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

1869 Tasmania - Victoria (Australia) Cable

From the Otago Witness, Issue 908, 24 April 1869, Page 4.
Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.


(The Argus.)

The Investigator, now lying in the bay, with the telegraph cable, which is to connect Tasmania with Australia, on board, would well repay a visit of the scientific, as well as of the curious, observer. The electrician’s room is, of course, not in order yet, and the array of testing apparatus, strange-looking groups of wires and handles, conductors and electrifiers, is more puzzling than instructive. The apparatus will be ready, however, as soon as wanted; and it may be stated that the cable has lately been tested, and no signs of a flaw or break discovered. It is stowed in the fore-hold, and has been submerged in water since the beginning of the voyage. Its length is about 200 knots, and it weighs about 450 tons.

The cable is formed of a copper conductor composed of seven strands of wire, coated with Chatterton's gutta percha compound. This, the conductor proper, is about a fourth of an inch in diameter, and is surrounded by a shell of prepared oakum. The outside covering, on which the strain rests and by which the inside “core” is protected, is composed of 10 strands of galvanised iron wire, and the whole forms a cable varying from four and three-quarter inches in circumference at the shore ends to two and a half inches in the other parts. It lies in a huge mass, piled coil upon coil, and seems trim and tough; and it is so arranged that the shore ends are uppermost.

The cable was made by the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company, and the paying-out will be conducted under the immediate superintendence of Mr Howes, the electrician, and Mr Fisher, the engineer, who have been appointed by the company to conduct the operations. As soon as the vessel has completed her coaling, she will proceed to Cape Schanck, near which it is proposed to fix the Victorian end. Wind and weather permitting, she will then steam slowly towards the Tasmanian shore, leaving behind her the gradually lengthening trail of cable. The point to which she will bend her course will be near the mouth of the Tamar, and she will be accompanied on the voyage by the s.s. Pharos, under Navigating-Lieutenant Stanley, R.N.

All who have the welfare of these colonies at heart will wish her Godspeed on her journey, and the results and incidents of the trial, as they are daily sent to us from ship to shore, will be read with great interest and eagerness.

With reference to the charges which will be made for messages transmitted through the cable, we append the following extract from a letter received from Captain Gilmore:—

“The tariff of charges made by the respective Governments of Tasmania and Victoria for words and messages passed through by the electric telegraph, I submitted to the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company for consideration. It has been decided that the same rates shall be charged at the first working of the new cable, as a maximum; and in the event of the line proving proving profitable, the company will make reductions, guided of course by the working of the telegraph.”

Editor's note: Ownership of the cable was transferred by Telcon in 1873 to the Eastern Extension, Australasia & China Telegraph Company on its formation that year by the merger of the China Submarine Telegraph Company, the British Australian Telegraph Company, and the British-Indian Extension Company/

Laying the Victorian End of the Tasmanian Cable.
Calvert, Samuel, 1828-1913, engraver.
Melbourne: Ebenezer and David Syme, May 22, 1869

The cable was landed in the bay near Flinders, Victoria, Australia.

These wood engravings were published in the Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers, and are reproduced here courtesy of State Library Victoria.

Laying of the Tasmanian End of the Cable Between Tasmania And Victoria.
Credits as above

Last revised: 7 March, 2022

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