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

John Seymour
Master Mariner
1841 - 1899

Copyright: Dougal Watson 2007 -

Ship: Britannia (ON 89690)

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cable-ship SS Britannia
July 1887 Britannia
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Two images of the Cable-ship SS 'Britannia', official number 89690.
Upper: ca 1885. From Cableships and Submarine Cables.
Lower: July 1887. Taken from SS 'Seine' by William Shuter, quite probably with John Seymour as her Master (University of Glasgow, special collection A59).

The cable-ship ‘Britannia’ , Official Number 89690, was built in 1885 by Laird Bros (Yard No. 532), Birkenhead for Telcon, the Telegraph Construction & Maintenance Co, of London. Her length was 247.2 ft., breadth 34.3 ft., depth 17.4 ft., and gross tonnage 1,525. She had twin screws and compound engines of 180 hp each.

‘Britannia’ was the first ship the Company designed and had built as a cable-ship from the drawing board stage upwards. A flush deck design was chosen with the forward cable machinery mounted on the main deck. Two completely independent machines were fitted with drums facing inboard. Three cable tanks with a total coiling capacity of 18,700 cubic feet of cable were installed, two forward and one aft. A paying out machine with twin sheaves holding back gear was located on the port side aft.

Dynamometers were provided for all three cable machines together with the necessary span sheaves. Twin bow and single stern sheaves were fitted.

She was purchased in 1904 from Telcon, by the Eastern Telegraph Co., London, and used for twenty years as a repair ship throughout the Eastern network until she took up duties as a storage hulk at Zanzibar in 1924 (alternative date: fourth quarter 1927).

She was eventually scrapped in 1933.


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‘Britannia’ voyage: 1886
‘Britannia’ voyage: 1887
‘Britannia’ voyage: 1888