History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
|Diary of the Atlantic Telegraph Expedition, 1866
Diary of the Atlantic Telegraph Expedition
The “Great Eastern” laden with a freight in which the whole civilized world is interested took her departure from Berehaven Bantry Bay at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday the 12th of July. During the week she lay in that safe and capacious harbour her coaling was completed and Mechanics and Artificers of all kinds were busily engaged in adjusting and testing the new machinery which has been planned and executed to meet requirements and to guard against contingencies which the experience of last year’s expedition suggested. The deck presented a very animated scene of active labour, and one could scarcely have believed that so much work could have been got through in so short a space of time. The live stock too, had this year to be shipped in Ireland which occupied a considerable time. 10 Bullocks, 1 Milch Cow, 114 Sheep, 20 Pigs, 29 Geese, 14 Turkeys, 500 Fowls were brought on board at Berehaven. There was dead stock too, which consisted of 28 Bullocks, 4 Calves, 22 Sheep, 4 Pigs, 300 Fowls - a goodly supply for the inhabitants of the floating town we live in. The public already know all that occurred during the passage of the ship round from Sheerness. She left her anchorage at noon on Saturday the 30th of June and a telegram from Mr R.A. Glass, the Managing Director of the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company, from Valentia, put them in possession of the fact that the shore end of the Cable having been successfully landed by the “William Cory” Steamer at Foilhummerum Bay on Saturday the 7th of July, had been buoyed on the following morning about 29 or 30 miles from the land. At 6:45 a.m. on the 12th our convoy consisting of H.M.S. “Terrible” 21 guns, and the screw steamers “Albany” and “Medway” both vessels of about 1800 tons each left the anchorage at Berehaven with instructions to proceed where the “William
Cory” left the buoy and await the arrival of the Great Eastern. On the evening of the same day having got up her monster anchors the big ship steamed majestically out of Berehaven, accompanied by H.M.S. “Racoon”. It is about 45 miles from Berehaven to the buoy placed over the shore end. The night was very thick, so much so that the fog whistle was kept constantly going. Wind from the south.
Friday, 13 July.
At a quarter to 3 a.m. we sighted the “Terrible” and the “Racoon” about a quarter to 4. Shortly afterwards we saw the “Albany” and “Medway” and at 5:50 a.m. the buoy was made out astern of the “Albany”. We came up close to it at 7. Signals were made to the “Terrible” and the other ships to send boats. The “Terrible’s” cutter came and made fast to the buoy which was now about a cables length from our stern. At 9:10 the “Albany’s” boat arrived and at 9:30 we made the end of the drum-rope on to the buoy-chain and commenced to haul in the mooring chain on to the end of the shore-end cable. There was a good deal of strain on the chain which was at a considerable angle on the port side. The wind was on the port quarter, canting the ship to starboard – the left hand screw working astern. Captain Anderson, seeing the position of the chain, gave orders to Mr Beckwith the Chief Engineer to disconnect the port paddle-wheel and to reverse full speed with the starboard. This order which was executed in about 18 or 19 minutes brought the stern of the ship in line with the Cable, which was speedily “up and down.” At 11:30 the end was brought on board - by 11:40 it was on the drum. This was the first practical test of the pick-up machinery and steam engine attached thereto made by Messrs. Penn of Greenwich, and nothing could be more satisfactory than the manner
in which it did its work. Preparations were now made to make the joint and the covering wires having been taken off the rope the skilled workmen from the Gutta Percha Works soon settled themselves under shelter of Mr Canning’s office on deck (it had been raining in torrents since 9 a.m.) and completed making the joint at 1:30 p.m. Mr Willoughby Smith the Chief Electrician lost no time in testing the insulation of the Cable to shore, which was found to be perfect. The making of the splice was now commenced - by 2:30 p.m. it was completed and coiled in the after cable tank. Just as the hands of the clock indicated 3:20, Greenwich time, the Atlantic Telegraph Cable of 1866 commenced to pass over the V wheel at the stern of the great cable ship. A hearty cheer from those who witnessed thus far the success of the start, the firing of a couple of guns, the hoisting of the ensign, and of that compound flag of nationalities the Union-Jack and the Stars and Stripes which has been in the service of two previous Atlantic Telegraph expeditions made up all the demonstrations which could be mustered. The “Racoon” gave us one parting gun, and availing herself of as fair a wind as could well blow in her favour, set every stitch of canvas and left for Valentia. The course of the ship was now settled W.N.W. for 33 miles, to be changed about 9 o’clock to N.W. by W. which will take us quite clear to the southward of our route relative of 1865. The following programme of proceedings for laying the Atlantic Telegraph Cable of 1866 had been proposed by Mr Samuel Canning, the Chief Engineer so far back as the month of May last and approved of by Mr Glass, the Managing Director. It will be seen that punctuality up to the present moment has been pretty strictly maintained.
Programme of Proceedings for Laying the
1. The S.S. “William Cory” having received on board the shore end for the Irish Coast, and machinery at North Woolwich will leave the Thames not later than the 30th inst. and proceed to Berehaven to be in readiness to lay the shore end when the weather is sufficiently fine.
2. The S.S “Albany” having her recovering machinery, ropes, buoys, & stores on board, will leave the Thames on the 26th and proceed to Cardiff, fill up with coals, and go from thence to Berehaven to assist the “William Cory” in laying the shore end. She will afterwards accompany the expedition to Newfoundland.
3. The S.S. “Medway” having all her coals, cable, and machinery on board, will leave the Thames about the 5th July and proceed to Berehaven to join the “Great Eastern” and be ready to accompany her in laying the Cable.
4. The “Great Eastern” will leave Sheerness on the 30th June for Berehaven to complete her coaling, and be ready to steam out to the buoy on the shore end on or about the 10th July. The splice to the main Cable will be made on board the “Great Eastern”.
5. After the shore end is laid by the “William Cory” & buoyed, if the weather is fine she will remain by the buoy, and the “Albany” will return to Berehaven for the “Great Eastern”.
6. Upon commencing to lay the Cable from the “Great Eastern” the position of the “Terrible” will be ahead of the “Great Eastern” on the port or starboard bow, to keep other vessels out of the course, and the “Medway” will be on the port and “Albany” on the starboard quarter in readiness to pick up or let go a buoy or other work as may be signalled from the “Great Eastern”.
7. All the accompanying ships to keep their allotted positions, and within signalling distance of the “Great Eastern”.
8. The speed of the ship over the ground, in paying out the Cable should in no case exceed six knots per hour.
9. In laying the Cable of 1865, the average slack paid out through the deep water was 15.6 per cent, at an average speed of ship of 6.34 knots per hour, and with a strain ranging from 10 to 14 cwts.
10. The total length of Cable taken out this year being 2,724 miles, it will be seen from the following estimate that 764 miles will be left to complete the line 1865:—
Taking this 697.5 miles from 764, we have 66.5 miles of Cable left, and the Cable of 1865 must, therefore, be grappled and spliced within this distance from the end.
11. In the event of any unforeseen occurrence in laying the Cable of 1866, by which the Cable could not be recovered in the deep water, it becomes necessary to fix upon the length remaining on board with which it would be prudent to start again from the point lat. 52°51' N long. 14°40' W or 164 miles from Ireland.
Taking the figures in the previous paragraph with 20 per cent of slack through the deep water, and 7 per cent through the shoal water, the length of Cable required between Ireland and Newfoundland, is 1,960 miles; this taken from the total length
2,724 miles leaves 764 miles which could be paid out, and yet have sufficient Cable left to begin again if an accident happened at that place; but as the Cable can be grappled in between 200 and 300 fathoms depth at lat. 52°21' N long. 14°40’ W this would give 175.5 miles to be added to the 764 miles, making 939 miles, which might be paid out and yet have sufficient Cable to commence again at the above position & reach Newfoundland; but, in deciding upon a point of such importance, I consider a larger margin ought to he allowed, & should not therefore advise re. commencing at the end of the shoal water if more than 830 miles had been paid out when the end of the Cable was lost.
In the event of such an occurrence the expedition must first return to Berehaven or some other port, where the Cable can be transhipped from the “Medway” into the “Great Eastern” before making another attempt.
12. The disconnecting gear on the “Great Eastern” should be tried on the passage round to Berehaven to ascertain how she will answer with both paddle and screw.
13. In case of a fault been discovered, a signal from the testing room will be immediately made by gong to the bridge & paying-out machine to reverse the engines, and by electric bell to the coil, and as soon afterwards as possible, with safety to the Cable to commence hauling back.
14. Should a fault occur, a buoy placed ready at or near to the stern will be immediately attached to the Cable to buoy up the bight. The ship would then be kept as near this position as possible, and other buoys can be attached at intervals if necessary, and if the weather is such that, from the drift of the ship or other causes, too much cable is being lost, and it is necessary to cut the Cable, the end will be moored and buoyed with a large ocean buoy.
The latitude upon which the cable will cross each degree of longitude to be given to each officer in charge of the “Medway” and “Albany” in order that, should the ships part in a fog, any ship
having missed the “Great Eastern” can steam ahead to a meridian where she can be sure the “Great Eastern” cannot have reached, then steam slowly back with the view of picking up the “Great Eastern” which may be engaged recovering a fault.
Both Maryatt’s and Colomb’s signals to be used, the latter method having been already applied to the codifying of all probable signals.
At any time the “Great Eastern” may be heard firing guns, it is to be understood by the accompanying ships that they are desired to close with the “Great Eastern.”
In case of fog on approaching the Newfoundland coast, the “Terrible” will keep close ahead to the “Great Eastern” and direct the latter to alter course by firing one gun to port helm and two guns to starboard same; three guns danger ahead. If the “Great Eastern” fires one or more guns, attendant ships to close in with her.
If when near the land, our position or Trinity Bay cannot be ascertained on account of the fog, and the weather is calm, the “Great Eastern” can be kept nearly in her then position with the Cable, or, if for the safety of the ship, it is necessary to keep further from the land whilst the fog lasts the Cable can be cut, moored and buoyed, and watch buoys put down to facilitate in finding the Cable buoy.
This could also be done should a gale of wind be blowing up Trinity Bay, or whilst making the splice, so that it may be considered dangerous or unadvisable for the “Great Eastern” to go nearer the land.
As soon as the “Terrible” has taken in coal, she will proceed with the “Albany” to the position about 1 mile from the end of the Cable of 1865 and place mark buoys for guidance in grappling. The “Medway” and “Great Eastern” will follow as soon as they have coaled; but should they not join the “Terrible” and “Albany” by the time they have placed the mark buoys, the “Albany” will proceed to grapple for the
Cable, and if she succeed in grappling it, she will lift it as far as possible without approaching the breaking strain, she will then buoy the grapnel rope, and grapple for the Cable again further on. By continuing this she may succeed in lifting the bight or an end to the surface, and buoy it in readiness for the “Great Eastern”.
Should the “Great Eastern” and “Medway” arrive before the bight or end of the Cable is grappled or raised, they will take up their position and commence grappling.
If the three ships are grappling for the Cable at the same time, their relative positions will be - the “Medway” to the West, with the greatest lifting strain, the “Great Eastern” in the middle, and the “Albany” to the East, with the least lifting strain; so that if the Cable is broken by the “Medway”, the end will be secured either by the “Great Eastern” or the “Albany”.
The ships will be provided with grapnels both for breaking and holding the Cable.
It the ships have hold of the Cable, and a gale of wind springs up, so as to prevent the possibility of raising the Cable to the surface, buoys are provided for buoying the grapnel ropes, and watch buoys placed to assist in sighting the grapnel buoys, in case the ships are driven away from their position.
Saturday, 14 July,
Course during the night NW by W. wind WSW to WNW. A homeward-bound steamer passed us about 11.30. About 2 a.m. a message arrived from Valentia for Mr Canning from Mr Glass intimating that at a meeting held yesterday on the Island at the instance and at the invitation of Mr Henry Bewley of Dublin for the purpose of invoking God’s blessing on those engaged in the undertaking, the warmest sympathy was expressed towards all on board the “Great Eastern”. A reply was sent by Mr Canning thanking Mr Glass for these good wishes and conveying the intelligence that everything was progressing most satisfactorily: and that the greatest confidence was felt in success. The paying out machinery is working to perfection. The Cable comes up from the tank with great ease and facility. The cable-watch are clothed this expedition in canvass dresses which fit over their ordinary clothing. They are fastened from behind. The officer in charge is clothed similarly to the men. The “Terrible” “Albany” & “Medway” are keeping their allotted position. Weather fine - smooth sea. At noon, ship time, we were 135.5 miles from Valentia and 1,533.5 from Hearts Content. - had payed out 144.58 miles of Cable. Lat 52°0'15" Long 14°0'3".
All through yesterday the paying-out machinery worked so smoothly - the electrical tests were so perfect - the weather was so fine that fresh confidence in the ultimate result has been naturally inspired. The recollection, however, of the reverses of the expedition of 1865 is always before those who have the greatest reliance in success; and there is a quiet repose about the manner of the chief practical men on board which is an earnest that they will not allow themselves to be carried away by the smoothness of 24 hours events. The convoy kept their position accurately during the day. The “Terrible” signalled to us at 1.45 p.m. that a man had fallen overboard. Her cutter was speedily lowered. The sailor had, however, laid hold of a rope thrown to him from the frigate before the boat reached him. At 10:45 p.m. Mr Willoughby Smith sent us the latest news from Europe, set up in this form:—
The welcome arrival of this message (and by concert with the shore we shall be kept advised of all the leading European news) is a practical proof of the value of our Chief Electrician’s arrangements, for while the message was being transmitted to us, the insulation tests were continuously going on.
The fundamental difference between last year’s system of testing and that of the present expedition is that now all the ordinary tests for continuity &c. may be made simultaneously with the test for insulation which is not interrupted at all; whereas last year during half the time spent in laying the Cable, the Insulation test was wholly neglected, as will presently be shown.
Last year, each hour was divided into four parts. The first half of the hour was spent in testing for insulation. During the second half,
which was divided into three periods of ten minutes each, tests were made to ascertain the resistance of the conductor and to prove the continuity of the same. All these tests were of such a nature as to afford no criterion whatever of the state of the insulation during their continuance, so that during the half of each hour, or in other words, during half the time spent in laying the Cable, the insulation test was neglected. Also, while the insulation test was being made, there was no means of communicating with the shore, as the observations were taken on board only. This year, a test for insulation is constantly kept on, and by Mr Willoughby Smith’s arrangement, corresponding observations are made both on ship and shore. At stated times during the hour, the continuity test is made at the shore station by means of a condenser applied to the conductor of the Cable. The effect of this is to increase the deflection on the ship’s insulation galvanometer, thus serving as a continuity test. Communications from shore to ship are also made by these means. Ship can send signals to shore by simply reversing the current for certain lengths of time, answering to some understood code, or by increasing and diminishing the tension of the line according to a pre-arranged plan. All these operations may be performed without interrupting the insulation test except for a few seconds while the current is being reversed. So far for the new system in the electrical room as compared with last year. And now a word or two about the paying-out and picking-up machinery of 1866, and we shall see how the experience gathered from 1865 has been practically carried into effect. The paying-out apparatus is the same as used last year with the exception of a stronger drum, which is necessary for the purpose of hauling in the Cable at the stern, if required. Powerful gear has been placed by the side of the machine so that by means of clutches the drum can be reversed and the Cable hauled back in case a fault is discovered. This gear is driven by a 40 horse power engine made by Messrs. Penn, and supplied with steam from the main boilers of the ship which insures a supply at any moment. The hauling-in machine for grappling placed at the fore part of the ship is more powerful than the one used last year and consists of two
drums of 5 ft 8 in diameter each by 20 inches broad connected by gear with a Penn engine of 40 horse power similar to that attached to the paying out machine. The rope or cable passes over both drums and an arrangement is made for “fleeting” the grapnel rope or cable on the drums by means of small rollers placed between the drums and each roller guiding a turn of the rope or cable as it passes from one drum to the other. This engine is also supplied with steam power from the ship’s main boilers. At 10 minutes past 10 p.m. the “Albany” was observed to drop astern, and we learned through the medium of Colomb’s admirable flash signals at a distance of about 8 miles that she had lost the bolt of her excentric. At daylight the damage having been repaired she was again in position. The system of signalling on board is very perfect and the convoy like the “Great Eastern” has been supplied by the admiralty with experienced signalmen. We sent early this morning the news of Cialdini’s advance upon Rovigo to Captain Commerell of the “Terrible”, and to Captain Batt R.N. and Captain Prowse, R.N. who are on board the “Albany” & “Medway”. Messages are to be sent every morning to the convoy giving Greenwich time [by Rede’s cone telegraph]. The cone being opened two minutes previously, at 10:30 it will be collapsed and the time will be given accurately. Divine service was performed in the Dining Saloon by Captain Anderson. From noon yesterday to noon today we had payed out 138.97 miles.
Slack of Cable on distance 8.57. Lat. 52°l’15” Long 17°29' Course N 89.40 W. Distance 128. Distance from Valentia Telegraph Office 263. From Office at Hearts Content 1406. Another message has arrived and hag been duly published in the “Great Eastern Telegraph”:—
Monday 16 July.
Still everything going on well. The sea like a mill-pond. The paying out of the Cable from the after tank progressing with uniform certainty and steadiness and the electrical tests perfect. We are now paying out some of the cable of 1865. This tank contains 839.685 miles of which there are 267 miles of the old cable. The fore-tank from which we shall pay out next, holds 670.83 miles with about 3 miles of shore end and the number of miles stowed in the main is 865.439. Mr Canning calculates that we shall have payed out the remaining portion of the old cable by tomorrow morning, and if nothing arises in the way of accident that by Thursday night or early Friday morning the after tank will be emptied. We ought to be then pretty nearly half way to Hearts Content.
We had a second edition of the “Great Eastern Telegraph” at dinner yesterday giving us the following news which was speedily transmitted later in the evening by Colomb’s flash signals to Captain Commerell of the “Terrible” who can lay claim to being the first Captain of Her Majesty’s Navy who enjoyed the luxury of getting news from Europe twice a day on the Atlantic ocean.
Our track is about 30 miles to the South of that of last year, and at that distance we passed parallel to where the Telegraph Cable parted in August 1857. The depth of water during yesterday was between 1950 and 2100 fathoms. Temperature 58°. Average strain indicated by the Dynamometer 10.54. Our average speed has been about 5 knots. We were obliged to stop the screw-engines in order to bring her down to that speed, and moreover, to reduce the paddle boiler power. Captain Anderson’s ingenious mode of cleaning the ship’s bottom which he sedulously carried out during last winter at Sheerness, has proved to have effected this very desirable object; for Mr Beckwith, the
Engineer, is now enabled to regulate and adjust her speed, and get more out of the ship if necessary than he could last year, when her bottom was an encrusted mass of mussels.
We exchange latitude and longitude daily with the convoy. Staff Commander Moriarty takes his observations independently; and Captain Anderson and his officers take theirs: so whenever the sun gives them a chance many sextants are at work.
More news from Valentia, but alas! how sad in some respects:—
Captain Moriarty has just issued his bulletin – we learn that since noon yesterday we have payed out 136.88 miles of Cable. Per centage of slack 18.82. Distance run 115.2 miles. Distance from Valentia 378.2. From Hearts Content 1290 miles. Latitude 52°6’ long. 20°36’.
Tuesday, 17 July.
Another twenty four hours of uninterrupted success. All day yesterday it was so calm that the masts of our convoy were reflected in the ocean, an unusual thing to see. A large shoal of porpoises gambolled about us for half an hour. A glorious sun-set, and later, a crescent moon which we hope to see in the brightness of her full, lighting our way into Trinity Bay before the days of this July shall have ended. At 7:55 a.m. Greenwich time the remaining portion of the Cable of 1865 had been payed out of the tank, and we are now rapidly getting rid of the new Cable. At 9.10 the screw engines were slowed to 18 revolutions, and the paddles slowed to 4. We set some canvass, too, with a steady breeze for the south and a smooth sea. Our average speed since we left has been about 5. The strain indicated by the dynamometer since yesterday at 12 o’clock has been 11. After breakfast we saw a bark to the Northward steering Eastward.
Our progress since yesterday is thus indicated in the official paper posted in the cabin:—Distance run 117.8. Cable payed out 137.70. Slack on distance 16.91. Total payed out 557.82. Lat. 52°15' Long 23°48’. Distance from Valentia office 496.1. To Hearts Content office S. 89.35 W. 1173. Depth of water 1950. Wind south.
News from London just as we were at lunch.
Wednesday, 18 July.
A fresh breeze from the southward - a dull grey sky, with occasional rain, and a moderate sea prevailed from noon yesterday, At 5.28 p.m., Greenwich time, a bell in connection with the Electrical room sounded in the tank. Mr Temple, one of Mr Canning’s staff, being on duty, immediately pressed the valve of the steam whistle which is fitted [at Mr Latimer Clark’s suggestion] at the stern and communicates by compressed air through piping to the screw, paddle engines and helm, a similar apparatus being fitted in the bows of the ship. The signal to stop was so promptly answered by the Engineers that the Great Eastern was stopped in less than her own length. Mr Clifford hearing the bell ran at the top of his speed to the paddle engine hatchway, but long before he could reach it, they were stopped. Of course great anxiety arose to ascertain what was the matter. We were all delighted to learn that it was a false alarm. One of Mr Willoughby Smith’s assistants having by mere accident touched the spring of the bell. We had however practical proof from this incident that every one was at his post; and Captain Anderson, ever thoughtful & watchful took advantage of what occurred to make some alterations in concert with Mr Canning in the instructions to the officer on duty so that he should verbally communicate with the Engineer if a similar alarm was given, and not trust entirely to the whistle system effective though it is in working. All went on well until 12.20 a.m. Greenwich time, when the first real shock was given to the success which has hitherto attended us, and this time we had real cause to be alarmed. A foul flake took place in the after tank. The engines were immediately turned astern, and the paying out of the Cable stopped. We were all soon on the deck and learned that the running or paying out part of the [Cable] coil had caught three turns of the flake immediately under it, carried them into the eye of the coil fouling the lay out and hauling up one and a half turns from the outside, and five turns in the eye of the under flake. This was stopped fortunately before entering the paying out machinery. Stoppers of hemp also were put on near the V wheel astern, and Mr Canning gave orders to stand by to let go the buoy. This was not very cheering
to hear, but his calm and collected manner gave us all confidence that his skill and experience would extricate the Cable from the obvious danger in which it was placed. No fishing line was ever entangled worse than the rope was when thrust up in apparently hopeless knots from the eye of the coil to the deck. There at least 500 feet of rope lay in this state, in the midst of thick rain and increasing wind. The cable crew set to work under their Chief Engineer’s instructions to disentangle it. Mr Halpin was there too patiently following the bights as they shewed themselves. The crew now passing them forward - now aft, until at last the character of the tangle was seen and soon it became apparent that ’ere long the Cable would be cleared and passed down to the tank. All this time Captn Anderson was at the taffrail anxiously watching the strain on the rope, which he could scarcely make out the night was so dark, and endeavouring to keep it up and down, going on and reversing with paddle & screw. When one reflects for a moment upon the size of the ship and the enormous mass she presents to the wind the difficulty of keeping her stern under the circumstances over the Cable can be appreciated. The port paddle wheel was disconnected but shortly afterwards there was a shift of wind and the vessel canted the wrong way. Welcome voices were now heard passing the word aft from the tank that the bights were cleared, and to pay out. Then the huge stoppers were gently loosened and at 2:5 a.m. to the joy of all we were once more discharging the cable. They veered it away in the tank to clear away the fou1 flake until 3 a.m. when the screw & paddle engines were slowed so as to reduce the speed of the ship to 4½ knots. During all this critical time there was an entire absence of noise and confusion. Every order was silently obeyed and the Cable-men and crew worked with hearty good will. Mr Canning has had experience of foul flakes before this, and shewed that he knew what to do in the emergency. But what of the electrical condition of the Cable during this period? Simply that through its entire length it is perfect or as it is technically called O.K. We lost the Terrible in the thickness of the night and save for a few minutes, did not see her till 7 this morning.
The “Albany” and “Medway” shewed on the starboard & port quarters at 5 a.m. The weather is still very hazy. More messages through the Cable, which should be duly recorded for when this Diary is circulated among the newspapers of the United States within ten days from this date earlier intelligence of European news will be distributed than can be obtained in any other way. Here are the messages of yesterday’s “Great Eastern” Telegraph”:—
This message which consists of 136 words was sent through the whole Cable without the slightest mistake, at the rate of 1½ words per minute, the insulation test going on all the time. Distance run since noon yesterday 104.7 miles. Cable payed out 124.66. Per centage of slack 19.06. Distance from Valentia 600.2 miles. From Hearts Content 1068.8. Lat. 52°1’ N. long 26°37’ W.
Thursday 19 July.
There was a fresh breeze in the afternoon yesterday increasing towards evening. It brought a heavy swell on the port quarter which caused the ship to roll. The paying out from the after tank went on steadily. Two of the large buoys were lifted by derrick from the deck near the bows of the ship, and placed in position on the port & starboard side of the forward pick-up machinery, ready for letting go if necessary. The sun went down with an angry look, and the scud came rapidly from the Eastward, the sea rising. A wind dead aft is not the best for Cable laying, particularly if any accident should take place. By 11.30 p.m. tonight we shall have exhausted the contents of the after tank and the Cable will then be payed out from the fore tank along the trough to the stern, the distance from the centre of the tank to the paying out machinery being 494 feet. Last night the swell was very heavy to which the “Great Eastern” proved herself not insensible. Her rolling like everything else appertaining to her is done on a grand scale. We see the liveliness with which that operation is performed on board the “Albany” and “Medway”, and we are not at all disposed to be too critical in our observations on our own movements. The speed of the ship was kept at 4½ during the night — the slower the better is the opinion of all on board. - Festina lente. We are consuming about 100 tons a day of the 7000 tons of coal which we had on board when we left Berehaven, and Mr Beckwith who has been Engineer of the Great Eastern from her first voyage to the present moment says her engines were never in better order; and their appearance and working do him and his able staff of assistant Engineers the greatest credit.
The news from Valentia Station as published in the “Telegraph” is as follows:—
Thursday 19th 7.33 a.m. Prussians repeating victories and gaining adhesions from small states. The main army within 50 miles of Vienna - have cut the railway to Vienna. Austrian army between Prussians and Vienna under Archduke, 160,000 men. Money & archives removed from Vienna to Comorn. Armament of French fleet stopped. The Italians occupy Bargo Forte. Fleet left Ancona. “Moniteur*” denies Emperor contemplates armed mediation. Great preparations at Cronstadt for grand reception of Captain Fox bearing address from American Congress congratulating Czar on his escape from assassination.”
Distance run since noon yesterday 112.2 miles. Cable payed out 128.66. Percentage of slack 14.67. Distance from Valentia 712.9. From Hearts Content 956.1. Lat 51°54'30" N. Long 29°39’ W. Depth of water 2177 fms. Wind East.
[*“Moniteur”: Le Moniteur Universel, a French newspaper]
Friday 20 July.
Yesterday was a day of complete success, the paying out in every respect satisfactory. The wind still from the Eastward but inclined to draw to the Northward - the sea entirely gone down. As Mr Canning told us we should see the after tank emptied at 11 o’clock (ship’s time) we were all collected there about 10 o’clock by which time the Cable was down to the last flake. Next to having clear daylight for changing from the after to the fore tank we could not have had a more favorable time - clear starlight — no wind and a smooth sea. Looking down into the tank, the scene was highly picturesque. The cable-watch whose figures were lighted up by the lamps suspended from above, slowly & cautiously lifted the turns of the coil to ease their path to the eye. As each found its way to the drum, the wooden floor of the tank shewed itself and then we saw more floor and as its area increased the cable swept along its surface with a low subdued noise until with graceful curve it mounted to the outlet where it was soon to join a fresh supply. And now we hear the word passed that they have arrived at the last turn, and the men who stand on the stages of the platform of the eye with the bight, watch its arrival and pass it up with tender caution until it reaches the summit - then it rushes down a wooden incline to meet the spliced rope which had by this time come down along the trough leading from the forward tank. This operation was conducted with great skill by Mr Canning and his experienced assistants Messrs Clifford & Temple. At 1.11 a.m. (Greenwich) the fresh rope was going over the stern and the screw engines going ahead at 1.13. A watch of four men is now stationed fore and aft all along the trough which is illuminated by many lamps at short distances from each other. A lamp with a green light indicates the mile-mark as it comes up from the tank and this signal is repeated until it reaches the stern where it is recorded by the clerk who keeps the cable 1og in an office adjoining the paying-out machinery. A red lamp indicates danger.
During the day time red and blue flags are used. All through the night the sea was smooth as glass, and by this morning we saw that a sensible impression had been made on the contents of the fore tank which holds 670.83 miles of cable, underneath which is 3 miles of Shore-end. The after tank held 839 miles. The ship begins to lighten at the bows and by this time to morrow will come up more as the Cable passes out of the tank. At 7.30 a.m. we saw a ship-rigged vessel to the Northward steering about E. by S. - distance 7 or 8 miles. The wind shifted to S.W. about day break. “Terrible”, “Albany” & “Medway” all in position.
News comes to the “Great Eastern Telegraph” as regularly as Mr Reuter sends it to the London newspapers. Hers is what reached us yesterday:—
Distance run since noon yesterday 117.5. Cable payed out 127.46. Per centage of slack 8.48. Distance from Valentia 830.4. From Hearts Content 838.6. Course S.81 W. Lat. 51°36’. Long. 32°47'30"
Saturday 21 July.
Yesterday was our seventh day of paying out Cable, and so far we have been more fortunate than the expedition of last year. During the same period of 1865 two faults had occurred - one on the 24th July - the other on the 29th, causing a detention of 56 hours. At 3 p.m. we were half-way, and passed where the Atlantic Cable of 1858 parted twice, on the 26th and 28th of June. Sad memories to many! We feel however that every hour is increasing our chance of effecting this great work. “I believe we shall do it this time, Jack” I heard one of our crew say to another last night. “I believe so too, Bill” was the reply “and if we don’t we deserve to do it and that’s all”. It blew very hard from two o’clock yesterday up to 10 p.m. by which time the wind gradually found its way from South West to North West which is right ahead - just what we want for cable laying. The “Terrible” and the two other ships plunged into the very heavy sea which the Southwester raised, and we made up our minds from what we saw that the “Great Eastern” is the right ship to be in, in a gale of wind. During the night heavy showers of rain. This morning the sea was comparatively smooth and the sky shewed welcome patches of bright blue. If all goes well we shall be up tomorrow evening, at the place where last years Cable parted. A couple of days would bring us to shallower water, and then we may fairly look for our “Hearts Content”. Messages come from England with the news, regularly and speedily — excellent practice for the clerks on shore and on board ship — great comfort to us and the best evidence to those who will read this journal of the great fact that up to this time the Cable is doing its electric work efficiently. Yesterday’s “Great Eastern Telegraph” gave us the following intelligence:—
Mr Cyrus Field sent a message from the ship to Liverpool at 11.16 a.m. Greenwich time. The observations of the day place the ship in Lat. 51°18' long 36°1'. Course S.81.30 W. Wind N.W. Distance run 121.9. Payed out 135.73 nautical miles of cable making a total of 1074.33 miles. We are 952.3 miles from Valentia. 716.7 miles from Hearts Content in 1800 fathoms water. Average strain on the Dynamometer 14. The Cable touches the water at a distance of about 230 feet from the stern and the angle it makes is generally 10 to 12. The weather looking fine but it is variable between Long. 30°and 45°even at this time of the year.
Sunday the 22 July.
Still success to record. A bright clear day with a fresh & invigorating breeze from the North West. Cable going out with unerring smoothness at the rate of 6 miles an hour. There has been great improvement in the insulation. On leaving Sheerness the resistance of the Gutta Percha per knot was about 800 millions ohmads as it is scientifically called - or in other word “units”. It is now about 1900 millions units which shews an increased resistance of 5000 millions per knot on the portion already laid. It must be borne in mind that this result has been obtained by tests made through the whole length of the Cable both that part of it already submerged & that remaining on board ship and that this remarkable improvement is attributable to the greatly decreased temperature of and pressure on the Cable in the sea. This is a very satisfactory result to Mr Willoughby Smith. Signals too come every hour more distinctly and the Chief Electrician thinks that when the Cable is laid, working the present system, 7 to 8 words per minute will be the rate at which messages will be transmitted from Hearts Content to Valentia. This morning the breeze freshened. We are now about 30 miles to the southward of the place where the Cable parted on the 2nd August 1865, having then paid out 1213 miles.
Captain Anderson read divine service in the Dining Saloon. The following telegram arrived and was published in yesterday Evening’s edition of the “Great Eastern Telegraph”:—
This morning brings another message.
Noon. Lat 50°48’ Long 39°14’. Course S 76.20 W. Wind W. & S. Distance run 123.4. Payed out since yesterday 133.14 making a total of 1207.47. From Valentia we are 1075.7 miles. From Hearts Content 593.3. Depth of water 1950 fathoms.
Monday 23 July.
Between 6 and 7 p.m. yesterday we passed over the deepest part of our course. There was no additional strain on the dynamometer which indicated from 10 to 14, the Cable going out with its accustomed regularity. The wind still fresh from the North westward - during the night it went round to the South West, and this morning there is a long roll from the Southward.
At 11.46 a.m. Mr Cyrus Field sent a message to Valentia requesting Mr Glass to obtain the latest news from India and China, so that on our arrival at Hearts Content we shall be able to transmit it to the principal cities of the United States. In just eight minutes he had a reply in these words “Your message received and is in London by this”. Outside the Telegraph room there is a placard put up on which is posted the news shortly after its arrival: and groups of the crew may be seen reading it just as we see a crowd at a newspaper office in London. Mr Dudley, the Artist has made a very spirited sketch of “Jack” reading the contents of the morning Telegraphic news of the Times - Printing House Square being distant in or about 1600 miles. On board the Great Eastern, ship of luxury! he has been supplied with the latest intelligence from the seat of war twice a day. How he will grumble when he gets ashore! He is not going to pay a pound a word for news, but his newspapers will supply it to him and he does not know or care what it costs. But what a sum has been spent in Atlantic Telegraphs! It cannot now fall short of two millions and a half, or over 12 millions of Dollars. More millions will be found if it shall be practically proved that America can permanently talk to England and through her to the Eastern Hemisphere and England to America by this ocean wire.
At 1/4 to 12 today but 215 miles Cable remained to be paid out of the fore tank. Towards night we hope to see it empty — then, for a small supply from the main tank and then - but hopeful though we are, let us not anticipate.
The following is just to hand:—
Noon. Lat 50°15’48" Long 42°16'31" Course S 74.38 W. Wind S.S.W. Distance run 121.2. Payed out 137.77. Distance from Valentia 1196.9. From Hearts Content 472.1. Depth of water 2050 fms.
Tuesday 24th July.
Breakfast at 8. Lunch at 1. Dinner at 6. Tea at 8. 502 souls who live on board this huge ship following their prescribed occupations. Cable going out merrily. Electrical tests and signals perfect, and this is the history of what has taken place from noon yesterday to noon today. May we have three days more of such delightful monotony. It rained very hard during yesterday evening and as we approach the banks of Newfoundland we get thick and hazy weather. The “Great Eastern Telegraph” publishes the following:—
Noon. Lat 49°45’ Long 45°21’. Course S 75.15 W. Wind WNW. Distance run since yesterday 122.7. Payed out 134.82. Dist from Valentia 1319.6. From Hearts Content 349.4. Depth of water 2225 fathoms. Per centage of slack 9.87.
Wednesday 25 July.
Fog and thick rain - just the weather to expect on approaching the Banks of Newfoundland. The convoy keep their position, and though sometimes the fog hides the ships from our view yet we know where they are by their signal-whistles. 2 from the “Terrible” - 3 from the “Medway” and 4 from the “Albany” which is replied to by a prolonged single shriek from our whistle. At 1.52 Greenwich time (ship’s time 10.45 p.m. last night) the fore-tank being nearly empty preparations were made for passing the bight of the Cable into the main tank. At 2.15 all the Jockey-wheels of the paying out machinery were up and the breaks released. 2.23 the bight was passed steadily and cautiously by the Cable-hands outside of the trough to the main tank and at 2.35 the splice went out over the stern into 1542.8 fathoms. By arrangement with Sir James Hope, the admiral of the North American Station who has received instructions from the Admiralty to give the present expedition every assistance in his power, a frigate or sloop will be placed in Long 48°25'52" which is just 31 miles from the entrance to Trinity Bay and 60 from Hearts Content. She will probably hang on by a kedge in that position which shews the “fairway” right up the Bay: and if it be clear we ought to see her about day-break on Friday morning. The fog was very thick this morning but occasionally lifts. As long as the wind is from the Southwest we cannot expect clear weather.
The news of to-day is as follows:—
Noon. Lat 42°29'40". Long 48°10'40." Distance run 1430. Cable payed out 1610.53. Per centage of slack 12.62. Distance from Hearts Content 239.8 miles.
Thursday 26 July
All day yesterday it was as “thick as mustard.” We have had now 48 hours of fog. Though it lifted a little this morning at 5 a.m. it still looks like more of it. Captain Anderson signalled to the “Albany” at 10.15 last night to start at daybreak and proceed to Lat. 48°25’ Long. 52°30’ to discover the station ship and report us at hand. Should she fail to find her then to try and make the land and guide us up Trinity Bay. Another signal was sent at 12.30 to the effect that the “Terrible” and “Medway” would be sent ahead to meet the “Albany” and establish a line to lead us in even with a fog. The “Albany” started at 3.30. At 4.45 (Greenwich time) the Cable Engineer in Charge took one weight off each brake of the paying out machinery. At 7.40 all weights taken off; the assumed depth being 300 fathoms. The indicated strain on the Dynamometer gradually decreasing. Speed of ship 5 knots. Wind variable from S W to N W and then N E to East. We are going to try and pick up the Cable of 1865 in 2,500 fathoms; (and we mean to succeed too) therefore should the Cable we are now paying out part, it can be understood how easy it would be to raise it from a depth of 300 fathoms. At 8.55 we signalled to the “Terrible” to sound and received a reply - 160 fathoms. At 11.30 we informed her that when at the buoy off Hearts Content she should have her paddle-box boat and two cutters ready to be alongside immediately for holding the bight of the Cable during the splice and laying the shore-end. The “Medway” was told at the same time to prepare two 5-inch ropes and two large mushroom anchors with fifty fathoms chain for anchoring during splice in 170 fathoms water, and we intimated to her that when inside Trinity Bay we should signal for two boats to take hands on board her for shore end.
News of today. Telegram from Mr Glass in reply to one from Mr Canning:—“I congratulate you all most sincerely on your
arrival in 130 fathoms. I hope nothing will interfere to mar the hitherto brilliant success, and that the Cable will be landed tomorrow O.K.”
Noon. Lat. 48°45’ Long 51°16'30". Distance run 1558.2. Cable payed out 1744.08 miles. Per centage of slack 11.93. Distance from Hearts Content 110.8 miles. Depth of water 130 fathoms.
Friday 27 July
Shortly after 2 p.m. yesterday two ships which were soon made out to be steamers were seen to the westward, and the Terrible steaming on ahead, in about an hour signalled to us that H.M.S. “Niger” was one of them, accompanied by the “Albany”. The “Niger”, Captain Bruce, sent a boat to the “Terrible” as soon as he came up with her. The “Albany” shortly afterwards took up her position on our starboard quarter, and signalled that she spoke the “Niger” at noon bearing E. by N., and that the “Lily” was anchored at the station at the entrance of Trinity Bay as arranged with the Admiral. The “Albany” also reported that she had passed an iceberg in Lat 48°34’ Long 52°10 about 60 feet high. At 20 after 4 p.m. the “Niger” came on our port side, quite close and Captain Bruce sending the crew to the rigging and manning the yards gave us three cheers which were heartily returned by the Great Eastern. She then steamed ahead towards Trinity Bay. The “Albany” was signalled to go on immediately to Hearts Content, clear the N.E. side of the harbour of shipping & place a boat with a red flag for Captain Anderson to steer to, for anchorage. Just before dinner we saw on the southern horizon, distant about 10 miles, an iceberg, probably the one which the “Albany” met with. It was apparently about 50 or 60 feet in height. The fog came on very thick about 8 p.m., and between that and ten we were constantly exchanging guns and burning blue lights with the “Terrible” who with the “Niger” went in search of the “Lily” station ship. The “Terrible” having been signalled to come up and take her position, informed us they had made the “Lily” out and that she bore then about E.N.E. distant 4 miles. Later in the night Capt Commerell said that if Capt Anderson would stop the Great Eastern he would send the Surveyor Mr Robinson, R.N. who came out in the “Niger”, on board of us and about 3 the engines were slowed and the “Terrible” but very shortly afterwards came alongside with that officer. Catalina Light at the entrance of Trinity
Bay had been made out three hours before this, and the loom of the coast had also been seen. Fog still prevailing! According to Mr Robinson’s account, if they got one clear day in seven at the entrance of the Bay they consider themselves fortunate. Here we are now (6 a.m.) within 10 miles of Hearts Content, and we can scarcely see more than a ship’s length. The “Niger” however is ahead and her repeated guns tell us where we are with accuracy. Good fortune follows us and scarcely has 8 o’clock arrived when the massive curtain of fog raises itself gradually from both shores of Trinity Bay disclosing to us the entrance of Hearts Content, the Albany making for the harbour, the Margaretta Stevenson, surveying vessel steaming out to meet us, the prearranged path-way all marked with buoys by Mr J.H. Kerr R.N. and a whole fleet of fishing boats fishing at the entrance. We could now plainly see that Hearts Content, so far as its capabilities permitted was prepared to welcome us. The British & American flags floated from the Church and Telegraph Station & other buildings. We had dressed ship, fired a salute & given three cheers & Capt Commerell of H.M.S. “Terrible” was soon on board to congratulate us on our success. At 9 o’clock ship’s time just as we had cut the cable and made arrangements for the “Medway” to lay the shore-end, a message arrived giving us the concluding words of a leader in this morning’s “Times”. “It is a great work a glory to our age and nation, & the men who have achieved it deserve to be honoured among the benefactors of their race. Treaty of peace signed between Prussia & Austria”. It was now time for the Chief Engineer Mr Canning to make the necessary preparations for splicing on board the “Medway”. Accompanied by Mr Gooch M.P. Mr Clifford, Mr Willoughby Smith, Messrs. Temple and Deane went on board, the “Terrible” and “Niger” having sent their paddle box boats & cutters to assist. Shortly
afterwards the “Great Eastern” steamed into the harbour and anchored on the N.E. side, and was quickly surrounded by boats laden with visitors. Mr Cyrus Field had come on shore before the “Great Eastern” had left the offing, with a view of telegraphing to St. John’s to hire a vessel to repair the cable unhappily broken between Cape Ray in Newfoundland and Cape North in Breton Island. Before a couple of hours the shore end will be landed, and it is impossible to conceive a finer day for effecting this our final operation. Even here people can scarcely realize the fact that the Atlantic Telegraph Cable has been laid. To-morrow, however, Hearts Content will awaken to the fact that it is a highly favoured place in the world’s esteem, the western landing place of that marvel of electric communication with the Eastern Hemisphere, which is now happily, and we hope finally established.
A separate document, which appears to be in the same hand as the Diary, has the messages exchanged over the cable between Queen Victoria and President Andrew Johnson on one side and congratulatory messages sent to Cyrus Field at Heart’s Content by President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward on the other:
THE QUEEN’S MESSAGE
THE PRESIDENT’S REPLY
Telegraph received from the President of the United States
“To Cyrus W. Field Esq., Heart’s Content, July 31st 1866.
I heartily congratulate you, and trust that your enterprise may prove as successful as your efforts have been persevering. May the cable under the sea tend to promote and to perpetuate peace and harmony between the Republic of the West and the Governments of the Eastern Hemisphere.
(signed) Andrew Johnson.”
Telegraph received from the Secretary of State
“To Cyrus W Field Esq. Heart’s Content July 31 1866.
(signed) W.H. Seward.”
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Last revised: 26 October, 2019