Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cables under the Sea

Telegraph cables came into use in the 1840s. Soon after that attempts were made by experts to lay telegraph cables across the rivers and between islands and main lands. Most didn’t work.
In 1850 the first cable was laid across the English Channel. The cable had to be strong enough to resist attack by salt water, ocean currents and water pressure, so had a thick, water-resistant cover made of steel. Inside were copper wires that carried the power and signal.
Technical improvements and the demand for faster communication encouraged companies to try laying cables over even greater distances. Several attempts to lay cables across the Atlantic failed when the cables snapped, but one was completed in 1858.
To mark the occasion, Queen Victoria sent a telegraph to President Buchanan in the USA. It took almost 18 hours to transmit her 99-word message! Attempts were made to increase the pace by raising the voltage, but this quickly burned out the cable.
In 1865 the world’s largest ship at that time, the Great eastern, laid the first countries cable across the Atlantic. It was the only ship of that time to carry a cable long enough.

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