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

1957 HAW-1 Cable
(Point Arena, California - Hanauma Bay, Oahu, Hawaii

Manufactured by Submarine Cables Ltd. (2030 nm) and Simplex Wire & Cable Co. (2380 nm), the 1957 telephone cable from California to Hawaii was commissioned by AT&T and the Hawaiian Telephone Co., and was laid by CS Monarch (4) and CS Ocean Layer.

Cable loading on Monarch at Erith

Monarch commenced laying the cable from Point Arena (San Francisco) on 11 July 1957, and after laying 1900 miles met in mid-ocean with Ocean Layer, which put down the remaining 665 miles of cable into Hanauma Bay on Oahu. The first message through the cable was sent on 3 August 1957, and the ships then laid the eastbound cable, completing the installation in the Autumn of 1957.

This type of repeatered coaxial cable had been developed in the late 1940s by Bell Labs and Simplex, and was first used commercially for the 1950 Key West - Havana cable. This was a trial run for the design, which was so successful that it was used in 1956 for TAT-1 (the first transatlantic telephone cable), for the 1956 USA to Alaska telephone cable, and in 1957 for HAW-1.

As the repeaters worked in only one direction, two cables were needed for each route. The cable provided the first direct operator dialing between Hawaii and the mainland, and remained in service until 1989.

This extract from CS Ocean Layer’s log, transcribed by John Keane, gives brief details of the ship’s activities during the laying. John's father Brendan Keane served on the ship during this expedition.

19th May 1957 Docked in Erith, starboard side to Delphuis
24th May Shift work in two gangs
26th May Tug VIII Sun XII in tow loading cable
4th June Fire broke out in hold No 1 caused by sparks from welder
8th June Set sail from Erith to Panama
19th June Position 33 lat, 45 long
26th June 16.44N, 70.19W
29th June 09.52N, 79.30W 13.30 sighted Isla Grande
1st July Passed through Pedro Miguel lock [Panama Canal]
2nd July Isla Jicarita. Ballet to Honolulu
9th July 13.46N 103W
[11th July] [Laying began from San Francisco]
20th July 21.21N, 148W
22nd July Sighted Kahui Point, docked in berth 26
24th July Honolulu Cable grounds 22.49.3N, 155.26W
27th July CS Monarch nearby, rough seas
31st  July Position 22.29N, 155.59W
6th August Docked in Honolulu

The portion of the cable supplied by Submarine Cables Ltd. was made at the company's factory on the River Thames in London, England. Jim Jones provided the following photos and information from material published locally at the time.


Nearly half of the first submarine telephone cable link between California and Hawaii was produced by Submarine Cables Limited at its Erith factory for the American Telephone and Telegraph Company.

The route distance between the two landing points, namely, Point Arena, north of San Francisco, and. the Island of Oahu in the Hawaiian group, is approximately 2,400 nautical miles and there will be two cables, one for each direction of transmission. The final splice was made in the first of these cables on August 2 and the laying of the second cable is scheduled to be completed by the middle of September. Underwater repeaters or speech amplifiers are spliced into the cables at intervals of 38 nautical miles.

The 2,030 nautical miles of cable, costing over £2,500,000, which were produced at Erith, were shipped in May and June last on board the cableship H.M.T.S. Monarch (1,073 nautical miles) and the cableship Ocean Layer (957 nautical miles) belonging to Submarine Cables Limited. The cable was manufactured, underwater repeaters from America spliced in, and the whole shipped on board the two cable-laying vessels within 10 months.

The polythene-insulated coaxial type cable is designed to provide the same number of telephone channels, namely, 36, as the first transatlantic telephone cables, the greater part of which were also produced by Submarine Cables Limited.

Some of the personnel responsible
for loading H.M.T.S. Monarch with
the California-Hawaii telephone cable

Left to right: Mr. Womble, Mr. W.R. Bell,
Mr. S. Jack, and Mr. Borthwick
Mr. Bell is from Submarine Cables Ltd. and the other three gentlemen from the American Telephone & Telegraph Co.

The "Backhouse" loading gang. Leading hand
Mr. C. Backhouse on extreme right of the front row.

The "Jackaman" loading gang. Leading hand
Mr. H. Jackaman on extreme right.


Stages in the Loading of the Ocean Layer

See also the page on Brendan Keane's service on Ocean Layer

Last revised: 7 September, 2020

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