OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Chapter LII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 5

Pages: 1 2 3 4 <5>

The first practical attempt at submarine telegraphy was made in the year 1850, when it was endeavoured to bring England and the Continent into communication. Early in the morning of Wednesday, the 28th of August, in that year, Mr. Brett, the projector of the new enter prise, left Dover in the steamer Goliath, with thirty miles of electric line on, board. At nine o'clock in the evening, a message was received from Cape Grisnez, where the 4 line had been landed, announcing that the task had been successfully accomplished. Thus was proved, for the first time, the practicability of electrical communication across the waters of the deep. This the first submarine telegraph was, however, unfortunate. A day after its submergence it was cut asunder among the rocks near the French coast, and all communication was suspended.

Short as was the life of this cable, its success was sufficient to stimulate to further attempts. The fault of the line was that it was too slight in construction, - a length of five miles weighed but one ton. But the question as to the possibility of perfectly insulating a wire at the bottom of the sea, which was the principal subject of doubt previously to the experiment, had received a favourable solution.

The next cable, which was constructed at Milwall in accordance with the experience now gained, was made far stronger, - a single mile of it weighed seven tons. It consisted of four copper wires, separately insulated with gutta-percha; these were then twisted with tarred hemp into the form of a rope, round which a strong sheath, consisting of ten galvanised iron wires, was placed. It was deposited in the Straits of Dover in October, 1851. This cable proved a perfect success; and, with the exception of a few interruptions caused by injuries which were never very serious, it has been in constant use ever since it was first laid down. The submarine telegraph between Dover and Calais, which had thus achieved a complete triumph, marked the opening of a new era in electric telegraphy. Submarine lines thenceforward began to multiply rapidly. In the following year, 1852, after a line of three miles had been laid across the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour, from Keyhaven to Hurst Castle, a much more considerable undertaking, that of a cable connecting England and Ireland, was attempted, and a line was laid down from Holyhead to Howth. Another line, running across the North Channel from Port Patrick to Donaghadee, was also submerged in the same year. Both these cables, however, proved failures; and other lines connecting Great Britain with Ireland had to be laid down before success was permanently attained. In 1853 a successful submarine line was laid down in the Belt; and in the same year a cable, seventy miles long, was carried across the German Ocean, connecting England and Belgium, and running from the South Foreland to Ostend. In the following year Sweden and Denmark were connected by submarine lines; as were also Corsica and Sardinia, England and Holland, and Italy and Corsica.

Henceforth, as fast as manufacturers could supply the necessary apparatus, the straits and channels and narrower seas dividing the more civilised countries of the world were spanned by electric lines. In 1855, during the Russian War, a cable was laid down from Varna to Balaklava. This was 310 miles in length, and was the greatest that had been laid down up to that time. The same year saw Sardinia joined to Africa, and Italy to Sicily. Then followed a line from Crete to Alexandria; another was laid across the Bosphorus, and a third across the mouth of the Amazons. While this activity prevailed in the development of submarine telegraphs, the land lines were spreading with prodigious rapidity over every portion of the globe, on the borders of civilisation and highways of commerce. Europe and North America were enveloped in a network of telegraphs, and even semi-civilised countries were soon provided with this now indispensable means of communicating intelligence. On the occasion of the death of the Czar Nicholas, the powers of the telegraph were thought to be strikingly exhibited. In the afternoon of the 2nd of March, the Earl of Clarendon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, went down to the House of Lords and announced, to the astonishment of all, that the Russian sovereign had died at one o'clock that day. Two messages to that effect - one via the Hague, the other over Ostend - had arrived in London within four hours of the occurrence of the event itself. Men wondered at this as a great feat of telegraphy. It was, however, very simple, compared with the achievements of telegraphists but three years subsequently.

The success attending so many of the submarine lines, across the narrower seas and channels, led within a few years to schemes conceived on a far grander scale; and a serious attempt was at length to be made to span the Atlantic Ocean, and thus connect the Old and New Worlds. In 1856, Mr. Brett, Mr. Cyrus Field, Sir Charles Bright, and others, formed a company for the purpose of laying a cable from Valentia, in the extreme west of Ireland, to St. John's, in Newfoundland, the nearest point of North America. This first oceanic cable was manufactured, half by Messrs. Newall, of Gateshead, and half by Messrs. Glass, Elliott, and Co., of Greenwich. It was more than two thousand miles long, but occupied no more than five months in the manufacture. It consisted of a strand of seven copper wires, with three coatings of gutta-percha. The core was enveloped in jute-yarn, soaked in a composition of tar and other materials, and the whole was covered with a protecting sheath, consisting of eighteen strands of iron-wire, each strand containing seven wires. This cable could bear a strain of three tons without parting, though it weighed no more than one ton per mile. The story of the laying of the cable by the Niagara and Agamemnon, of the transient success which attended the enterprise, and of the ensuing disappointment, has been told in a previous chapter (see page 179). In 1864 the undertaking was renewed; the Great Eastern was selected as the vessel best adapted for the work of laying out, and a new and improved cable was manufactured. This cable was 2,600 miles long, and was made by Messrs. Glass and Elliott at East Greenwich. "The central conductor," it was said at the time, " is composed of seven fine copper wires twisted into one complete strand, insulated with Chatterton's patent compound; outside this come four distinct layers of gutta-percha, each also insulated with the same material that encloses the conductor. Outside the gutta-percha again are wound eleven stout iron wires, each of which, before being twisted on, is itself carefully wound round with strands of hemp, soaked with tar. Thus, then, there are no less than twenty-five thousand miles of copper-wire in the conductor, about thirty-five thousand miles of iron- wire in the outside covering, and upwards of four hundred thousand miles of strands of hemp, - more than enough, in all, to go twenty-four times round the world. In strength the cable is equal to bearing a strain of seven and three-quarter tons, while its specific gravity is so low that it can with safety be depended on to support eleven miles of its length in water. It has been made mile by mile, joined up in long lengths of 700 and 800 miles, and shipped on board the Great Eastern into three enormous wrought-iron tanks, - the first holding a coil of 630 miles of cable, the second one of 840, and the third one of 830. The tanks themselves, with water and their contents of cable, weigh, in all, upwards of five thousand tons. To shore them up with crossbeams, struts, and braces, no less than 400 loads of timber were consumed. The mere cable was but an item in the mass of heavy weights the Great Eastern had to carry on this occasion. Her draught of water was rather over than under thirty feet; and, all told, her weights, when starting from Valentia, came near the stupendous mass of eighteen thousand tons." The various efforts of the Great Eastern, and the complete success with which they were eventually crowned, have been treated of in a former portion of this History.

One of the most recent acts of the English Government has been the purchase of the land telegraph lines for the state. The extent of these lines is very great. The wires used for public purposes alone formed, in 1873, a system of 99,842 miles; while the wires leased by the Government to private firms or individuals, for their own special use, made a system of 5,730 miles. The total length of the land telegraphs belonging to the British Government was therefore 105,572 miles, of which 79,845 were in England and Wales, 12,284 in Scotland, and 13,803 in Ireland. Besides this, however, there was a considerable additional length of wires belonging to railway companies, and used principally in the transaction of railway business, but which were also employed secondarily for public purposes. In the same year there were 3,791 postal telegraph offices - 2,744 in England and Wales, 447 in Scotland, and 600 in Ireland. Of submarine lines, the national telegraph department worked 420 knots, comprising wires of a total length of 1,258 knots; while there were 459 knots of cable, with 1,837 knots of wire, belonging to the department, but leased to and worked by a private company, employing itself in submarine telegraphy.

The art of submarine and ocean telegraphy, which has been dwelt on here at some length, forms the most striking of the industrial arts which have come into being in the second half of the nineteenth century; and, in conjunction with the extension of railways and the multiplication of steam-vessels, it has done more to add to the general material welfare of mankind than any other of the practical applications of scientific discoveries that can be mentioned.

At the commencement of the seventeenth century, Lord Bacon proclaimed the principles of modern science, the end and aim of which he declared to be " the dominion of man over Nature." Science, if real, should, according to Bacon, be fruitful. Fruitful, because real, science has become since Bacon's day. " The dominion of man over Nature " has advanced in the nineteenth century with a rapidity beyond all parallel or precedent. Thirty to forty years ago it was thought a great feat that a royal messenger should be able to reach Rome in twelve days after leaving Whitehall. The distance is between thirteen hundred and fourteen hundred miles, and it is now regularly accomplished in two days and a half. The voyage from Liverpool to New York, till within the present generation, required a month to perform it in. It is now done by numerous fleets of steam-vessels in nine or ten days, with a regularity formerly impossible of attainment. These are striking instances of the rapidity with which man has extended his " dominion over Nature " within a single generation. But the most striking of all is the more recent achievement of Bacon's fellow-countrymen, that by which they have overcome the obstacles of space and time, brought together the remotest regions of the earth, and enabled the most distant nations instantaneously to exchange their thoughts beneath the depths of the wide ocean itself.

Thus far we have pointed out some of the more important facts in the recent progress of the arts immediately connected with distributive industry, with commerce, locomotion, and communication: we now pass on to review, very briefly, some of the more striking among the latest improvements in productive industry - in the manufactures connected with minerals, metals, and organic materials, chemical products, textile fabrics, and the cultivation of the earth.

<<< Previous page <<<
Pages: 1 2 3 4 <5>

Pictures for Chapter LII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 5

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About