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

CS Amber
by Bill Glover


Built 1888 by Napier and Sons, Glasgow.

Length 217.5 ft.  Breadth 31.1 ft.  Depth 14.3 ft.  Gross tonnage 1,043.

Single screw. Triple expansion.

CS Amber postcard
Detail of ship

Built for the Eastern Telegraph Company for cable repair duties, working on the west coast of Africa for most of the time. Fitted with three cable tanks and a standard set of cable machinery. Laid a number of short cables in the Greek Islands and assisted CS Colonia and CS John Pender (2) in laying the Gibraltar - Malta No 5 cable in 1921.

Transferred to Imperial & International Communications Ltd., in 1929 and sold to shipbreakers at Gibraltar in 1930.


1888 Chio ‑ Chesme No. 2
1889 Candia ‑ Canea
1891 Oropos ‑ Eretria
1894 Piraeus ‑ Syra No. 2
1921 Gibraltar ‑ Malta No. 5

The message on the back of the postcard is rather uncomplimentary – one wonders if the writer was perhaps a passenger on an Orient Line or P&O liner to India or beyond, and sent the postcard from Gibraltar in passing. The postmark is 23 January 1904.

Imagine having to live on
a thing like that for over
two years! Hope you are
entirely recovered now.

The London trade paper The Electrician had stories on CS Amber in its editions of 20 January and 4 May 1888:


Yesterday (Thursday) afternoon Messrs. R. Napier and Sons launched from their shipyard at Govan the telegraph cable steamer “Amber,” for the Eastern Telegraph Company.

The vessel has been specially designed by Mr. Joseph Birnie, London, for laying and repairing the company’s submarine cables, and while externally the steamer has the appearance of a Trinity yacht, internally the arrangements are of the most complete character for the difficult and delicate task she is intended for.

Besides the usual appliances of a first-class modern steamer, the vessel is fitted with large circular tanks for holding the telegraph cables, and has been sub-divided into numerous watertight compartments for trimming and ballasting purposes. Her dimensions are—length 210ft., breadth 31ft., depth 24ft., classed 100 A1 at Lloyd’s under special survey. Very complete and comfortable accommodation has been provided for the large staff of  officers, electricians, and crew, with the necessary chart house and testing room, which will be fitted with the best instruments for the task the vessel will be engaged upon. The bow sheaves give the vessel a peculiar appearance, but they have been wrought in by the builders in an ingenious way to form part of a clipper bow, which adds to the symmetry of the design.

The machinery will consist of triple expansion engines, which have been constructed at Messrs. R. Napier and Sons’ Lancefield Works, under the supervision of Mr. Beldam, London.

In the absence of the Marchioness of Tweeddale, who was to have christened the vessel, the ceremony was per­formed by Miss Agnes M. Hamilton, who named her the “Amber” as she left the stocks.

After the launch Mr. Kirk proposed “Success to the newly-launched vessel,” mentioning that this was the fifth vessel they had launched for the Eastern Telegraph Company. Mr. Joseph Birnie briefly replied on behalf of the Company. Mr. R.M. Renwick proposed “The Health of the Builders,” Messrs. Napier and Sons, whose ability to build cable ships had been so often proved that it was not likely the Eastern Company would find better builders anywhere. Mr. James Hamilton replied for the builders, and hoped that their connection with the Eastern Telegraph Company might long continue. After a vote of thanks to Miss Hamilton the proceedings closed.

The new cable steamship “Amber”


The new telegraph cable steamer “Amber,” the fifth vessel of its kind for the Eastern Telegraph Company (Limited), has been built and engined by Messrs. Robert Napier and Sons, of Govan, Glasgow. She left Gravesend on Saturday last for Cadiz, and is now employed on some cable work there.

The “Amber” is the smallest vessel of the Company’s fleet, but owing to the engines having been placed in the after part of the ship, thus leaving available the best part of the ship for cable tanks, saloon accomodation, berths for officers and crew, the ship is rendered thoroughly efficient for any description of cable repairs required.

The dimensions of the steamer are as follows:—Length 210ft., breadth 31ft., depth 24ft., her builder’s tonnage being 978 tons, net register tonnage 557 tons.

Being built for an awning deck (class 101 A 1 at Lloyd’s special) she has an uninterrupted deck fore and aft, with head and stern sheaves, giving every facility for the work in which she is to be engaged.

The vessel is wholly built of steel, and all the most modern appliances have been adopted, including steam steering-gear; the engines are triple expansion, the cylinders having a diameter of 19, 30, 46, by 36 stroke, pressure 170lbs., driving the ship at a speed of 13 knots on an easy consumption of coal.

The cable gear is the design of Messrs. Latimer Clark, Muirhead and Co. (Limited) on the tandem principle, driven by two separate engines, which can be united together and exert either their full power, if found necessary, on either of the drums, or can be separately used on one or the other drum independently.

The electric lighting and search lamp is by Messrs. Johnson and Phillips, of Charlton, Kent.

The saloon is amidships and is very tastefully finished, being enamelled white and gold.

The wood-cut [above] will give a general idea of this ship, which is beautifully lined. It is the third ship of its kind which has been illustrated in these pages. One was the “Magneta,” a full description of which we gave in our issue of 3rd January, 1885; the other was the “Electra,” given on the 7th of the month following, the cable gearing of both of which vessels was manufactured by Messrs. Johnson and Phillips.

The dimensions of the “Amber” are rather less than those of the two vessels just named, each of which were 230ft. in length and 32ft. in beam, their (builder’s) tonnage being 1,096 tons. The “Amber’s” depth, however, is the same as her predecessors’.

It will be remembered that the “Magneta” was lost, with all hands, about three years ago; and the new steam­ship “Amber” has been designed to take her place. The “Amber” is fitted with all the latest and most approved appliances for cable laying and cable repairing, and is, it may be said, the outcome of the varied and wide experience which the owners of these vessels have gained in their important operations.

Last revised: 10 October, 2012

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