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

by Bill Glover


Until 1924 most Italian overseas cablegrams were transmitted over foreign cables. In that year Italcable Servizi Cablografici (Italcable) ordered just over 9000 nm of cable to provide service from Italy to South America via intermediate points. On completion of the system in 1925 a commemorative medal was issued, together with other souvenir items.

Souvenir card, with a piece of slip attached, for the
opening of the Italy - Azores cable by Italcable.
The message reads “ITALCABLE – WESTERN UNION”
The card has a handwritten date of May 1, 1925

Four companies manufactured and laid the system’s cables as follows.

Anzio, Italy - Malaga, Spain; 1005 nm long, manufactured by Norddeutsche Seekabelwerke and laid by Citta di Milano (2). The 870 nm cable between Malaga - Las Palmas, Canary Islands was manufactured by the same company and laid by the same ship.

Italcable Las Palmas office
1 September 1925

Italcable Las Palmas staff
1 September 1925

Italcable Las Palmas staff and cable instruments
1 November 1925

The photographs above are courtesy of site visitor Pam Jackson, whose great-uncle Cassie Gibb worked for Italcable at Las Palmas in the 1920s. Mr Gibb is at the far right of the front row in the middle photograph above.

The photograph below, taken from the Italcable 1921-1981 anniversary book, shows the Las Palmas building a little closer to completion than Mr Gibbs’ photo above..

The two photographs below are also courtesy of Pam Jackson, and were taken by her great-uncle Cassie Gibb at Italcable’s Anzio station in February 1925. The cable office at Anzio was in a similar style to the Las Palmas building shown above, and the views in the photographs are of the cable hut, the small building near the shore where the cable was terminated.

Cable hut and station staff at Anzio

Two Italian employees with station equipment

The two photographs below, courtesy of Donard de Cogan, show the
cable landing site at Anzio, with the cable hut near the edge of the
cliff and the rear of the main station building a little further inland.

Detail of cable hut

The Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company (Telcon) were contracted to manufacture and lay a 1337 nm cable between Malaga and Horta, Azores. CS Colonia installed the cable. At Horta a link was established with the Western Union New York - Horta cable.

Atterraggio del cavo a Malaga
Landing the Malaga shore end of the Malaga - Horta cable.

Posa del cavo nella trincea di Malaga
Laying Malaga shore end in trench prior to burial

Atterraggio del cavo ad Horta (isole Azzorre)
Landing the Horta shore end of the Malaga - Horta cable

When Western Union abandoned the New York - Horta cable in 1966, Italcable leased circuits in TAT 2 and TAT 4.

Click for detail of logo

Click for detail of map

A 963 nm cable, manufactured by Pirelli, was laid between Las Palmas and Cape St. Vincent, Cape Verde Islands, using CS Citta di Milano (2) to carry out the installation.

Approdo del cavo a S. Vincenzo di Capo Verde
Italcable Cable Station, St Vincent, Cape Verde Islands.
Landing point of cables from Las Palmas, Canary Islands
and Fernando da Noronha, Brazil.

Siemens Bros manufactured the 1513 nm cable laid between Cape St. Vincent and Fernando Noronha, Brazil and the 1824 nm cable from Fernando Noronha to Rio de Janeiro, using CS Faraday (2) to lay both cables.

ItalcableObverse.jpg (88867 bytes) ItalcableReverse.jpg (95251 bytes)

The 1203 nm cable from Rio de Janeiro to Montevideo was manufactured by the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company and laid by CS Colonia; as were the two 200 nm. cables laid between Montevideo and Buenos Aires.

1925 cable specification drawings prepared by consulting engineers Clark, Forde & Taylor, London. The drawing is courtesy of Gustavo Coll, who adds this information: “It is interesting to note that this cable had for some length two sheathing earth conductors (A3 sections above), presumably due to the complexity of the artificial line involved for duplex working. plus the fact that a magnifier was used at both ends. The shore-end cores (top left) were brass taped and lead covered.”

Italcable Cable Office,
Montevideo, Uruguay

Edificio dell’ITALCABLE a Buenos Aires
(Calle S. Martin, 318-326)
Italcable Cable Office,
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Other cables laid were Anzio - Barcelona - Malaga in 1927, Malaga - Lisbon and Anzio - Palermo - Cagliari in 1929.

1927 Italcable Postcard
Image courtesy of Nicola Grande

Entrance of the tunnel at the landing point of the cable in Anzio
(in the distance CS Citta di Milano)

CS Dominia laid a cable from Lisbon to La Panne in Belgium in 1930.

A recent photograph of the abandoned
cable landing at De Panne, Belgium.
Image courtesy of and copyright
© 2008 Christine Denorme

1938 Rio de Janeiro - Santos, Brazil. 1951 the Fernando Noronha - Rio de Janeiro cable was rerouted to Recife and two years later CS Monarch (4) linked Recife and Cape St. Vincent.

Italcable publicity card and special meter cancellation for the Milan Exhibition of 1928
Italcable publicity card for the 1930 exposition in Antwerp (Anvers), Belgium
1930 card scans courtesy of Martin Braem

Italcable cablegram with birthday greetings for Charles Carroll,
addressed to him at Hotel Baglione Fze (Firenze/Florence)
on the occasion of his 22nd birthday in 1938

Scans courtesy of site visitor Jon Carroll

All of these cables were kept working until circuits became available in the then new co-axial telephone cables that were being laid. Circuits in SAT 1 were allocated to Italcable because it was laid over part of the its South American cable route.

Italcable was one of six partners responsible for the installation of TAT 5, and a further thirty authorities leased circuits in this cable.

MAT 1 was again a joint venture, this time with six others. This cable ran from Estepona, Spain, to Palo, Italy, and carried 640 circuits. The 990 nm of cable and 93 repeaters were manufactured by Standard Telephone & Cables Ltd. and laid by CS John W. Mackay.

Muirhead cable key marked "ITALCABLE"
Image courtesy of and copyright © 2008 Jon Hanson


Built 1905 by F. Schichau & Co., Danzig .

Length 3042 ft. Breadth 41.7 ft. Depth 25.5 ft. Gross tonnage 2691.

Image courtesy of Donard de Cogan

Built for Norddeutsche Seekabelwerke as CS Grossherzog von Oldenburg. Handed over to the Italians at the end of World War I as war reparations and renamed CS Citta di Milano. Succeeded in avoiding being taken over by the Germans in WW 2 when Italy surrendered. Scuttled at Savona on 18 September 1943.

Used as the base supply ship at Kings Bay, Spitzbergen, for Umberto Nobile’s Arctic expedition with the airship ITALIA.

Seven-minute film of CS Citta di Milano laying the 1929 Palermo - Anzio - Cagliari Cable:

See also Donard de Cogan’s story of the founding and development of Italcable.

Last revised: 20 November, 2022

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