Religion, say they, is not for the battle of life; it is only for a snooze in Paradise!–I would send such people to Mr [Raleigh].–The wind gradually fell off until about five it was a dead calm. We lay to, being at the rendezvous, the Agamemnon wallowing in the long, strong swell; the drizzly mist closing in our view all round, and the half-furled sails flapping and scattering big drops of moisture over the decks. The galley bell was rung every half-hour; and a gun fired now and then. Two lookouts were stationed at the bows all day. In the evening the engineers received orders to let their fires out. Before turning in I took a round over the ship. The watch was collected on the fo’c’sle listening to the singing of one of our number and joining in the gruff chorus. The gunners were pacing backwards and forwards beside
their gun, and the look-out stationed at each cat-head stood well-defined against the white mist. There is something about this scene wh. strikes me as analogous to the mystery of life–mystery before, mystery behind –all we certainly have within the grasp of our understanding is the “now,” and even this is often clothed in doubt.
2nd There was rather a smart breeze blowing this morning, but the fog was thicker than ever. This is the last day we are to have butter. There is no ham, no cheese. We had ship’s pea-soup at dinner to-day, It was good, however, I thought the whole dinner good. It is abominable to see the fine tastes of some people. Enough and wholesome are the only two legitimate demands as to food. The engineers and indeed all on board are grumbling fearfully against Bright, Thompson and the others who are keeping
us [logging] about in this fashion. So long as I feel as comfortable as at present I don’t mind, although I don’t exactly see what “Logic Bob”* would call the rationale of the proceeding. The Niagara, for whom we are in search will I think be snugly laid up at Queenstown, while we are looking for her in mid-ocean. They say in our mess that were the ship to go back and a govt inspector to get on board, she would not be allowed to come out again. The ship’s company was served with “coal-duck” (i.e. Duck to make over-clothes for coaling) and new shoes to-day. I never knew before that Jack has to be his own tailor. He merely gets the cloth, and has himself to shape his trousers, shirts, &c, &c. He speads the stuff out on the deck and goes at it with his shears sans ceremonie. Then he seats hinself on the edge of a hatchway or squats on the deck with his back against a stancheon and pushes his needle
*[“Logic Bob” Prof. Robert Buchanan of Glasgow University]
through with finger and thumb, or presses it with a shoemakers thimble. I have more than once already noticed the evening concerts held on the main-deck opposite the electrical room. When I got there a goodly company of blue-jackets and marines had assembled, some round the two fiddlers, some dancing, some on all fours on the deck over the duck or worsted cloth wh. had that afternoon been served out. The performance began with some polkas, and a schotische wh. was danced by two couples–two tars and a marine and a tar. The two tars hugged each other like dancing bears, holding on by the loose backs of one another’s blue-jackets with anything but a delicate grasp. Then the fiddlers played some tunes. It gratified my national feelings to find them all Scotch. My opinion moreover was strengthened that our melodies are more pathetic and suited for the popular heart than those of any other nation. First came –“Ye banks and braes o’ bonny Doon.” Some of the sailors showed by joining in now and then that they knew the words. After playing–“The lass o’ Gowrie,” and “the Bluebells of Scotland,” their was a general “call upon
Mr Chapel for a song.” The call was received by the audience with great applause, and Mr Chapel came forward–a marine dressed in his “jumper” (slop-jacket) and working dress. He sung “The Standard-bearer” very well. The tars all joined in the chorus –
“For I would fight for liberty and fame,
Then let, &c.”
The singer retired with applause, and a jack-tar began to sing the “Red, White and Blue”, but the concert was abruptly terminated by the boson’s whistle and the gruff cry “Hand by hammocks”. The fog continued all day, clearing off a little about 3:45, but only to return thicker than ever. The wind is S.W. and blows the perpetual fog of the Gulf Stream from the Banks of Newfoundland down upon us. We cannot therefore expect clear weather until the wind changes. As we were on a different tack to-night we durst not ring the bell. It would be against rule and mislead other vessels. The poor drummer’s bugle was brought up, and a marine set to blow it so as to make as much noise as possible.
3rd and 4th The same nasty, heartless foggy weather continued until Sabbath morning wh. was clear, bright and bracingly cold. In the afternoon, however, the old dreary, weary mist wrapped us round in its clammy mantle. At noon we got the sun for the first time these three days. It was 52 19 N and we were 17 miles from the rendezvous. (I could not find out the Long.) Services performed to-day with the choir, the only other variation was the presence of two men convicted of stealing, under a guard. Both had their hair cropped and one was labelled on the back “THIEF.” We came on ship’s sugar to-day–deep, brown stuff (like “Earth from my Garden” in the bedroom, Auburn) wh. tastes the tea as if you had poured in a spoonful of molasses. At dinner, there was a small goosberry tart. Considering we number fourteen, it need be no matter of surprise that there was some difficulty about the division.
5th. A fine clear morning–one blessing at any rate. The Valorous appeared with daybreak. She had not seen the Niagara. In the after-
noon considerable excitement was created by the announcement of a sail on the port-beam. Prof. Thomson, in hi usual energetic fashion, went up immediately to the cap of the main top-gallant mast. It turned out to be only a merchant-brig. He told me that if we did not see the Niagara, we should turn bows to Queenstown to-morrow night, stay there for three days to coal, and return for another trial. I hope we may have more time that I may get communications from “sweet Auburn” (Lat. 52° 5’ N, Long 33° 0’ W.).
6th (Lat. 52° 20’ Long 33° 47’). The Valorous enquired how many livestock we had on board. The answer was–“A sheep and four fowls.” These belong to the captain. The wardroom steward would give the price of a whole one for half of it. Thomson & the captain went on board her about noon. The result was a determination to turn bow homeward at 8 ship’s time. We have a fair wind wh. has been uselessly wooing us home for the last week. Now we are going to embrace the offered service and
trust to sail alone. Exactly at eight we set sail and were soon bowling along at seven knots. I again attended the main-deck concert. The signalman (Bell Chambers) played most beautifully. His merits are becoming better known. Mr Bright, Mr Canning and others of the Company’s representatives attended. I have discovered that when he sees me there he plays the Scotch tunes of wh. I spoke previously. To-night he played the bag-pipes on his fiddle in first rate style–“We’re a’noddin,” and “There’s nae luck aboot the house &c” &c &c. I never knew until now that it is quite common for an advertisement to be put in the papers–“Wanted a fiddler for H.M.S. “_____”.” It is capital policy this, as it keeps up the men’s spirits. They dance and sing and are jolly–to me an expressive English phrase. Began this afternoon to give lessons in reading and spelling to Taylor, our servant. Anderson is teaching him writing. He is a very bad speller, though he know reading and writing a little. We were 950 miles from Queenstown at noon.
7th. We went on an average eight knots during the night. The wind however died away as the day wore on; until we came to only four, with [shinsails]. At dinner there were bets taken that we could not cast anchor in Queenstown before Tuesday. I think this is safe if we keep to sail. Beef and pork is the order of the day. We had again pork rind done up with mustard. It is peeled off the salt-pork; and is known in the mess as “hard-nail.” There are great bristles sticking up on it here and there. “Natheless” it is not at all bad. I have kept one of these jolly big bristles for Nanny. She will think I have been pulling Charlie’s whiskers. After dinner one of the Company’s Engineers who messes in the wardroom got the loan of an old fiddle, and came down to our mess-room to accompany Mr Clements on the flute. He evidently could play had he had an instrument. But as it was, I was reminded of what I think is Sir Philip Sydney’s [Sidney’s]
phrase–“The strumming of a blind [sheetcrowder].” But what “daffin and glee.” I never laughed so much in my life as at the violinists humour and the witty [hits] of Collett–the punster of our mess. We are already feeling a change in the temperature as we south. There was a hot mist over the sea in the afternoon. It is rather picturesque (if I may so apply the term) to be on deck at night when the bell strikes hour or half-hour, and hear each look-out and sentry shout out his position to show that he is not asleep or inattentive. Just as the sound of the bell dies away, in all sorts of tones the words are shouted out–“Port Gangway”; “Port Cat-head”; “Starboard Cathead”; Starboard Gangway”; “Life-buoy”; “Mast-head.” When in harbour marines are placed at the cat-heads and gangways; and sing out “All’s Well.” It was discovered to-night that the Captains winestores have been broken in to and full bottles of wine abstracted. All that is at present known is that it must have been a stoker. These occurren-
ces are very uncomfortable in so small a community as a ship, where confidence is so necessary to enjoyment.
8th. The crime was completely brought home to two “leading stokers” this morning. I have been annoyed all day. They are placed each in charge of a sentry on each side of the main-hatch aft, until sentence is passed. I could not avoid seeing the miserable wretches each time I passed & repassed to mess. My sense of the degradation is very keen. The Captain mustered the ship’s company this morning–i.e. the name of each man was called and he passed before the captain, uncovered and gave his rate–“A.B, Sir,” “Seaman-rigger, Sir” &c &c. It was most laughable to see the awkward confusion of some of the men. One little, squat, thick man in a white duck jacket, “a world too wide” for his body, scuttled past like a turtle on a “mold warp.” At noon we were 600 miles from our port. We have been going pleasantly all day at from five to six knots.
9th The two men are dis-rated i.e. reduced from being “leading” to ordinary stokers.
The wind died away so much that we down screw and began steaming at 2:20. We are going now eight knots. The day was sultry and sunshiny.
10th. We steamed along at eight and eight.two knots all day. At 12 we were 380 miles from Queenstown. After finishing some observations with Dr Thomson to-day, he said to Anderson and me that he did not intend to return with the expedition; but that he would like us to return and act as we had been doing. If we did, he would represent to the Board of Directors and see that we were fully remunerated. Hitherto we had been with him as amateurs, for nothing, but if we did duty for the Company in his absence he thought it right enough to be regularly paid. I said that for my part I had no objection if this proviso were accepted that as soon as the end of the cable is landed at Valentia my connection with the Company shall cease, and I shall return into your hands. My reason for this is that I must be free to leave when I choose so as to prosecute my studies next session. “You are determined to go on next session with your
medical Studies?” “Yes at present I am.”
“But if the cable is laid then everybody will be paid as by a money-making concern. And besides I should like someone who understands my system better than the clerks can be supposed to do to be at Valentia for a time; so that in these circumstances you would perhaps remain. However that is a matter for your future consideration.” Here the subject dropped. I am almost certain that the cable won’t be laid this year and therefore that there will be no need for me or anyone else at Valentia. As to the other affair. It was only from attachment to Dr Thomson and a wish to see “summat” that I came out; and when he is not present I won’t do anything for the Company unless I am paid for it. Anything for Dr T. I will do and on the same terms, but not otherwise. This was another of these phosphorescent nights. If there had been more darkness it would have been glorious. At the bows I observed that the light from the breaking water is reflected on objects about. There is something majestic about the motion of a
screw vessel through the deep. There is not that splashing and fussy appearance of work wh. you have in a paddle-boat. The action of the screw only shows itself by a sound and a tremor through the great body of the ship, like the pulsations of a mighty heart, full of energy and life.
11th Sunday. The chief dish at breakfast was “Devilled pig’s skin!” It was rather tough! At eight A.M. (ships time) we were 120 miles from Cape Clear, 180 from Queenstown. We expect to be in to-morrow about mid-day. We should have sighted Cape Clear to-night and got in early, were it not for a dense fog into wh. we got about mid-day. We have had to slacken speed and during the night will likely go slower. About nine it became fearfully thick. We knew Cape Clear was near but how near we did not. We hove the lead & found 40 fathoms. We felt our way thus all night.
End of Part I.
Here endeth the first part of these notes. They excited much interest in the mess; and beyond it also. They have been read by several and would have been read by more had I felt disposed to yield. To this fact let the sapient reader attribute the soiled and besmirched appearance of the pages. Of an evening, where I used to produce ink-horn, pen and paper I was saluted with “Here’s Lord John! at it again.” Then when they took to spinning yarns, a suspicious glance would be given to the “chiel among them tackin’ notes” and it would be said - “Take care, or Lord John will book it.” When any dispute arose as to the date of a past occurrence, Lord John was consulted like a second Delphian oracle. Some would have persuaded me to send thes “Hurry graphs” to the newspapers; but I prefer drawing round them the “select circle” of Auburn. It would never do for Lord John to delapidate into a penny-a-liner. Gone
the full dignity of my lordship I beg to lay my “Notes” at the feet of Miss Agnes Bryson Russell; finding in her acceptance of the gift full reward for the ineffable trouble attending authorship on board a pitching, rolling ship, when your ink-bottle is upset, your chair making every effort to forsake you; the table standing now on one end, now on another; stray glasses of grog careering across your page; and a diabolic diapason of rattling, clattering, thumping, bumping, roaring, squeaking, creaking sounds rub-a-dubbing on the drums of your ear.
End of Part I
James Burn Russell Journal
[the second expedition of 1858]
My connection with the Atlantic Telegraph,
Its “young days”
6th Augt. 1858
We awoke to the pleasures of a bright sunshiny morning–All the mountains on each side of the glen in which the town of Cahirciveen is situate standing out clear and bold. Our offices are for the time established in the large slate-works. On the island the most extensive slate-quarries in the kingdom is situate. They are wrought by an English Company and brought down to these works in large blocks which are cut up by large saws driven by steam into flags for pavings &c. The rough walls are
neatly lined with calico and the instrument table is covered with green baize so that the rooms look rather clean and tidy. The window looks right across the strait to the Ferry-house on the opposite side, and up the glen of Cahirciveen overshadowed by Knockmadubber & other rugged mountains. Anderson and I were busy all day preparing to set up Dr. Thomson’s battery. Coil currents were sent and received still. It will be some little time before the Newfoundlandites will be ready either to give or take messages. Anderson went to look out for lodgings in the evening. They are rather difficult to get. At present we sleep in the house of a policeman. Three in one little room, I on a settee & two in the bed. Anderson & a clerk sleep up in some supernal hole; where two men
belonging to the house also stow themselves. It is laughable to se the two come down in the morning in their nightshirts, with their clothes under their arms to stand their turn at the wash hand basin. While Anderson was away I joined a number of the clerks, my old comrades on board ship, in a gloamin’ walk. What a lovely evening–the sky clear, liquid blue, through which the stars were just appearing. The evening star, as it topped the mountain ridge gave me forcibly to understand the phrase applied by Tennyson to stars–“burnished.” The sea shimmery and smooth added by contrast to the dark, guise look of the mountain ramparts rising precipitously up on the further side. Here and there along their foot twinkled a light from some solitary farm-house. We sang (or rather the others did & I growled)
as we went along until the place rang with our merriment and the sober denizens of the surrounding huts opened their doors to find out the cause of the uproar. I believe they thought we were topers.
We felt quite exhilarated, I suppose with the reaction from past anxiety and the pleasure of an accomplished work.
7th. We were at the batteries all day. In the evening we repaired to our lodgings for the first time. It is two miles and a half from Knightstown or “The Port” as the folks here call it. Magiven is the name of our landlord.
8th Sunday. This morning a little, fat, paunchy old gentleman with a pock-marked face, in a long black dressing gown introduced himself to us as the “praist of the parish.” He seems an agreeable old chap. Our landlord is his nephew. The chapel is just over the way. Our house
stands beside a brook at this season all but dried up; but evidently a torrent in winter. The huts on our side are dignified with the name of Ballyhearny. Those on the other form the Village of Tinnies. With it commence the lands of Trinity College Dublin. - Such miserable small, rickety, tumble-down erections! Accumulations of dry stone in all shapes, in size like molehills in appearance worse than a northern pigsty. - The whole is situate in a bleak barren-like basin scooped out on the L. side of Valentia I. The heat was very great. We went to Knightstown and attended service in the office of the slate-works. I enjoyed the service better than any I have heard since leaving home. The sermon was earnest and sound. The priest evidently had a good stock of good words at his disposal though he spoiled their effect by using too many of them higglety-pigglety. After dinner in the Electrical Mess for the
first time we returned to Ballyhearny. Our astonishment may be guessed when, as we drew near we saw a great crowd at the little bridge, and heard the tones of a fiddle playing an Irish jig while two couple danced in the centre. The house we reside in is a public-house. It does no business but on Sabbath. The priest gives spiritual nourishment in the chapel; his nephew gives ditto in his house. When we got inside to our room which is pleasant, large, with two windows and two beds, we could hear the melancholy drawl of a native Irish song, “long drawn out,” over the potheen. In the evening when Anderson & I were taking a walk before lighting up a car drove past with a party, one of whom played an accordion.
9th. It is only about 15 mins walk down the water-course to the sea from
our place. Anderson & I intend to bathe as regularly as possible. We began to-day. This was market-day in Cahirciveen on our way to the office we passed numbers of women with their baskets strapped to their backs with ropes or straw-bands carrying pots of butter, eggs, fowls or in some cases a litter of pigs. Nothing but coil currents have come yet. We suspect a fault in the cable at this end which will impede our progress. It is intended to underrun and test.
10th. When we were drawing near the village this morning, an old Irish woman said - “Happy news, Sur!–Theres a message from Newfoundland.” We pricked up our ears at this and [pushed] to the office all speed. The following is a copy of the log at this interesting period.
“12.24-A.M.-Sent V’s and B’s at rate
of 40 currents per minute up to 12.32 when we forwarded message as follows. “Signals perfect. Send slower.” (slowly. Reply.)
1.6 to 8–Sent “repeat” with two notes of interrogation.
1.20–Sent V. and B.–“Send V.B.C.” Sent two V’s and then alternate currents.
1.44 to 48–Received signals, some illegible, here note of interrogation, the words “Repeat,” “Please.”
2.5–Sent–“We read you well. Do you read us perfect?” [Morse code inserted here for Repeat Please above]
2.26–Recd. “Please send slower for the present.”
2.28–Sent - “We read you well. Is this slow enough?”
Balcutt, one of the clerks, and an Irishman happened to be in the office at the time. He was so excited with joy that he jumped out of the window, knocking down a case of deal which surrounded part of our machinery; and ran leaping like
a madman down to the hotel to tell Mr. Whitehouse and Dr. Thomson. When the latter came and saw the legible proofs of this scientific triumph he too skipped about through the office. He got up a lot of porter from the hotel and treated everybody, all round, pulling the corks and acting the Vulcan at the feast of the Gods. The signals received are not very strong, but Thomson’s beautifully sensitive - land galvanometer shows a good deflection when the common instruments won’t. By means of a local battery attached to a Morse key which is pressed down by hand or raised in correspondence to the indication, messages are taken off beautifully. The regular relay is also used and Thomson’s by hand is as good. He left for Glasgow and London to-day.
11th.–The effects of the leakage at this end are now appearing. The outgoing currents being strong force through, so that those
in N. foundland can’t read our messages. On the other hand their currents are weak when they get here & do not discover the fault so that the receiving only is impaired. The coils therefore which we have hitherto used are very unsuitable since they give great intensity. In consequence I received orders from Mr. Whitehouse to set up two hundred of Dr. Thomson’s cells which give more quantity. For this purpose all the men were put at my disposal. I was sorry to find that we had only sulphate of copper for 130.
12th–We bargained for porridge to breakfast as a treat we have not had for long. The good-people said they could make “stir-about.” Didn’t we stare this morning when two plates were borne in piled up in miniature mountains and precipices with a stiff, half-boiled conglomeration of corn-husks and whole piles swollen up like barley-pickles. We
made a brave attack, but had not driven our mines far beneath the superincumbent mass when we had to throw down our spoons in despair of success. - The battery is working very well. They understand us better than before. We received the first formal message to-day–commencing–
5.35 Laws to Whitehouse.
Recd. five minutes signal. Coil currents too weak (to) work relay. Try drive slow and regular. I have put in intermediate pulley. Reply by coil.
13th.–We received and sent this morning regular messages, quicker and with stronger currents indicated at this end than hitherto. Still more to increase the quantity of our battery Mr Whitehouse at one had it divided into two series of 60 which were joined up for quantity. At 3 the series was further reduced to 40s. They still complained of unreadable signals. This shows that the fault is becoming very bad. I saw
a real Irish funeral this afternoon. It was the corpse of an old woman who died in a workhouse. She was brought over in a boat from the mainland. The coffin was set down at the cross-roads near the Hotel where the women of the party collected round it on their knees covering their faces with their long black mantles and bending forward towards it in common howling the while in most dismal style. They do the same I believe at all cross roads.
14th–Mr. Canning, the able and energetic engineer to whom belongs the honour of laying the cable and not to Mr. Bright, was Telegraphed for to Dublin yesterday. He arrived this morning and preparations were at once made to under-run the cable. An arrangement was made by which communication could be kept up between the office and the boat engaged in the operation. Clerks were
placed at the office, at the breakwater, on Beg Innis, an island in the course of the cable. They had red flags by the motions of which conversation was held according to the Morse alphabet. I went with the clerk to the breakwater to watch that the signals were properly answered and sent on. The cable had not been far under-run when it was found that it had got entangled in a most complicated manner with a piece of cable laid down for the Magnetic company’s use. It was a work of great labour getting these separated. After underrunning as far as the Agamemnon’s anchorage, a buoy was attached to the cable and it was left–the swell being so great, and the day so far gone that it was impossible to go further. In the process a buffalo horn came up which I got from one of the men. It appears that a Brazilian vessel,
loaded with hides & horns ran into the bay under stress of weather last year, missed stays & was wrecked.
15th. Sabbath. The day was so wet & blustering in the morning that we could not get to Church. I observed the people going to “The Chapel.”–An old man with thin flaxen hair and a rather tawdry dress came out into the rain and rung the bell. (By the bye he does so every morning about 8 for mass, and every evening about 9 for “Rosary.”) Those who had come from a distance and were congregated in groups in the rain flocked in. Old men, old women, boys, girls with their parents dropped out from one wretched hut & another in the village - those who had anything better than common wearing it, those who had not going even in the veriest rags. I wish Protestants would go as indiscriminately to worship. The congregation seemed to
be so numerous that some men and women could not get in. They knelt book in hand, in the mud, beneath the pouring rain!
The cable was tested in the afternoon from the shore to the office and found perfect.
The following message was received this morning.
Com. 8.20 Newfoundland Station
E.M. Archibald, N.Y. Telegraphs instructed by Honorary Directors, A.T.Co., and Directors N.Y., Newfoundland, and London Telegraph Co. to state that unexplained delay injures it, rest companies. I replied cause not passing messages—that instruments require great care and adjustment. Doing fast possible. You should not look on cable as on an ordinary short line, as we encounter many little difficulties, but think all
soon overcome. De Sauty.
“The Directors of the Atlantic Tel. Co. in Great Britain, to the Directors in America. Europe and America are united by Telegraph. Glory to God in the highest; on earth peace, goodwill towards men.”
16th. I was agreeably surprised on reaching the office this morning to find Mr Kingsford the clerk on duty engaged in sending the Directors message. As this was not to be done until communications was reciprocal & established it betokened good things. In referring to the record it appeared that we had been speaking with ease for some hours, showing that some change had taken place either in the cable or in the instruments on the other side. At 2.35 they desired us to send alphabet which we did. They informed us that they could read it off with but three errors. The message will be found at page 16. It was sent slowly, beginning 8.20 AM ending 11.12, so that no mistake might be made. We appended the instructions–“Repeat back faster.” This Mr. Whitehouse rightly thought the safest warrant that they read correctly. Mr. Whitehouse was in a great state of excitement, half afraid as the ominous–“Please repeat signal” should come. He walked backwards and forwards taking a side look at the strips of paper on which the missives good or evil, would be printed.
At 11.36 the style began to imprint its magic characters. He watched them while they formed letters & the letters words as if half-afraid to look. First came dots & at quicker speed, from which we inferred that the instructions at any rate they had read. There came V’s, a letter which is often given to afford an opportunity to adjust. Soon appeared an–“Understand,” repeated to make assurance doubly sure, and then came “Directors A.T.Co.” We all clapped our hands and hurrahed. Thinking this sufficient to show that we understood the message, the repetition went no further, but the question came - “Will you receive one?” But Mr. Whitehouse would have the whole message repeated, besides being determined to have the Queen’s dispatch before anything official from the Yankees. We accordingly answered–“No! Repeat all back faster! Queen’s next.” This was done with perfect accuracy in thirty-five minutes. Mr. Whitehouse immediately telegraphed the acknowledgement to the Directors in London.–At 11.47
Mr McCurley, Company’s Cashier, put the Queen’s message into the hands of Mr. Whitehouse. On the back of the inner envelope were these instructions.
“When the connection between Ireland & Newfoundland by Electric Telegraph is established, this letter is to be opened and the message contained in it is to be forwarded immediately to Washington.”
July 1st, 1858
We asked before commencing, if we could send faster. Our answer was “You may send little faster. We receive on Galvanometer. Relay won’t work.”–Accordingly at 2.12, Mr Bartholomew, superintendent of the Station began the message which was couched in these easy and kindly terms.
“The Queen desires to congratulate the President upon the successful completion of this great international work in which the Queen has taken the deepest interest.
“The Queen is convinced that the
President will join with her in fervently hoping that the Electric Cable which now connects Great Britain with the United States will prove an additional link between the two nations whose friendship is founded upon their common interest and reciprocal esteem.
“The Queen has much pleasure in thus directly communicating with the President and in renewing to him Her best wishes for the prosperity of the United States.”
This message being necessarily sent slow took several hours in transmission. This was increased by a stoppage which was rather stupidly made while Canning went out to attempt further underrunning the cable. All hands were pressed into service. On this occasion my post was one of the signalmen on Beg Innis [now Beginish], an island between which & the mainland the cable runs. But it was no use the sea was too rough and we only got ourselves wet with rain and spray to no purpose.
17th.–I was quite surprised to find a calm, bright morning when I awoke. The weather here seems very fitful. Had we seen at Autumn such a day as yesterday was we w’d have made up our minds for a week’s rain. This morning the roads were scarcely wet. Just as I came out on the road with Anderson to proceed to Knightstown, my attention was drawn to a poor looking man, hailing himself along on stilts. When he came opposite the cross on the end of the Chapel, he turned round, uncovered, bowed lowly, extended his hands upwards & gave a supplicating look. I shall never forget the earnestness of those bony hands and that emaciated countenance. Had he directed such a look to the real cross or rather to the Savior extended on it, he could not have gone unblessed.
The sending of the Queen’s message was finished at 6.29 A.M. The repetition of it from N. foundland was begun 6.45 and completed 7.53 This is at the
rate of about word & half per minute. The difference between the speed of sending and receiving arises from the necessity we are under of sending slowly owing to the effect of the fault being entirely at the other end. A message was at once sent off to the Directors in London–“Her Majesty’s message has been forwarded to N.foundland & repeated back correctly. It consists of 999 words and was repeated back in 67 minutes. The repetition of the Director’s message yesterday consisting of 31 words occupied 35 minutes.”
From 8.15 to 8.49 we received the following–“C.W. Field to Directors A.T. Co, N.foundland, Monday. Entered Trinity Bay noon 5th, landed cable 6th, Thursday. Ship at once to St John’s two miles of shore cable with end ready for splicing. When was cable landed at Valencia? Answer by Telegraph and forward any letters to New York.”
[There is evidently some mistake here as to dates for the 5th was Thursday with us. Perhaps difference of time accounts for it] (On subsequent reference to the ship it was found that the figure is 6 & not 6th i.e. 6 o’clock.)
The following came 12.56 to 1.21–“Mr Bernard wishes telegraph McIvor. Europa collision Arabia. Put into St Johns. No lives lost. Will you do it? Stay anxiety–non-arrival.” De Sauty. (Supt)–To receive this commercial message (the first of general interest) was against rule more particularly as the President’s answer had not yet been sent. Still the nature of it was such that Mr Whitehouse, Bartholomew & all of us thought the Company would do themselves great good by publishing it. It would show that there was no preconcerting requisite to get a message read off. Still Mr. W. had to submit the matter to the Directors who said they would
not receive it. In the afternoon we made another attempt at under-running the cable. But the day was so squally & wet. & the swell so great that nothing could be done. My post was with Mr Collett, a clerk on Beg Innis a considerable island between Valentia I. and the mainland. The wind blew so that we could scarcely stand against it to look out for signals. We had a nice pull back against wind. When Mr. Canning got out to the place where he had buoyed, he found that the buoy had carried away & drifted outside Doulas Hd [now also Doulus Head] where he caught it.
Our communication with N. foundland was cut off in the afternoon. We received well but at 1’48 they said that our signals were illegible. I take this as a proof that the fault is near the buoy for the time of its breaking away must have been about one.
18th Augt–This was a lovely morning, very hot–the sky clear as an Italian. Before Anderson and I had reached the Foot, as the country folks call Valencia, the boats had sailed to under-run the cable. The day was very propitious and circumstances pressing. We had been receiving all night questions as to whether we would receive the President’s reply, but could not give them to understand that we both could & would. My post was upon the breakwater again. We watched anxiously the progress of the “hooker” which was underrunning, as indicated by the motion of her mast seen over the low part of Beg Innis. At 12.20 we were rejoiced to receive the signal [ ] [ ]–We must cut–Are you ready for us to do so?”–We answered–“Ready.” At 12.45 they signalled “Lost.” The end of the part between the office and the boat
being insulated, we found that with 14 saw-dust twelves, there was 45° of earth i.e. our current was weakened to that extent before it had well left our instrument. Mr. Bartholomew thinking it likely that more defects would be found by further underrunning sent out one of the clerks to say so to Mr Canning. I accompanied him. The constabulary rowed us out in their boat and beautifully we went along. We found the boat outside of Doulas Head some distance. The passage out is very intricate; the foam from the beating of the waters on rocks hidden or manifest floating about in all directions. There were great numbers of cormorants nested on one little island to which the Irish policemen talked very funnily. We had a nice sail back. After going out a little further they cut and joined on the new
cable which was leftover when the end was brought ashore; and turned homeward, one boat paying out, the other lifting. When they got within Church Island the fresh cable ran out; and it was found necessary to eke it out with the old, On cutting for this purpose, the wire between office & boat was tested and a leakage of 42° found. This proved that the fault had been in this length and not beyond the Island. A Telegraphic order came at this time from the Directors ordering the cable to be joined up and let alone. Mr. Canning accordingly relaid the comparatively perfect cable which had been lifted beyond the island. This was spliced on to the shore part. At 9.8 signals were resumed by sending V’s by coil and “Do you receive?” To show how curiously the fault thus partially overcome stopped N. foundland’s receiving
but not ours I give a message received at 9.37 A.M.–“President’s message here. If you can receive it, send current in one direction 5 mins. When have received and correct send current 5 mins. again. We have not read single word from you since 8.10 your time.”
Mr. Whitehouse left for London this morning to answer a summons from the Directors. They are playing cross-purposes with him shamefully. Indeed remembering the order sent to Canning, they seem, like other corporate bodies, not to have confidence in their most trusty servants.
19th. On going to the office I found the clerks & Mr B. in the middle of the President’s message. It had commenced 8.25 A.M. From interruption to see whether we could follow, it was not finished til 10.25. It ran as follows.-
“Washington City. To Her Majesty, Victoria, Queen of Great Britain. The President cordially
reciprocates the congratulations of Her Majesty the Queen on the success of this great international enterprise, accomplished by the science, skill, and indomitable energy of the two countries. It is a triumph more glorious, because far more useful to mankind than ever was won by conqueror on the field of battle. May the Atlantic Telegraph under the blessings of Heaven, prove to be a bond of perpetual peace and friendship between the kindred nations and an instrument designed by divine Providence to diffuse religion, civilization and law throughout the world. In this view will not all the nations of Christendom spontaneously unite in the declaration that it shall be forever neutral, and that its communications shall be held sacred in passing to the place of their destination, even in the midst of hostilities.
As soon as this had been fairly read off it was put into the hands of the Magnetic
Company’s clerk who in 5 mins. sent it from Valencia to Dublin, and before he had finished here, the half of it was in London; so that the message was sent from Valencia to London in seven and a half mins and that via–Dublin, Belfast, Carlisle, Manchester!
As the receipt of the above message shows our received signals were good. Still they have difficulty in N. foundland in making us out. At half past 11 we had the following from them–“Your currents much stronger but cannot read your signals–Repeat.”
20th.–At a quarter to ten matter for conversation seemed to be wanting on both sides the Atlantic. The following came–“No more here. Superintendent allows me to converse with you. I am H[ ]y. Who you? Is Bull there. We read from Galvanometer and print with Morse key when we see the deflection
relay won’t work. Please ask Bull to write to 106 Brook Street, Kennington Road, London to send me Lloyd’s paper. &c”
It then went on with a request to write to two young ladies, telling them of the welfare of two of the N. foundland staff. - It was curious that Bull happened to be the clerk on duty and at the receiving instrument.
In the morning the following came to hand
Com. 4.3 A.M.
New York, Augt 18th.
Directors of A.T. Co. London. The directors of N. York, Newfoundland & London Tel. Co. desire to express to the Directors of the A.T. Co. their joy and gratitude for facilities and privileges on coming into closer union and fellowship with their fellow-men throughout the world. May the success that has crowned our
labours secure to the nations of the earth a perpetual bond of peace and friendship.
We were informed by telegraph to-day that the Niagara reached N. York on the 18th, and that Bull’s Arms Station is henceforth to be called Cyrus station. This is a compliment to C.W. Field who will be getting all the credit with the Yankees.–In the afternoon Anderson & I went to Cahirciveen. It is a broken-down, dirty looking town extending along the base of the high hills to the right of the valley and rising partly up their side; so that the whole place might be crushed by stones rolled down. There is a fine Catholic chapel and [ ] [ ] nevertheless. We had occasion to go to the chief shop. It is the post-office, the drapers, the stationers, the hotel, the victuallers, the everything of the place. I was much
interested watching three wild-looking natives–females bargaining about a piece of cloth for a frock. One was an old woman with tangled black hair, dark, restless eyes & tanned leathery countenance; of low stature, bare-footed, creel strapped on back and tattered [ ] over it. Her daughter apparently was tall, stout and pleasant in features though rather begrimed with peat-smoke. A little girl, probably the old woman’s grand-daughter, all in tatters and so covered over in her shawl as to leave only her nose visible, seemed to be referred to as to the pattern. The three could not speak English, but chattered away in their native Erse pointing to the cloth. The little thing seemed hard to please; but at last her taste seemed to be met and the old lady stuffed the bit of print into her bosom, talking to the child with the utmost vivacity, telling her I suppose how nice her new frock would be.
We had capital deflections today, carrying 100 [degrees] for some time, messages being printed off at about two words and a half per minute.–The following was one rather interesting–“Mosquitoes keep biting. This is a funny place to be in. Very swampy.” Mr Bartholomew received notification today from London that for the present Dr Thomson is to be in charge of the electrical department here. This is I suppose until Whitehouse’s affair is settled.
21st.–Dr Thomson arrived this morning. We are still increasing our battery power; & managing arrangements in that department. Things were looking very well today. Mr Canning’s labours seem to have been profitable. For the first time N. foundland receives well. Indeed they became quite bold towards evening and said “Send as fast as you can!”
22nd.–What a superb morning this was–if our Scottish church bells had only been ringing out their grateful music from hidden valley and quiet hill-side. In going to “The Foot” to church we took a new way over the centre of the Island to the road which bends in on the other side. The sun was very warm and everything seemed laid in calm repose. When we got to the top of the hill in the centre we saw the Atlantic and one of the Skeligs [Skelligs] towering sheer out of the sea to a considerable height. A little over the hill and Dingle Bay opened out, the land stretching out around it like a gigantic arm. Like a natural breakwater the Blasquets [Blaskets], grey barren islands lay across its mouth at some distance off. At our feet lay Doulas Head, the lighthouse, Beg Innis, Church Island and Glanleam, the residence of the Knight of Kerry, on
the outskirts of a wooded slope the only one in the island. In the distance winding down from its mountain source, twining in and out like a silver serpent through the barren valley, appeared Cahirciveen river, the bridge at the town seen only as a string of loopholes stretched across. We had a very poor sermon from the parson. What a [ ] we got on our way home. Oh! How uncomfortable too was our position, the young men & women [fooling] it out on the dusty road [before] our window. I really believe they do it with some sort of religious feeling their countenances & those of the spectators look so solemn. They never laugh or flirt; but preserve the gravest possible mien.
At 11.40 last night the following message came from America.
The Rt Honorable Sir Walter Carden, Lord
Mayor of London. I congratulate your Lordship (on the successful laying (of the) Atlantic Cable, uniting (the) continents (of) Europe and America, (the) cities (of) London (and) New York, Great Britain and the United States. It is (a) triumph of science and energy over time and space, uniting more closely the bonds of peace and commercial prosperity, introducing an era in the world’s history pregnant with results beyond the conception of a finite mind. To God be the praise
Daniel F. Tiemann, Mayor
Augt. 23d. There was nothing received to-day from 8.20 morning to 9.54 night. We then received the [ ]n's[ ] signal of a message. The clerks say that Dr. Th. had bungled the connections and just discovered the error there and changed in time to get the close of a message. This is very probable, for the Professor
makes much too great a confusion in the various wires leading to the instruments and the line, by continually changing. Still on this occasion, he can’t have been aware of any such inadvertence as he telegraphed to the Directors his ignorance of the cause.
24th. I noticed on my way down the first of the Valentia harvest - shearing a field of corn. The crops are in general wretched–particularly grains. There is only one field which gives pleasure to look at–one planted with Mangol wurzel & Swedes.
At 11.19 the following answer to the Mayor of New York was sent off.
“The Lord Mayor of London to the Honourable Daniel F. Tiemann, Mayor of New York. The Ld Mayor of London most cordially reciprocates congratulations of the Mayor (of) New York upon (the) success (of) so important an
undertaking as the completion of the A.T. Cable. It is indeed one of the most glorious triumphs of (the) age, and reflects (the) highest credit upon (the) energy, skill, and perseverance of all parties entrusted with so difficult a duty, and the Ld Mayor sincerely trusts that by the blessing of Almighty God it may be the means of cementing those kind feelings which now exist between the two countries.
(25th) Mr Gurney, chairman of the Company arrived here to-day. He is M.P. for a Welsh district and a member of the Society of Friends. He is a very charitable good man, ready with his money for every laudable purpose. The people here like him and had bonfires burning in the evening in honour of his arrival. We rigged up one of Dr Thomson’s
key-boards in the afternoon that he might begin sending compensated currents. By his request & received all night with him. Messages were sometimes received beautifully on the Morse instrument. Poor Thomson has great opposition to what is called–his new system. The fact of its being new I think is its chief fault. Mr Bartholomew treats the whole matter with marvellous indifference. The clerks are grievously annoyed with the Doctor’s animation and impetuosity in pursuing an idea through thick & thin to the destruction of their dear old stereotyped routine. They say he makes experiments with mere quantified objects on the cable instead of working right away in a business way heedless of irregularities or their cause. But had it not been for such purely scientific experiments there never would have been a cable, and without them
the cable will never be wrought. What is the cable but a grand scientific experiment, and what are we doing now but proving that the experiment is successful!–Messages were being received so beautifully that Thompson became quite jolly and elevated; foregoing the trial of his currents for the sake of receiving the messages. He and Gurney Determine to make up some news for the “Times” and send it off so as to appear in the morning edition.–“And it will appear in the Paper. News to-day! News today from America!” said Thomson and clapped his hands in an ecstacy of enjoyment. The following are the two messages. The first is in answer to some enquiries from Saward, Secretary to De Sauty, Supt in N.foundland.
“Two miles shore end ample. Have half-mile small cable. Plenty. It is
stowed on beach. Two splicers and jointer here. Six gallons naphtha required. Please send authority to draw on Brooking. £100 required immediately for labourers house in a wilderness. Road to make and woods to cut down and clear. Ought to have more relays. Have only one. Great difficulty in sending letters from here. Have written fully.”
This was at once telegraphed to the Times; and we asked Newfoundland for information about the Persia and news. We received as follows
C. 11.53 24th
F. 12.16 25th
“Persia takes Europa’s passengers and mails. Great rejoicing everywhere in U.S. at success of cable, bonfires, fireworks, feux de joie, speeches, balls, etc. Mr. Eddy - the first and best telegrapher in the States died to-day. Pray give me some news for New York. They are mad for news.”
This was also sent off; and Thompson being in a mood for a lark proposed to telegraph to all the capitals of Europe for news; but he contented himself with telegraphing to London for intelligence from these places. Mr. Gurney sent off a message to Corfu, to Theodore Bunsen. After this paroxysm of telegraphing Dr Thomson tried some compensated currents, but this had been merely one of the cable’s lucid moments. Communication became gradually more difficult. Murray answered us from N.foundland that Thomson’s currents were very bad. I fear we shall never be able to accomplish anything unless the insulation of the cable becomes improved. At six I left for house. Thomson told us to go some time before, but who could leave such a centre of interest as that temporary room in the Valentia slate-works. It is an honour and a
privilege which does not fall to the lot of man to be present where the master minds of the age are realizing their proudest conceptions. What a night’s work, quietly and modestly ha[ ]ted while all were asleep–uniting the uttermost parts of the earth into mental unity, holding fellowship with our countrymen through the ocean tossed in its efforts to keep us asunder.
25th. After a four hour sleep I returned to the office. We had returned to the old affair–“Repeat, Repeat.”- We sent the following several times before they could understand–
“Treaty of Peace concluded with China. England & France indemnified. The “N. American” with Canadian, and the “Asia” with direct Boston mails, leave Liverpool, “Fulton,” Southampton, Saturday next. This morning’s papers have long and interesting reports by Bright.”
There is a long, complete summary
of the latest news waiting here if they could only read our signals.
26th.–From 1 PM. to 11 A.M. not a signal was received. The galvanometer gave a strong, permanent deflection of 110 to 130, earth current only. At 11.22 we suddenly began to receive good signals and at 11.39 we began receiving the following.
“We have had heavy storm with thunder. Cable put to earth. Hour and twenty-five minutes strong permanent deflections on galvanometer. Sending at intervals. Take message for Gurney.”
I reckon this the most interesting message yet received. It is a taste of the many opportunities which the cable will open up for the study of yet doubtful phenomena. Here were the effects of a thunderstorm–a disturbance in atmospheric electricity–manifesting themselves in the two worlds at once.
We could not get the Newfoundland clerks
to pick up what we wished at all. We were trying all afternoon to give them to understand that they were authorizing to draw on Brooking £100.
27th. The clerks spent all night trying to pass a long new message through. In the morning when N.foundland seemed to be understanding, the clerks discovered that their connections were wrong and for an hour or so they had not been sending into line at all. This arises from the innumerable experiments Dr Th. continually makes at the most unreasonable times. The wires are so numerous about the operating table that even when left alone they are puzzling; but when entangled and confused every few minutes mistakes must follow.–We received signals very variable. At 6 P.M. they were splendid, varying 60 (degrees). More frequently they were very weak. Dr. Thomson
says that not a 50th pt of the current which goes in comes out, whereas at Keyham a 10th remained! I expect great good to result from laying the shore ends.
28th. In the morning the signals became good. The Zero varied very much.
“To the Directors. Take news first. Sir Wm. of Kars arrived at Halifax Tuesday. Enthusiastically received. Immense procession. Welcome address. Feeling reply. Held levee. Large numbers presented. Niagara sailed for Liverpool one this morning. Gorgon arrived at Halifax last night. Yellow-fever New Orleans. Sixty to seventy deaths per day. Also declared epidemic at Charleston. Great preparations at New York and other places for
celebration to be held 1st and 2d Sept. New Yorkers will make it greatest gala day ever known in this country. Herman sailed for Fraser’s River; 600 passengers. Prince Albert sailed Saturday for Galway; 250 passengers. Arabia and Ariel arrived at New York. Anglo-Saxon at Quebec. Canada at Boston. Europa left St. Johns this evening. Splendid aurora at Bay Bull to-night extending 85 (degrees) over horizon. -De Sauty.”
Dr. Thomson made a very interesting discovery; quite characteristic of his sharpness. About 2 P.M. a very sensitive galvanometer known as the Circular G. was being put in circuit for experiment. No sooner was it in, and the needle vibrating with the received current than the clerk watching Dr. Thomson’s instrument began to complain of irregular vibrations in the spot. Dr. Th. at once explained. “Oh! Here’s a
discovery. Now I know why they complain of irregularities in our signals. It is currents induced in the coil of their galvanometers by the motion of the needle.” He put his hands on the shoulder of a clerk standing by, jumped up on the receiving table, and by moving the galv. magnet, or bringing up & removing a separate one, proved that the current thus induced in the coil was actually stronger than that received from Newf. & therefore obliterated and blurred its indications. Other needle instruments did the same. A message was at once sent off to N.fdld on the supposition that they might receive it.
“The irregularities you complain of in our signals are induced currents from the coil of your large Galvanometer or relay due to motions of needle or adjustment magnet. Never receive on two galvanometers at same time. Repeat last word.”
[[ ] Prof. Thomson told me that all these rumours are copied verbatim from Hamilton of London. I [ ] the statement [ ]]
29th Sabbath. Heard an excellent sermon from Parson Landiford on “Lo I am with you always &c.” He is a real Irishman, possessing an extensive vocabulary of good words; but not of the best taste–pouring them out in stream without economy. Sometimes he is led into laughable phrases–one in particular made me smile spite of myself.–Speaking of Paul.–“Lo he went up with merry feet to the judgment-seat, not minding Caesars lions snuffling and howling in their dens.”
About 12 last night some unavailing attempts at speaking were made. The zero varied much all day; and the earth-currents were very strong and violent in their action. Entries in the log, such as this were frequent.
12.25–Zero true. When put onto receive, went to 220° right and rapidly reversed to 150° left.
30th. A little was done during the night in the way of speaking. Received
1.25 AM. Can read some of your sending. Take this message.
1.45-2.45–“New York. To the Directors A.T. Co.–Parties pressing upon us messages for Europe. When will the line be open for business? Has Mr. Morgan sailed for New York? Early on the morning of Sept 1st please send me message that I can read at the celebration that day and another on the 2nd I can read at dinner that evening. C.W. Field”.
To show how uncertain and capricious are the phenomena we have to deal with I give the next entry for the receiving period.
3.30 A.M.–Earth currents. Out of range left.
Dr Thomson started for Dublin this morning to attend the Lord Mayor’s banquet and fetch Mrs Thomson here.
At 4.16 Mr Saward, Secretary, telegraphed to the Superintendent two
paid Govt. messages for transmission to N.fdld. They were interesting both as being the first by way of business, and as showing in a very remarkable manner what important services the cable may perform for our Govt.–both in saving money; and in knitting the limbs of empire into one gigantic frame. When we have extended these wonderful wires to India & Australia, Great Britain and her Colonies will resemble in economy the human body. London the seat of supreme intellect, whence the electric lines, the nerves, ramify and distribute themselves, the medium by which her behests are made known and executed in the remotest parts of the huge structure.
These messages ran as follows.
“The Military Secretary to Commander-in-Chief, Horse Guards, London to General Trollope, Halifax, Nova Scotia, - The 62nd Regt. is not to return to England.”
(2)- “The Military Secretary to Commander-in-Chief Horse Guards, London to General Officer commanding, Montreal, Canada. The 39th Regt. is not to return to England.”
It is really most disheartening to have to record that it was found impossible at present to send off these messages. I was employed suspending mirrors and attending to Thomson’s instruments all day. He left me in general charge of these and his affairs here. I feel the responsibility to be great, as on the proper state of these instruments communication depends.–AT 6 P.M. signals, easily visible all day suddenly came to a range of 40°!!
31st. The night’s observations were not at all cheering. Sometimes beautiful reversals came, but no attempts at speaking. Everybody is grumbling against Thomson’s plan of speaking turn about
and sending reversals when they had nothing to say. But this mode was adopted that there might be no chance of each sending at same time. Besides we always speak; why don’t they. They have no orders to the contrary. But this is only one of many instances of an extra proportion of obtuseness at Newf. Earth currents were very strong in the morning. At 9.30, as part of the preparations being made for the arrival of the Directors, the cable was led in by a new way and 69yds 1ft cut off. The new joint being finished we put on to receive and found that we had missed part of a message.–All that could be deciphered was this–“Spot its (is?) difficult tell when you are sending. Field to Directors, but should like to have something intelligible from you ------it.” The currents were evidently coil-currents from the decisive rapidity of their movement.
--We kept asking if they could take govt. mess. At last about half past one, they said–“Try, but will try send repeat.” Betwixt 1.40 and 3.41 the first govt. message was sent. It was repeated back correctly; the message being with that end split in two. At 9 P.M. the second was got through. Employed getting up a new and better observatory for Thomson’s galv. I made an experiment with a bit of zinc and sixpence with paper moistened with saliva between; and the current thus generated knocks the galv. spot entirely out of range. This proves its extreme sensitiveness.
I have been much annoyed to-day with the generally prevalent disrespectful remarks regarding Thomson. Mr Bartholomew throws a slight upon him & his instruments
at every opportunity. He said that a number of rules for the guidance of the clerks would do well enough put up face to wall. I took the earliest opportunity to nail them up as openly as could be.
September 1st–At 12 last night we had the question–“Will you take service message?” The range of the spot was sometimes 170R to 160L. At 5 in the morning we began trying to get a message for Field through. At 11.32 the following was commenced, and received. “-C.W. Field, N.Y. The Directors are on their way to Valentia to make arrangements for opening wire to public. They convey through the cable to you and your fellow-citizens their hearty congratulations and good wishes, and cordially sympathize in your joyous celebration of the great international work.”
In the afternoon a number of the Directors arrived. The battery connected up for quantity, and the coils subsequently were tried; but without producing any good effect.
Sept. 2nd. The Coils and Daniells were used alternately through the night, but without result. Mr. Holmes had his galvanometer in circuit to-day Its principle is a secret. He wants £2000 for it. The coil consists of 1100yds 36 gauge wire. It is very sensitive, but while its index gives a reading of a small fraction scarcely visible, Thomson’s reflected spot describes a large arc.
3d. Nothing doing. Discovered that the leakage of our battery is very great. There is no G.P. to insulate them. By the order of Mr. Saward the cable was lifted at Church Island
and tested. With 6 sawdust twelves, 35° of earth was found between this and the shore. Mr Bartholomew said this was nothing -It may be so as regards our present difficulties, but certainly in so short a length it shows serious defect.–More of the directors arrived. Amongst others came Mr & Mrs Thomson. A board meeting was held at the house of Mr Leckie. Dr. Thomson is afraid that there is dead earth at between 200 & 400 miles off or little leakages between. In the afternoon the earth currents were very strong.
8.47–Reversals seen with great vibration of spot.
4th. There had been a great take of fish last night. The road presented quite a picturesque appearance
from the number of people conveying home the fruit of the night’s labours. Donkeys with panniers full driven by strapping women or ragged urchins perched atop of all, little carts drawn by the invariable moke; women struggling under huge creels held on their backs by a rope or a straw band over their shoulders, or across the brow; little boys with strings of mackerel; fathers and sons, athletic weatherbeaten-men walking along with their coats over their arms.
At 12 A.M. the spot gave a range of 80°. On putting on to receive flew right out of range; first appeared 250R decreasing and increasing violently.
Mr. Saward asked Lundy, one of the clerks, to take out despatches to Newfdland. Anderson is to leave here for home on Tuesday 7th. I propose staying until October.
5th.–Nothing doing all day. Sometimes desire and fancy made out appearance of reversals. I met Dr. Thomson after church. He said–“Is not this an unhappy termination to our labours?”–Verily it is.
6th. Varley and Thomson both tested today. They agree that the fault is about 200 miles off. On the strength of this the Bilboa wh. was taking in the shore end at Devonport is countermanded. It is proposed to try under-running. I fear this will never succeed at such a depth as this distance would bring them to. At 11.30 P.M. reversals were received at the rate of 24 per min.
7th. AT 12.34 A.M. to 12.45 “movements so rapid as to make the spot in transit almost invisible.”–This must have been some violent magnetic storm. I am told the spot appears only as a streak of light from one extreme
of the scale to the other. Anderson left for home at nine morning. Dr Thomson and the Directors left at same time for the Killarney banquet. I am left in general charge of the Professor’s affairs.–Varley tested today as before. In the afternoon he continued sending a combined positive current into the line from 340 sawdust Dans. 50 liquid Daniells & 12 Smees working through the coils. The negative currents are short-circuited by a key. At 12.30 Sir Charles Bright and his brother arrived at Valentia. There seems to be a deal of conceit about him. Varley thinks the fault nearly 300 miles off. He says the use of coil currents on a line already faulty has destroyed the cable by making it worse. To prove this he experimented with artificial faults, and found that
the coils sparked and sputtered through intoo water when underneath its surface. The question is however would this be the case under the actual circumstances. I can’t believe that this would be like the action some 300 miles off. Varley sent nothing but positive currents to seal up the fault, as he says, by forming a combination of copper and alumina. He seems very anxious to get some words through. It is amusing to witness his attempts to manufacture signals out of mere earth currents. At 8.45 reversals were distinguishable though all but obliterated by earth-currents.
The Magivens [Russell’s landlord] had several numbers of the N. York Herald sent by a brother there. The impression of the 16th contains a long leading article by the correspondent who accompanied the expedition [John Mullaly] levelled at
Mr Whitehouse in behalf of Hughes. The lies with which it is crammed are enough to make one laugh were they not wicked as well as absurd. The amount of party-feeling, and the striving one against another which I see daily and hourly in the acts of those around me make me more and more disgusted and eager to get away out of this. For example Bartholomew has been insinuating blame on Thomson on all possible occasions to-day for there being nothing but reversals from Newfoundland, and for other things with wh. he could not in fairness be said to be blameable.
8th.–Constant positive currents were sent into the line all day with the expectation of improving it
sufficiently to get a message through. Experiments as to the effect of coils were continued by Varley. I took a piece of the G.P. covered cable core and sent the current from the coils through it on short circuit. The wire of course became red hot, but the fact wh. is important is this that the G.P. bulged out in bubbles here and there showing the existence of air globules in its substance. The wonder to me is that such an extent of insulating matter as we have in the core of the cable can be had comparatively without flaw. The spare cable in store was measured that Mr Varley might test it for a standard; and found to be 1 mile 403 fathoms 1ft 4in long. Dr. Thomson and Mr Henley arrived in the afternoon.
At 12.20 P.M. rapid reversals were observed.
9.15 P.M.–Rec’d the letter I several times, reversals and letters. But nothing intelligible owing to the influence of earth currents. (The signals like the word “Daniells”).
Seeing that the letter I is represented in the Morse alphabet by two dots (..) no reliance can be placed on these fancied signals. Indeed unless an entire word comes out clear we can’t be certain that they are speaking.
9th. Varley continued sending positive currents into the line as messages, keeping a piece of G.P. below the spring of the receiving key wh. sends a negative. Dr. Thomson placed one Daniell between the line and Galvanometer for receiving; the copper pole being to line, the zinc to earth through the Galvanometer. He calculates from observations by this arrangement that what we receive
from N.fdld equals only a third part of the electro-motive force of a single cell Daniell’s. In evening zinc put to line.
In the morning some unintelligible signals were observed.
7.37–One cell with zinc to line
11.34-11.40 P.M.–A few dits and the [ ] signal.
10th–Varley used the coils in the morning. Increased our battery power with 100 liquid Daniells in series with the sawdusts, so that we have now 440 cells in action!–By Dr. Thomson’s orders I divided these into two batteries; one sending a constant zinc current into the line; the other put on the reversing key for working as usual. The result is that the cable is always under the influence of a negative current, for when in sending a positive current is sent in the constant negative destroys it. This will make the fault no better but while keeping it open will deposit metal
or tend to do so at least. Positive electricity again forms an oxide, and mends the fault temporarily but at the expense of the wire wh. is ate away.–Varley drew up his report to-day. He concludes in it that the probable distance of the fault is 267 miles.
11th.–Going way down to mess from “The Chapel” I went into a large, good building by the roadside wh. had been a national school but through the spirit of Catholic intolerance was put down. The schoolroom is large. The door swings open to the wind: the benches are topsy turvey; the school-bibles and hymn-books lying higgledy-piggledy in a doorless cup-board or strewn in loose leaves over the floor. This is the spirit wh. ruins Ireland.
Mr. Henley was testing today. He seems also to regard the fault as a long way off, more than 100 miles. He
has a beautiful galvanometer very sensitive with three miles 60 gauge wire in the coil. His magnetic machine is on its way from London. The same battery arrangement existed to-day as yesterday.
12th. Sunday. Lundy left this morning for Galway. He is to sail on Tuesday.–Mr. Saward employed himself all day making enquiries at the clerks concerning various facts having reference to Mr. Whitehouse’s letter. Somebody told him that I kept a diary; so he asked me for some particulars out of it particularly as to Dr. Thomson’s movements. One point seemed to astonish Saward–that in last testing with 6 twelves Bartholomew should get 35° earth and call it nothing. I was the only one who happened to notice the deflection. Saward expressed a wonder whether “Whitehouse was not right, after all this science” as to
the position of the fault.–I made some extracts from my “Notes” and gave them to him.
A.M. 9.30-10 Negative earth current overpowering positive of cell. Galvanometer requiring 6 compensating magnets.
A.M. 10.30-11.30 Out of range. Zero adjusted. Deflection 95R, then gradually 100L.
P.M. 7.30-8.30 Decided signs of signals but nothing readable.
P.M. 9.30-10.30 Good reversals.
13th. I was roused about 4 this morning by the banging and thumping of the front & back doors of the house accompanied by the shrill cry of a woman. As I guessed at the moment, it was a call upon the priest to go to a dying man.
Thompson questioned me about Bartholomew’s testing. He seemed surprised. He telegraphed to Galway the following addition to Lundy’s instructions.
“Keep negative current always on
line; never less than one cell Daniells. Send and receive through one cell, zinc line. On no account w positive current either from battery or coils to be admitted to the line till further orders from the Directors. By negative I mean zinc end of battery.”
His object in this is to use the Professors practical expression to “get silver from the sea”; and preserve the conductor.
In the morning the Earth Currents were very strong. Sometimes 4 magnets were requisite to overpower them.
P.M. 1.30-2.40–Received very decided reversals of good range.
465 cells were used for part of the day, 440 for rest. The magnetic cable between Valentia & the mainland is parted. The clerk had to shift over to the White Strand where the Red Iron House where the Company’s Offices were last year still stands.
14th. My ears were saluted the first thing this morning by the dolorous wailing of those who were keening over
the body of the man to whom reference is made under the 13th.
Mr. Phillips, Whitehouse’s assistant left this morning. I went over with Mr. Walker, Magnetic Clerk to the Red house where we remained all forenoon botanizing on the sea-beach with coat & shoes & stockings off.
In the evening Lord Colville, (a Scottish peer) in his yacht–“The Lavrock” [Russell has “Laverock”] entered the Bay. They came ashore immediately and were shown everything about the office by the Professor. Lord & Lady C. are both young, the latter of fine, amiable countenance. On my way home I saw the comet for the first time. It is very brilliant.
1.50 A.M. Beautiful reversals from Newfoundland at the rate of 1 per second.
2-2.10 Out of range and could scarcely be brought back by magnets.
5 P.M. One cell through Galvanometer and earth. viz–copper to copper
earth; zinc to cable earth–80R down to 65° cell thrown out. Earths alone gave 65° coming down to 60R&L.
This is part of several experiments made to test the effect of different earths on the readings.
15th.–Experiments on the earths continued. All the cells of the battery were again joined up; and only negative used. To-day as for the last few days experiments on faults were continued. Th. says one made by the prick of a penknife offers resistance equal 50 miles. The magnetic cable is being under-run. The captain of the “Shamrock” a gunboat employed sounding along the coast told Mr. Walker of a bank called the Coast Guard Patch, where the soundings go from 10 or 14 to 70 or 80 over which he believes the cable to be led. If this be so through the==+ action of the tide it must be chafing gradually away. Yet I scarcely think the very harbours mouth would be left unsounded before
bringing in the cable when even the deep sea was so well explored. I only wish the great bank betwixt deep and shallow had been more thoroughly examined. It may be a downright precipice.
7.30-8.30 A.M. “For last twenty minutes deflections rapidly from zero to 170° & 180°–When at latter great oscillation, out of range and up & down the scale both sides very rapidly indeed.”
16th. Nothing but these vagrant earth currents during the night. Experiments as before on faults. The circuit was complete in water through two slits in two wires. The coils blazed through them making the G.P. float like pease on the top. The battery did not find out a small fault until enlarged by the coils. After burning a conical hole, a positive from the battery was tried & found to mend the fault at once with oxide. There was a blaze below water when the battery passed through. Apparent reversals were produced by the formation and evolution of air or
gas bubbles wh. collecting at the fault, partially closed circuit and then removed so as to open it. Dr. Thomson said–“There are seen beautiful reversals - Every fish going past gives the air an impulse.”–It was proved that the coils will not burn such a hole as the battery, for one wh. the former has burned to the utmost is burned much more by the battery.
7.21-7.31–Reversals. These I saw myself and certainly they were no impositions. There was a curious double nature. One of earth cur’t shifting the zero practically; another their reversals distinct and clear.
17th. Nothing but earth currents during the night. The usual experiments on faults were continued. Instead of being pricked with a penknife the wire was only punctured by a needle. A positive current was used and oxide of copper was formed. Bubbles of hydrogen
came off. The evolution of each was indicated by a decided jerk on Henley’s little galvanometer on the principle explained above. The addition of 300 miles resistance did not alter the effect much. Dr. Thomson said to-day that he would have any future cable tested mile by mile with the coils, it being submerged.
To-day we had rain as heavy and constant as I have ever seen it. All the roads were flooded and rutted. Going home at night one had to look sharply to their feet owing to the debris of walls &c left by the subsiding water.
I examined the log-book at the period when the cable was under-run by Whitehouse’s directions. I find that even then there are facts enough on record to show that besides the leakage near the shore wh. was then
(77) [page numbering is off, this should be 76]
removed, there must have been at some distance off a great fault wh. was not removed. The state of the case is this.–We had been receiving very well the preceding night. On Augt. 18th the cable was under-run. At 9.8 A.M. it was joined up after the operation. Not only could not they read us but we could not frequently read them; and it was not until 8 a.m. on Thursday, 19th that we commenced receiving the Pres. message.–Mr. Whitehouse plainly I think must be astray in his testing.–Saw Saward’s venomous note in “Times” to-day.
18th. This morning was a perfect contrast to yesterday—so bright, calm and peaceful. All the waters of the sea round the island are red with the earth borne down by the floods. A positive current from ten sawdusts
was kept on the punctured wire all night a copper plate being used instead of another wire to convey the current from basin to earth. The result was the formation of chloride of copper round the orifices like lava round a crater. The earth currents were slower than usual in their action during the night.–This was a “great day” in Valentia. The regatta came off to-day. Nearly all the money was contributed by Atlantic employees and Calcutt one of the clerks managed the whole affair himself. The greatest credit is due him for the manner in wh. the affair went off. The turn-out of people was wonderful both from the island and mainland. The day was bright too so that Knightstown presented a most gay and lively appearance. There were apple and cake women, fiddlers, a bagpiper, a booth for the sale of liquors, and country men and country-women ad libitum all dressed in their “braws.” Perhaps the
most Irish sight in the fair was a dancing master–a clean sallow-faced man in ordinary undress clothes–with his pupils–young men and women neat and trig and good-looking. The pupils danced to the sound of a fiddle, on the street while he superintended their motions in the more intricate parts by giving the name. Had I known more of dancing phraseology I might have picked up some rich specimens of the brogue I suspect. The first race was a sailing match in wh. three started. “The Nancy of Renard” won easily. But the excitement came after the race when the three boats got along side at the landing and one crew began “jawing” another. The scene was very picturesque. The men, fine athletic fellows, in shirt and trousers, with these red handkerchefs twisted turban-like round their heads; their brown features and dark eyes sparkling with animation. Their Celtic tongues went
right merrily, and had it not been for the intervention of some women their brawny fists would soon have been in action. The second race was a rowing match. The third would have been the best race being a Beg Innis against a Valentia crew. But they fouled at first. The one wh. got free first set off & wouldn’t come back. There is however to be a race some other day. Other races followed. But the great hit of the day was a donkey race wh. we got up towards dusk. Walker got 4 or 5 donkeys together. We took them out about ¾ mile and started them each riding another’s donkey, the last to be the winner. Walker, Keating & I ran behind to keep off interested parties from lashing the donkeys. We found however that this plan would not do; so we took them back again and started them in the ordinary way; the first to be winner. The race was capital. I was nearly half dead keeping up with the
mokes. The first got 7/6, the second 2/6.
Lambert told me that each of Whitehouse’s coils contains 5 miles secondary; and about 1½ primary.
1 to 2 A.M. Appearances of Reversals.
12 noon–Absolute amount of cable current 1/16th of what 10 Dans. send into the cable.
19th. Sunday. Show of earth currents. No reversals.–It is rumoured that Varley is to be our Electrician.
20th. Only Earth currents, except between 7 & 8 A.M. when “something like reversals” is recorded. The “South Western” came into the Pier this afternoon and landed Henley’s monster machine and Thomson’s new recording instrument. This latter is very beautifully made; but as experiments conducted up to a late hour showed it requires some amendments to render it useful. Mr. Bartholomew returned in the afternoon.
21st. Mr. Whitehouse and Mr Phillips left this morning. At 2 P.M. Mr. Henley’s splendid magnetic machine was used in sending for the first time. This is a gigantic instrument of exactly the same kind as his patent used by the Magnetic Tel. Company. The grandeur of the thing is this that by simply moving a lever wh. reverses the poles of two magnets, electricity may be produced to the end of time without batteries with no other consumpt than the food necessary to support an agent. The flame will jump several inches. He tells me it is his intention to adapt it to electrotyping. To do this it must be made to generate electricity in quantity, and not as now in intensity.
Dr. Thomson gave me directions to-day about a plan for imitating cable signals on his quantity system. His object is to find at what speed the clerks can follow the spot and record from it. His arrangement is to have
a closed circuit with one pole of the galvanometer permanently fixed, the other reversing this circuit. The degree of deflection on the galvanometer increases of course as the distance between the fixed & movable poles increases. This arrangement acted admirably.–The race between Beg Innis & Valentia came off to-day, the former proving victorious. They are a crack crew I am told and have never been beaten yet. Their friends prettily cried out to them as an encouragement–Gramachree meaning–My dear heart or darling.–The usual experiments on faults were resumed to-day. Magneto electricity merely dissolves the water. Twenty cells were kept on two faults already spoken of.
8.45 P.M.–The observations show a very powerful negative earth current rapidly diminishing from 8.45 to 9 p.m. (Note by Thomson).
22nd. - Sending with Henley’s coils. Obliged to put off our watches
on entering the room lest the springs should get magnetized. I fear mine is done for already.–The clerks were practising the speed of reading to-day. First two sawdust Daniels, then 5 liquid Dans. connected up for quantity were used.–A villainous letter purporting to have been put in the American papers by Field appears in “The Times” of Sept 20th. I showed it to Thomson. He characterized Field as “an abominable scoundrel” if he really did write such a letter. I intend writing to “The Times,” but they won’t put it in likely.–The clerks sent off a letter of condolence to Whitehouse. They are all on his side.
3.25 A.M.–Decided appearances of signals–afterwards more like reversals at the rate of about 30 per min., with a range of 50°, zero continually shifting–varying from out of range left to extreme right.
11.5 to 12 noon.–Mr. Henley and Dr. Thomson saw distinct reversals with
appearance of dots and dashes.
2.25 P.M. Appearances of reversals.
23rd. The Earth currents were not so outrageous during the night. Two fresh copper earths were laid in the sea each 4 ft by 2 and connected with the office by two lengths of cable (1) 440 and (2) 435 ft in length.–Practising speed of reading as yesterday but with 8 cells. It is quite wonderful with what obstinacy some people oppose anything novel independent of its merits. One of the clerks said to-day he wouldn’t try to read fast–“d—m his new-fangled notions.”–It is sickening to me to hear such poor creatures taking their fun out of a man like Thomson. Even the very workmen in their vulgar way are constantly making a fool of him.
10.27–10.30 P.M. Rec’d reversals recorded on paper at the rate of 19 per minute.
24th. Sent off a letter to “The Times” signed “Clutha”–Went in the afternoon to Cahirciveen, and walked about a mile beyond
to Caran, the birthplace of O’Connell. The house must have been large, but it is now in ruins and covered entirely with ivy. It stands in a sequestered corner by the Cahirciveen river enveloped in trees wh. stretch up the hillsides making the scenery quite pleasant in the eyes of one long resident on Valencia. Delightfully situated in these woods high up the hill I observed a large mansion and began praising its situation &c. I was told that the property is in Chancery and the house in desolation–cows housed in the dining room and the birds build up in the bedrooms!–By this time it was quite dark. Behind us indeed a lovely harvest moon began to rise through the clouds over the hill tops. In the N.W. the comet appeared in great splendour. On our way home we were baited by a bull-dog. I threw a large stone wh. cowed him but drew down the ire of his Irish master who threatened to maltreat
(87 and 88 missing)
wire make the coil, and a semicircular magnet beneath makes the needle stable. It is intended to send the outgoing current through it that any defects may be checked at once. The whole battery of 450 cells gives only 50° on it. In the evening Dr, Thompson resumed his testing. He made a fault by baring about two inches of wire, and found that “the fault is larger because 12 secs. current works the artificial fault up but is not enough to work up the cable.” All the staff is invited out to supper Monday night by Dr. Thomson. I amongst the rest.
12.53 (noon) something like reversals.
26th. Sunday.–Henley’s instrument was used pretty constantly. It is thought from certain appearances of regularity in the periods of signalling that Lundy must probably have telegraphed some of his instructions from St Johns. In order to neutralize the earth currents, one or more cells is divided into 20 parts by a divided conductor of 100 yds, five in each
1.4 - 2.5 A.M. Some distinct reversals followed by four repeat signals. [These seem to have been veritable [range] [away] divisions. Collett clerk on duty, printed off the signals as they came, and did not know until he went to the slip & found four repeat signals recorded what they were.]
11.53 Henley’s galvanic circuit. Slight appearance of signals.
5-6 P.M. Reversals, 21 to 24 per sec very regular.
27th.–Dr Thomson was in good spirits this morning. He was describing several new instruments wh. are projected in his brain. One is some writing contrivance on the [housebord] principle [perhaps a reference to Royal Earl House’s printing telegraph?] i.e. the plan by wh. he has been practicing the speed of reading. It is to be arranged so that by [having] out characters at one end they will be reproduced at the other. It is not for use in submarine but on land lines.–Henley charged the coils of his machine so as to make the current more intense. I took the full shock twice through my thumb and finger. Thomson was experimenting in the afternoon to divine
the lineal extent of the fault. The supper came off this evening. It was a very fine set out. The Doctor showed himself of a genial and social disposition. He kept the party moving very successfully by calling for songs all round, which he didn’t quite get.–Mr. Henley sat to his left, I to his right. Before parting we joined hands all round and sang–“Auld lang syne” of which I had several copies in my pocket.–It transpired that a vessel is coming round with a portion of the shore end.–Dr. Thomson also confessed himself an Irishman–born in Belfast.
28th.–Went to Cahirciveen where it was market day. The town, though frightfully dirty owing to the rains presented a picturesque appearance. Women with their long dark mantles, clean white caps and coloured cotton handkerchefs tied on their heads so as to fall down on each shoulder and down the back in this form:
Old clothes merchants; a man and two women standing on a cart in the middle of the
fair amidst a pile of old coats, vests, jackets of all degrees of rank and in every stage of delapidation. There was a scarlet jacket too wh. one man thought would suit him very well–barring the colour. Several gaudy artillery-mens’ jackets were amongst the lot. Donkeys driven by ragged boys with straw ropes passed up and down now and then, some with creels of apples, many with vociferous young porkers. Rude carts too stood here and there with a few sheep or the more prevalent pigs enclosed within a railing. I noticed several people retiring from the bustle of the market place to spend a few minutes in devotion inside the chapel. In the area in front stands a huge stone cross at the foot of wh. an old woman was prostrate. On the chapel-gate were numerous little articles wh. had been left behind after mass & were hung up there for inspiration by these women. There were prayer-books, beads, crosses, miraculous
medals and scapulars, little pieces of black cloth with the cross and I-H-S. sewn on them in this fashion:
Thomson prosecuted his testing nearly the whole day.
11.35–11.45 A.M. appearances of signals
29th.–For the last few days, I have been inventorying and packing Thomson’s instruments &c preparatory to a removal. We both leave to-morrow morning. Today I had a regular set to from morning until late at night. Dr. Thomson gave a supper to all the work-men to-night.
This being the last night of my presence in the mess they all assembled to drink my health wh. they did. Then Thompson’s health was proposed & I made them drink it with Highland honours. Then came Whitehouse. We sung “Auld Lang Syne” before leaving the [ ] in wh. was about 12.30. They all went with me to “The Chapel”. This was one o’clock in the morning. All were in bed. They sang–“Auld Lang Syne” before the door & wakened them up with their stentorian lungs. After a short parley, for I suppose they thought they were
surrounded by savages, I was admitted. The jolly band sung the grand Scotch hymn once more and went off.–I had every article to pack after this so that it was fully three before I could turn in.
30th. I shall skeletonize my observations now & bring this long journal to a close.
Dr Thomson posted. I took the Mail car from Cahirciveen to Killorglin, where another car went off to the left for Tralee where I slept.
It gave me much sincere satisfaction to find how warm the feelings of the staff were towards me. It has been no easy matter seeing they were all for Whitehouse to uphold Thomson’s name & maintain friendly relations with all.
Oct 1st.–Took the 3-horse coach for Tarbert. Got the railway steamer “Kelpie” for Foynes, from whence the train brought me to Limerick by 4.30 time enough to see the chief street, the “Quay”, The Treaty House, the Castle, Cathedral and Exchange.
2nd. Started by 4-horse coach for Killaloe at 6.45. Left
Killaloe at 8.30 by the “Duchess of Argyle”. Sailed up the Shannon to Athlone which we reached about 4.
Oct 3rd. Sunday. In my bedroom there is a rudely hand-drawn image of a heart with a cross sticking out of the aorta and something like a band of thistles (perhaps thorns) round it. Underneath was written in a cramped hand.–“The true image of the sacred heart of Jesus as revealed in a celestial vision to the venerable mother–Mary Margrit.” After Church drove to Auburn “The deserted village,” a distance of 8 miles. We saw the parsonage, mill, church, site of the ruin[ ] & thorn-tree. It was frightfully wet all the time.
4th. Took the 9 o’clock train for Dublin where I arrived about 12.30. Mr Keating was in waiting and we at once commenced sight-seeing. We saw the Phoenix Park, Glasnevin, St Xaviers, the National Schools, Nelson’s
monument–Sackville Street–The Post Office, The Bank, College &c &c. At night we went to Jude’s saloon.
5th. Started again through the city–St Patrick’s Cathedral, Exhibition of Irish Industry; the chief squares, the College Buildings & museum, The Bank including manufacture of Bank notes. It was by this time close upon 1 when I took train for Belfast. The “Elk” sailed thence at 8 for Glasgow.
6th. After a rough passage we got to Greenock about 6 a.m. Took train there and cab at Glasgow, reaching Auburn in time to join the family [ ] at breakfast.
[Auburn Cottage in Rutherglen was the family home]
And so we were all once more met, I fear on my part not with sufficient thankfulness to a kind and watchful God. I shall never forget these 6 months. I have lived more in that time than in all the preceding years. But now it is all over, and it seems like a dream, for Memory dwells close upon the shadowy boundaries of dream-land.
|Left Plymouth in Agam. for Bay of Biscay
|Returned to Plymouth
|Left Plymouth for rendezvous
|Returned to Queenstown
|Landed at Valencia
|Left Valencia for home
By ship’s log, the Agamemnon went, from 29th May to 5th August, over a distance of 6267 nautical miles.
The Agamemnon was launched, 1854.
2014 road route of Russell’s journey back to Scotland after the conclusion of his cable work at Valentia. Traveling by coach, ship, and train, he left Cahirciveen on Thursday September 30th 1858 and arrived at the family home, Auburn Cottage in Rutherglen, Glasgow, in the early morning of the following Wednesday.
Note that the map does not accurately
sections where he went by train or ship, as it is restricted to present-day roads.
James Burn Russell Journal
My notes connected with
the Telegraph after my departure
from Valencia, Sept. 30th 1858.
Instructions taken out by Lundy
At 9 a.m. (G.T.) Wednesday Oct. 13th use reversing key with full battery (460 cells), negative for dots and dashes, positive for blanks.
At 9 a.m. (G.T.) Thursday, Oct 14th apply Whitehouse’s coils.
At 9 a.m. (G.T.) Friday Oct. 15th apply battery as on Wednesday. [At Valencia, Mr. Henley’s Instrument is to be used on this day.]
At 9 a.m. (G.T.) Saturday Oct 16th apply the battery and coils in series.
Afterwards use the full connection to the Morse key until further orders.
Each end sends and receives in alternate hours, N.fdland commencing from 9 a.m.
from Additional directions left by
Prof. Thomson Sept 30th
showing his plan for neutralizing E. currents.
Receiving Galvanometer to be kept on right side of zero by compensating battery. If full power (24) does not suffice in consequence of a strong negative earth current from line which would send image to left add a cell or more to compensating battery which however may generally consist of only 2 slate cells.*
Plan of connections for compensating battery and apparatus.
*N.B. Join wire from line to south terminal of receiving galv., wire from north terminal goes to earth through compensating key, &c.
In receiving Galv. use only one small adjustment magnet. One of the larger square bar magnets is always to be kept at hand to be used if necessary in cases of doubt as to the freedom or adjustment of the needle. The five magnets of this size may sometimes be used for experimental purposes and the wooden bar below is left to support them in such cases. But these must be carefully removed from the galvanometer in all ordinary observations. Before switching on to receive test if necessary and correct the zero of the receiving galvanometer the screw may be used for this purpose generally. But the shadows of the two points must never be sensibly doubled, and when necessary to avoid this the adjustment magnet must be slided by hand. At the beginning and end of every hour observe and record the earth current unless out of range in which case record the degree of compensating power required to bring it to some position right of zero. Let the record regularly bear what degree of compensating power
is on at each time.* Enter frequently every day observations on the effect of 6 [degrees] of compensating power, say 11 on to 17 or any two numbers differing by 6 that give convenient readings. Watch carefully the condition of the compensating cells. When, either by their own appearance or by their effects shown by the observations on 6 [degrees] they appear to have run down, substitute fresh cells. In any case do so at least once a week.
The North galvanometer is to measure the current into the line.
The Tangent galv. is always to be kept in circuit between the sending keys and switch.
The battery is to be divided into 40’s for convenience in testing each Saturday.
*N.B. These degrees of compensating power give nearly an average effect of 100 [degrees] on scale of galv. as at present adjusted, Sept. 29–1858
Smith–Valencia 7th Oct.
“We continue the hour system and in sending use Prof. Thomson’s Daniells alternately with Henley’s instrument. We have all received a letter stating that our services will not be reqd after 30th Nov.
Kingsford –Valencia, Oct 21st 1858
Would you believe it–but it is not very incredible as it has several prototypes in former acts–the Board sent a message to Mr Bartholomew on the 13th that no other currents but those generated by Henley’s magnet were to be sent into the cable–after sending Lundy out to arrange quite otherwise!! The days you mention* were not marked by any special appearances on the galvanometer but you will be glad to hear that yesterday evening (20th) was, for we received a message with several intelligible words. It was as follows.–
“Two hundred ard (sic. i.e. and) forth (sic. i.e. forty)” followed by a horrid jumble–then beaming out again thus–“Daniells now in circuit”; the words double-lined [here italicized] being perfect. Mr B. took it but did not know what he printed. It came very slowly but some of the signals were beautifully powerful - ranging
*See page one
oftentimes 50 divisions. They repeated it and it was partially read again later in the evening –so Mr. B. telegraphed for permission to use his discretion as to sending with Daniells which he obtained.
Captn. Kell–but not the shore end–has arrived. That is in the vessel (a small craft) at present at Falmouth. XXXX It has been a lovely day and the event has been the arrival of Mr. Whitehouse.–We gave him a hearty welcome. He is looking well but thinner than when he left.
Lambert–Valencia, 22 Oct. 58
After giving a similar account to the above he proceeds –“This was received at 5 p.m. and at 8 p.m. We received the same words and a great many unintelligible signals but nothing further was made out or have we received anything since. Prof. Thomson’s Galv. still goes on very well although the clerks very often lose their “zero”, and get into a mess with it but “your humble”
servant general manages to set it to rights.
XXXX Capt. Kell, arrived here on the 14th and is waiting for the Billy-boy with the cable which left London about 9 days ago. He received a telegram this morning stating that contrary winds have compelled her to run into Falmouth. She has nearly 8 miles of shore end on board, and it is Capt. Kell’s intention to join on to the present 4 miles, so I have great hopes it will be the means of re-establishing communication.
Mr. Varley’s Report (copy)
At the desire of Prof. Thomson, I beg to forward you the following report on the state of the Cable for the information of the Board on Saturday next.
There is an “earth” or leak in the Cable of great magnitude at a considerable distance from Valentia by which the electric currents passing through the Cable are greatly reduced in power.
By testing the Cable at different times and in three different ways the following conclusions have been arrived at.
First–the resistance of the Cable
between Valentia and the great fault is equal to 143½ units of my standard resistance.
Secondly–The resistance of the fault itself I estimate at about ten units; but not being able to get a current of known strength sent from Newfdld this point cannot be ascertained so exactly as desirable; but I think it may be safely estimated at not less than six units or more than 14–mean 10.
Each unit of resistance on my standard is equal to the following lengths of Atlantic standard.
(1)–According to the wire of high conducting power supplied by the Gutta Percha Co. to the E. and I. Telegraph Co. for the new Dutch cable
1 unit = 1.7 miles of A. strand.
(2)- According to Prof. Thomson’s medium standards.–1 un = 2.103 miles Atlantic strand.
(3)- By measuring the resistance of a piece of cable in this yard of 1 mile 403 fathoms in length, I get 1 unit = 2.13 miles of Atlantic strand.
I am informed that at this end of the cable there are about 70 miles of cable of low conducting power.
Probable Distance of Fault
|Resistance of fault
|70 miles of low conductivity
|197 " " medium "
267 the probable distance of fault from here.
Supposing the Cable were of the same conducting power as the short piece of 1 mile 403 fath. Before alluded to the distance of the fault would be
297 to 305 miles from Valentia.
State of the Cable beyond the fault
There is no appearance of any other fault on this side of the one alluded to; but from the extreme feebleness of the currents received from Newfdld there is great reason to fear that the insulation on the remainder of the cable is partially defective. However were the great fault cut out, it is my opinion that the cable could be worked.
In fact there is a possibility of getting some correspondence through the cable in its present state were an understanding come to between here and Newfdland to repeat everything two or three times in order that the signals obliterated by the Earth currents in the one copy may be legible from the second or third.
The fault cannot be less than 240 or more than 300 statute miles of 1760 yds from Valentia.
Notes from my Journal
of various matters connected with
the Atlantic Cable
|Left home for Devonport
|Left Plymouth in Agam. for Bay of Biscay
|Returned to Plymouth
|Left Plymouth for rendezvous
|Returned to Queenstown
|Landed with Cable at Valencia
|Left Valencia for home
First Voyage Out.
Left Plymouth–June 10th
First beginning of storm Sunday June 13th
Height of Gale do do 20th
June 22nd. Began adjusting the main-coil
—— 26th. Adjustment completed. About 90 miles recoiled. - Spliced for the first time. Broke in about an hour by fouling on board the Niagara. 6.26 G. Line spliced again
Keep Ships Watches–
—— 27th. Broke again at 3.30. Not known how. Between 40 & 50 miles paid out
—— 28th Spliced again.
—— 29th. Broke about 11.30 p.m. some 7 fathoms over the stern. 147 miles paid out.
—— 30th. The main-coil unravelled cable was recoiled on the upper-deck.
Queenstown July 12th –18th
July 29th. At Rendezvous. Spliced about mid-day. Anderson & I had the first watch. We also had the second dog-watch; 6-8 ship’s time. Loss of continuity showed just after we
had sent our 40 mile signal; and were receiving the Niagara’s acknowledgement (10 mins. constant). Signals failed at 10 and returned about 11.30 p.m.
(Sunday) August 1st. Certain dubious variations observed about received signals this evening. First see about midnight between 31st July & 1st Augt. About that time three splices went over the stern. Had paid out between 300 & 400 miles. (Say 360).
[Additional note against this date on opposite page:
Increase of outgoing curt. nearly a 10th on the average of each 3 hours.]
Pretty good during day. About midnight became very bad.
August 2nd–All indications of a strong leakage into water. Weak current signal sent.–Disch. taken at 1 sec equal only what used to have at 3 sec. Anderson & I had morning-watch 4-8 a.m. Disch. often dead earth; and recd. signals a mere flicker; espec. between 12 & 1 noon. –In afternoon considerably improved. When this the most serious fault appeared we had payed out 520 naut. miles; were about 420 do from land & had only to pay out about 490 miles
[Additional note against this date on opposite page:The Upper & Orlop coils were cut out about mid-day and joined up again in the afternoon.].
Augt 3rd.–Part of cable again cut out and again joined up. Out-going current still greater; disch. less than formerly.
On trial for E. currents slight deflections of two to three divisions obtained.
At mid-night we (Anderson & I being on watch) sent the 200 fathom sounding signal. Paid out about 850 miles. Still to pay out 160.
—— 5th.–Landed with cable. Disch. scarcely half what it had prev. been for a corresponding charge. Each vessel had payed out about 1010 naut. miles.
6th. 7th. Setting up batteries.
9th. Nothing but coil currents. A fault suspected near this end. Talk of underrunning & testing.
10th. 1.44 a.m.–Recd. first message: “Please send slower for the present.”
Thomson left for London.
11th. Receive well, but they (in Newf.) do not. Use Thompson’s galv. Ordered by Whitehouse to set up 200 of Dr. Th’s cells
12th. First formal message. –[ ] that “Coil currents were too weak to work relay.”
13th. Received and sent pretty freely.
14th. Canning arrived by Whitehouse’s orders & preparations for underrunning. Underrun as far as the Ag’s anchorage & buoyed.
16th. Director’s message sent.
At 2.12 p.m. Mr Bartholomew began the Queens’s message. Interrupted by underrunning operations–Finished at 6.29 next morning.–Repeated back in 1h 10 m.
17th. Cunard message.
Attempt to complete underrunning & failure. Communication entirely stopped this afternoon though we received well.
18th. Underrunning competed.–45° of Earth found between office & Dowlus Hd.
[Additional note against this date on opposite page: Under date 18th Sept I find in my journal that I examined the log at this time. We had been rec. well the preceding night. On the 18th cable underrun, and all joined up anew at 9.8 p.m. Not only could not they read us, but frequently we could not read them; and not until 8 a.m. next day (19th) did we begin to rec. the Pres. message.]
Mr. Whitehouse left for London.
19th. President’s message sent.
20th. Message telling us that they read from Galv. & print with Morse key. Received capitally to-day.
Deflections ranged 100 [degrees] for some time.
Mr. Bartholomew informed that Prof. Th. is now in charge here.
21st. Dr. Thomson arrived.
Newfoundland received well; requesting us to “send as fast as we can.” Increasing battery power.
23rd. Nothing received all day.
24th. Mr Gurney (Chairman A.T.C.) arrived. In the evening communication was very free. Messages sent to “Times”.
26th. Not a signal read from 1 p.m. to 11 a.m. This owing to thunderstorm.
After 29th. (circa) great deterioration. Rapid predominance of earth-currents.
30th. Dr. Thomson left for Dublin, to Banquet.
31st. The two govt. messages got through.
1st. Sept. Coils tried, but no good.
2nd. Holmes trying his galv.
3rd. Cable lifted by Saward’s order at Church isld. tested and 35° Earth found.
Mr. Thomson returned; Directors.
Nothing but reversals & earth-currents now.
6th. Varley & Thomson testing.
7th. Varley testing. Sent + curt. of 34o sawdust 50 liquid Dans. & 12 Smees working through the coils.
8th. Constant + curt. into the line all day. Mr Henley arrived.
9th. Varley still treats the line with +. Thomson applied between line & rec. galv., one cell Dans. copper to line (i.e.+). In evening altered to Z.
10th. Varley used coils in morning. Thomson divides battery into two, one half being kept constant Z. to line.
11th. Henley testing.
13th. Thomson telegraphed to Lundy orders not to use copper or (+) to line, always Zinc (-). 465 cells used part of the day.
15th. To-day and for past few days experiments of Dr. Th’s on faults.
16th. The battery does not discover a small fault until enlarged by the coils.
Reversals seen by myself to-day.
21st. Henleys Engine used for first time.
22nd. Decided appearance of signals–i.e. reversals & attempts at dots & dashes.
24th. Tested the cable alternately with an artificial fault resisting 280 miles; found the effects exactly similar. With a positive curt. the res. of the fault varies from 2 to 3 to about 15 miles. With a neg. it equals 1 mile of cable only. In its av. state it probably resists less than two miles.
25th. Experimented with a piece of the cable in wh. about 2 miles of the strand were bare. The fault must be larger as at 12 secs. curt. works up the art. but not the real.
26th. Distinct reversals & repeats.
Method of neutralizing & measuring earth-currents by applying fractions of one or more Dans. elements.
Left Valencia on 30th Sept.
Three articles in West of Scotland Magazine for Jany. Feby. and July 1859.
Agamemnon payed out at from 6 to 7 miles per hour. Niagara quicker. Strain from 1000 to 2000 lbs.
James Burn Russell Journal
[Note: At the moment only Appendix III and Appendix IV are available.]
To be used for shewing the amount of Cable payed out from each ship.
1. During the first operating period after each ten nautical miles has been payed out from either ship; instead of the usual succession of signals a constant current shall be sent in one direction during 4 minutes and 54 seconds, and after a 6 sec. pause a current in the contrary direction during the remaining five minutes except in the cases of 50, 100, 150 miles &c.
2. The signal for 50, 100, 150 miles shall be five currents alternately in opposite directions each current being held on for 1 min 54 sec.
3. The signal for 100 miles, 200 and 300 miles shall be a current for 1 min. 54 sec. then, after a 6 sec. pause, a current in the contrary direction for 4 min. 54 sec. and, after another pause, as usual, a current in the first direction during the remaining three minutes.
4. Any of these currents on being received is to be answered by a constant current during 10 min. to shew that it has been understood. Failing such answer the signal is to be repeated but in no case is the ordinary ten mile signal to be repeated more than twice. The 50 mile signal or the 100 mile signal if not duly answered may be repeated four times but not more.
5. In cases of coincidence as to time each ship’s own signal is to have the priority over its answer to the signal received from the other ship, and its answer to the signal from the other ship is to be made during the first operating period available after its own signal has been made and answered.
The following 5 signals may be looked for from the “Niagara”, and should they be observed they must be specially reported to the superintendent as well as entered in the observations book.
I–Ten Currents alternately reversed instead of the usual currents.
II–Five currents alternately in opposite directions and five minute’s constant being the exact reverse of the usual system.
III–Three currents alternately reversed then five minutes constant and these two currents alternately reversed.
IV–Three minutes constant then five alternately reversed, then two mins. constant.
V–Two alternately reversed, five mins. constant and two alternately revd.
Ist If the “Niagara” is going to cut & buoy.
II–If she is going to give a stoppage of signals of not more than two hours duration.
III–Implying that our signals are weak.
IV–If they warn us to expect weak signals from them.
V–Implying that she is in 200 fathoms water.
Other parts of the Journal, not yet available here, are noted below. The Journal photocopies may be viewed by appointment at the Glasgow City Archives, Mitchell Library:
Although James Burn Russell left his home in Glasgow on May 6th 1858, he did not start writing the diary until June 10th, when the first expedition of 1858 sailed from Plymouth.
Part I. June 10th through July 12th, The first expedition of 1858, which returned to Queenstown on July 12th. 88 pages.
Page 88 has the end of a humorous dedication to Russell’s sister Agnes, signed “Lord John” (in quotes). As of January 2020, this section has been transcribed and may be read above.
Part II. July 12th through 17th. The gap between the first and second expeditions. 26 pages.
“Notes of Atlantic Telegraph Expedition for Aggy. Doings on Shore.”
Part III. July 18th through August 5th. The expedition which successfully laid the cable. 56 pages.
“Notes of Atlantic Telegraph Expedition for Aggy.”
Return to the Atlantic Cables index page