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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 Retriever (5)
by Bill Glover


Built 1961, Cammell Laird & Co., Birkenhead

Length 366.0 ft Breadth 47.6 ft Depth 19.1ft Gross tonnage 4000

Built for and owned by Cable & Wireless Ltd. The first in the fleet to be fitted with diesel-electric propulsion. Fitted with three cable tanks with a total storage capacity of 21000 cubic feet. The two forward cable machines were supplied by Johnson & Phillips and were electrically driven.

CS Retriever (5) during acceptance trials, April 1961
Image courtesy of David Griffiths

David Howard, who served on Retriever later in the 1960s, notes that the funnel in this photograph has a different appearance than in other pictures of the ship. During trials the company wasn’t happy with the placement of the foghorn and ordered it raised, so later photos show it as a ‘bump’ on the top of the funnel.

Three 6.0 ft diameter bow sheaves were fitted along with a gantry for laying rigid repeaters. For paying out aft one of the forward paying out machines was used and the cable and/or repeater passed along a chute, which itself passed through an alleyway on the centre line of the upper deck superstructure to the stern.

CS Retriever (5) alongside the Henderson quay
at the Humber Graving Dock in the 1960s.
Image courtesy of Ray Banks

Based at Fiji for maintenance of Canada - Australia cables. Later moved to Singapore to replace CS Recorder (3). Scrapped in 1995.

CS Retriever (5) at Suva, Fiji, Nov - Dec 1965
Image courtesy of Peter Greis

CS Retriever (5) at Suva main wharf, Fiji, February 1968
Photo taken by a crew member of
MV Niuvakai while coming into berth

CS Retriever (5) at anchor off Suva, Fiji, 26 September 1981
Photo taken from the departing Shell tanker Ebalina
Image courtesy of Rick Vince

CS Retriever (5) ship’s badge
Image courtesy of David Howard


1961 USA Bermuda shore ends
1962 COMPAC Auckland - Sydney shore ends
1962 COMPAC Auckland - Suva shore ends
1982 ANZCAN Route clearance and repositioned the sea earth cable and main cable of Fiji - Auckland section of COMPAC prior to the laying of the ANZCAN cable.
1982 ANZCAN Laid shore ends at Fiji, carried out route marking between Fiji and Hawaii and laid shore ends at Hawaii

Telegraph Museum Porthcurno shows the history of Retriever in these two videos:

The second video shows the important part that Retriever played in the rescue of passengers when the cargo liner SS Lakemba struck a reef of Fiji and began taking on water. Site contributor David Howard was a marine engineer on board Retriever during the rescue, and tells this detailed story of the events.

More photos of Retriever from the Atlantic Cable site archive:

Launch of CS Retriever (5) at the Cammell Laird shipyard, Birkenhead on the 20th December 1960

CS Retriever (5) undergoing sea trials

Ship's Officers' Smoke Room

Ship’s propulsion system; two 1650 shp motors

Chief Engineer's Bedroom

Ship’s Hospital

Ship’s Control Console


Christmas Card for 1961

Photo of Retriever laying New York shore ends of
USA - Bermuda cable, inserted in 1961 Christmas Card

Last revised: 11 January, 2023

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