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

1884 Mackay-Bennett Atlantic Cables
Landing the Cable at Rockport, Massachusetts


ROCKPORT, Mass., May 15, 1884.

The steamer Faraday, with the American section of the Mackay-Bennett oceanic cable aboard, was expected to arrive here from Nova Scotia the first or middle of the week. Unforeseen events, however, have delayed her progress considerably. Immediately on her arrival at Dover Bay, Nova Scotia, on Tuesday of last week, she laid about 80 miles of the transoceanic line. Then, having buoyed the sea end, she returned, to port, laid the heavy shore end of the American section, and had paid out about 31 miles of deep-sea cable when Mr. Brittle, chief of the electricians aboard, received a message ordering him to pick up all that had been laid to within six miles of shore. This was successfully done, though only with the exercise of much care. The company had, at the last moment, determined to take a more southerly course than that first laid out, to avoid the fishing grounds. This involved the use of over 40 miles more of cable. The Faraday started anew and had paid out about 158 miles, then cut the cable and buoyed the sea end just off Cape Sable, and proceeded back to Canso to take the additional cable needed. She left Canso on Monday afternoon at 6 o'clock, and yesterday morning picked up the cable where she left it, spliced the ends, and was yesterday reported steaming toward Cape Ann. Advices received to-day however, state that the Faraday has put back to Halifax and is taking in coal, and it is now thought she will not arrive here before Saturday or Sunday. The citizens of Rockport are moving for some kind of celebration of the event of the landing of the cable, but the popular subscription is not large enough to insure a very ambitious programme. The day will be made a holiday, and the public schools will be closed. A band of music will probably be secured, and possibly a cannon, both to do the duties customary to them on occasions of jubilation. Several public-spirited citizens, however, have subscribed a fund to provide a banquet at the Abbott House for the officers of the Faraday, the electricians, newspaper correspondents, and other visitors of note likely to be on hand. The hotel dining-rooms are already gaudy with bunting, the British and American flags being prominently displayed. Messrs. Frederick and George Ward are here, superintending the preparations for receiving the cable. The cable will come ashore on Cape Hedge, on the south side of Cape Ann, about two and a half miles from the centre of the town. Near the beach a testing station is being built and is nearly complete. An operator will live there while the testing preliminary to the delivery of the cable to the company is going on, and this may last several weeks. The Wards are aiso negotiating for a site for the business station in town, to which station the cable will be extended under ground. The plans for this station contemplate a modest. but attractive, little structure of one and a half stories, in which provision has been made for the operating-room, Superintendent's office, testing and battery rooms, and work-room.


ROCKPORT, Mass., May 21, 1884.

Rockport townspeople are getting a little impatient over the delay of the Faraday, which was expected here from Dover Bay, Nova Scotia, a full week ago, with the Mackay-Bennett ocean cable in her trail. Now, however, there seems to be no reason, except possible circumstances that cannot be foreseen, why she should not put in an appearance to­morrow, probably in the early part of the day. But there are those who assume from her former delays that she is not in so great a hurry as was pretended, and they are willing to wager that she will not arrive before Friday. It was, however, the opinion of her officers on leaving Halifax, Monday evening, that she would reach here by Thursday. It is rather aggravating to the citizens who have arranged a programme for the celebration of the event to have the uncertainty so long protracted. The most pretentious feature of the programme is the banquet at the Abbott House, and the landlord of that hostelry has had his part of the arrangements made for a week past, so far as the uncertainty of the date would allow. If the Faraday gets here in the early part of the day and completes the work of splicing the sea and shore ends of the cable with expedition, the banquet will occur the same day, otherwise it will be postponed to the following day. The banquet, of course, will be made an excuse for considerable speech-making, and a citizen of the town has prepared a neat little poem to read. The Chairman of the Board of Selectmen will preside and there will be a toast-master. It is expected that Collector Babson, of Gloucester, the Mayors of Gloucester and Salem, and other prominent persons will participate in the festivities. A committee has been appointed to extend to the officers and electricians of the Faraday the official congratulations of the town, and request that the completion of splicing their work shall be signaled from the steamer that the people may know when to shout, the band to play, and the cannon to boom.

It will be a great day of jubilee for Rockport, and, indeed, for all Cape Ann, as it is expected that thousands will come from all parts of the Cape. It is understood that the Ward Brothers, in behalf of the Commercial Company, have purchased the eastern end of the Norwood estate, near the foot of Cove Hill, as a site for the company's station and office.


ROCKPORT, Mass., May 22, 1884.

It was the unexpected which happened to-day in the Mackay-Bennett cable matter. The townspeople, by reason of the long series of disappointments they had experienced, had settled down to a skeptical attitude and become disinclined to accept any reports of the Faraday's speedy arrival. And so it happened that the steamer came, landed the shore cable, and steamed off beyond the horizon almost before the Cape Ann people had fairly realized the fact that the thing was being actually accomplished.

It is at the same time true that cable connection between Cape Ann and Dover Bay is not yet established, nor likely to be before Saturday or Sunday. It all comes from that fatal afterthought of dropping the line in a new track. This policy, in some way not easy for the uninitiated to understand, so affected the condition of things on the steamer with reference to handling the cable, that to have continued paying out to the vicinity of the Cape Ann coast would have involved a great deal of extra labor, so when the steamer had reached a point about 200 miles distant from Rockport — that is, nearly opposite Cape Sable — the cable people decided to indulge once more in their favorite pastime of cutting the cable and buoying it. It was done, and the Faraday steamed on to Rockport with a speed unimpeded by the trail of the cable.

Thus it was that she reached here so much sooner than she was expected. She sighted Thatcher's Island about 12:30 this morning, hove to, and waited for the dawn. Then, having secured a pilot by signaling, she steamed into the Bay, off Cape Hedge, and anchored about three-quarters of a mile from the shore. The work was begun immediately. The distance was first accurately ascertained by stretching a small steel wire from the steamer to the rescuing station. Then a rope cable was similarly extended across the intervening water and anchored fast on the beach. Three huge ponton rafts were lowered and were loaded with the shore section of the cable, distributed among the rafts in coils. This work consumed much time, but at last the rafts, fully manned by sailors and accompanied by four boats, commanded by the. steamer's officers, were. started shoreward, the rafts being propelled by the men pulling on the rope previously stretched to the beach. The flotilla consumed the better part of an hour on the way, as the men on the rafts had to pay out the cable slowly as they proceeded.

The weather was calm and bright, but a sea-swell produced enough surf to make the landing quite exciting. The crowd of spectators was small as compared with what would have been the case had the occasion been more timely. The townspeople had been apprised of the arrival of the steamer by the ringing of the church bells a little before 6 o'clock, but a very large portion of the crowd arrived after the most interesting part of the scene occurred. This was the landing, which took place about 10 o'clock. The sailors, as they tugged away at the rope near the shore, set up a sea song in chorus. The empty rafts first landed, but not until they had been tossed about pretty roughly by the breakers. Then the raft carrying the remaining cable having stood off until the word was given, was fairly bounced high and dry by the united efforts of sailors, officers, and land-lubbers pulling on the rope. The cable was uncoiled by the seamen and hauled up until one end had entered the signal station, the work being done with great alacrity. Then everybody connected with the Faraday assembled and gave three hurried cheers and then got back to the steamer as soon as possible. The officers of the expedition had been invited by a committee of citizens to come ashore and partake of a banquet, but they politely declined, for the reason that they had strict orders to leave here at once, after having accomplished the work here. When the event was practically over the band and cannon arrived on the spot and each spoke according to his own fashion, but received not the slightest recognition from the Faraday.

The steamer got away just before noon and proceeded to pay out cable toward its last buoy, where the final splice will be made, it is thought, on Saturday or Sunday, and thus the first section will have been laid. The Faraday will next proceed to pick up the ends of the double ocean cable, about 78 miles east of Dover Bay, and will pay out 1,000 miles toward Ireland. Then she will leave the cables buoyed again, and go direct to London to get more cable with which to complete the job. Notwithstanding the seeming slight to the Rockporters' hospitality, every one took the matter philosophically and enjoyed the day as a holiday. Business was, generally suspended; everybody was abroad having as good a time as possible. The local band gave informal concerts, and in the evening the citizens and invited guests, 100 in number, enjoyed the banquet and the speech-making all by themselves.

The Sandy Bay Historical Society in Rockport has a permanent display on the 1884 Atlantic Cable.

See also this article on the manufacture of the cable, and hydrographer Henry Ash's sketches of the view at Cape Ann from CS Faraday.

Last revised: 7 August, 2020

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