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

1920 Brazil-Uruguay-Argentina Cables
All America Cables, Inc

Introduction: Published in the November and December 1923 issues of the All America Review, the company's house magazine, the articles reproduced below were a look back at the laying in 1920 of the company's cables from Brazil to Argentina via Uruguay.

The cables were as follows:

The two main cables, from Atalaya to Rio de Janeiro (1270 nm.) and Montevideo to Santos (1068 nm.), were manufactured by Telcon and laid by CS Colonia.

Three cables across the River Plate, from Atalaya, Argentina to Montevideo, Uruguay, also manufactured by Telcon, were laid using Caceres, a vessel chartered locally and manned by men from CS Colonia.

--Bill Burns
1920 Brazil-Uruguay-Argentina Cable
Image courtesy of and copyright © 2008 Gustavo Coll

The engraving around the circumference reads:


The photographs show a section of shore end (Type A) of the Argentine-Brazil cable, manufactured in 1919 and laid in 1920 for All America Cables by the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company (Telcon). The second copper conductor may have been used as a sea earth on the main cables, or for another communications circuit on the short run across the River Plate from Atalaya, Argentina to Montevideo, Uruguay.

View Atalaya in a larger map

The steel armouring wires are 7.50 mm in diameter (No. 1 gauge) and the copper core is solid, about 2.70 mm in diameter, and surrounded by 5 copper ribbons. The brass tape is anti-teredo.

For details of the construction of this cable, including the sea earth and the segmented copper conductors, see the diagram below of a similar cable made by Telcon in 1921.

Gustavo Coll, who kindly supplied the photographs of this cable sample, has his own telegraph history website, based on his experiences in the cable industry in Uruguay.

The segmented copper conductor, which can be clearly seen in the photographs and the diagram, consists of a large central wire surrounded by five segments of a circle. This was used to protect against a break in the copper at one point from disabling the entire cable. This method of making the conductor was introduced in 1856 using a seven-strand design, but the segmented conductor used in this cable also maximizes the cross section of the copper to improve performance.



All America Review, November 1923

Charles A.E. Ireland
Manager Sao Paulo


At Antofagasta I received final instructions to proceed to Baires [Buenos Aires]. I arrived there January 23rd [1919] and remained there until November 29th. From Baires I went to Santos, after a short visit to Rio, and was delighted with the splendid office which been rented by Mr. Annand.

I had now the very difficult task of killing time as we had a fine office but no cable. However, I got busy with the office fixtures, and engaged the local staff. On February 5th [1920] the C.S. Colonia arrived, bringing the artificial line apparatus, autos, etc. Soon after the shore end of the cable was laid, Mr. J.K. Roosevelt was looking after the Company's interests and perhaps some time he will favor us with a write-up of the landing of the first AAC cables in Brazil., Mr. Buchanan was also present at the landing. We were still awaiting permission to start working. In May we were speaking to MV [Montevideo]over the aerial and on June 26, 1920 we opened to the public after over forty years fighting to get into Brazil.

It soon became apparent that we should have some representation in Sao Paulo, capital of the State, so, with the approval of General Representative, Mr. Buchanan, an agency was opened there on September 1, 1920, with Mr. Duarte as agent. He proved to be a hard working and capable “go getter” and is with us still, rendering good service.



All America Review, December 1923

The Landing of the Brazilian Cables
By Vice-President John K. Roosevelt

In adopting Mr. Ireland's suggestion contained in the November number, I have been asked to contribute an article on the laying of the Brazil cables. The preliminary work in connection with the laying of these cables in Brazil had been going on for a long time and Messrs. Annand, Buchanan and others had been connected with it. The problems connected with obtaining landing licenses came under Mr. Buchanan's jurisdiction and make a very interesting story but hardly one that could be published here.

A certain amount of preliminary work was done in connection with preparing the office for operations, and work in connection with Mr. Overstreet in regard to the connection between office and hut. The hut was only called so as a matter of courtesy, as it was composed of two bathing houses joined together in a very unsatisfactory manner, and it was a most uncomfortable place for the representatives of the manufacturers who had to keep watch there. The hut that was originally provided, and that I have just mentioned, was afterwards abandoned for the house in which the life saver in charge of the beach kept all his apparatus, and this was but little better.

On February 5th [1920], the Colonia, with the Rio and Santos cables on board, anchored at Santos and preparations were made for landing the end. On the 6th, the weather was good and the barge on which the shore end had to be loaded was brought into a suitable position for landing. The morning was occupied in getting a line ashore, but just as we commenced to paying out the cable, the anchor chain, by which the barge was anchored, broke, and the barge was in great danger of being wrecked on the beach, as we had been unable to obtain any satisfactory tugs. We were depending upon two small gasoline launches whose power was insufficient and whose engines were unreliable. After this unsuccessful first attempt, the barge had to be towed back to a sheltered position, and we made another attempt to obtain a suitable tug. This time we were successful in obtaining a tug from Wilson & Co. On Saturday, February 7th, the Wilson & Company's tug towed the barge out, but the weather was not quite so good as at the time of the first attempt, and the position in which the barge was first anchored had to be shifted.

The surf, though not heavy, was sufficient to cause trouble in getting a line ashore, and we called upon volunteers from the crowd on the beach, offering a reward for the man who would first bring a line from the barge. The first line was ashore about 10 in the morning, and attaching mules and using all the men available, we landed the cable and left the end in the life saver's hut. The tug then took the barge in tow and laid out and buoyed the cable on it. On our return to the office it appeared that the permission for landing the ends which had been granted, had not been communicated to the port authorities and consequently, the watch from the hut was prohibited and even the ship's operations were prevented temporarily. By Monday morning, we had obtained permission sufficient to allow us to lay out a further length by barge and tug and to commence operations with the cable ship. On Tuesday morning, February 10th, the Colonia proceeded to the end buoyed by the tug and after joining on commenced paying out at 1 p.m., in very thick, rainy weather.

The laying itself, went along very smoothly and practically without incident. In view of the very long length that was to be laid in the shallow water of the River Plate, the cable was buoyed well out to sea and the Colonia proceeded to Montevideo, placing two buoys to mark the route. The Colonia arrived in Montevideo February 16th, and after discussion with the representatives of the Western Telegraph Company, as the question of crossing their cables had to be considered, the shore end the was laid by barge, and on February 20th, the Colonia joined on to the shore end and started paying toward the buoyed Santos end, completing the Santos section at 8:45 p.m. February 21st. The Colonia then returned to MV and the two river cables were laid by the Caceres which, as Mr. Kipling says, is another story.

On the completion of the two river cables, the work of laying the Rio cable was at once started, laying the shore end by barge on the 16th, and the Colonia leaving on the
17th. The Colonia joined on to the buoyed end laid the previous day, and though, at one time, it was feared that this join would have to be cut out, the cable transferred to the ship's bow, the joint remade, and the cable again shifted to the stern, due to the breeze which started to blow, the joint was finished in time to avoid danger and paying out was commenced.

The coal which the Colonia had been able to obtain was very unsatisfactory, and as a result, though the cable department were ready to pay out at a greater rate than 10 nautical miles of cable per hour, the ship was not able to steam at the rate of 10 nautical miles over ground per hour. The Rio end was buoyed some distance off Rio on the 22nd, but we were advised that there was a strike of harbor workers at Rio and it was impossible to lay the shore end which involved barge work. In order to save time, the Colonia sealed and buoyed the end a short distance from the hut on Friday, the 26th, and made the connection to the buoyed MV end at 12:40 on Saturday, the 27th. The strike had been sufficiently settled by the 30th to allow us to land the shore end on that date and a connection was made completing the Rio cable on the 30th. On the 31st, the harbor cable was laid from the hut to a point off the Avenida, but as we had no connection between that point and our office it was not completed until some time later by Mr. Buchanan. On April 4th, the Colonia sailed to pay out the spare cable they had on board for us and returned to England.


Last revised: 14 September, 2022

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