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The Atlantic Telegraph

The Illustrated London News, vol. 46, no. 1322, p. 631.

July 1, 1865


All the preparations connected with the departure of this great expedition are complete. Every facility has been given by the Government to ensure, as far as possible, its success, the resources of the dockyard at Sheerness having been placed at the disposal of the promoters of the undertaking by the Admiralty.

On Thursday week the directors gave an entertainment on board the Great Eastern, in the hold of which the telegraph cable lies coiled. The Lords of the Admiralty and her Majesty's Ministers were the guests of the day; but the company included also many members of the aristocracy. The novelty of the day was the transmission of short messages through the entire length of the cable. The first of these, "Success to the expedition," was spelt out in something under three minutes, after passing through the 2228 nautical miles of cable, stored in the big ship. Mr. J. Pender, M.P., the chairman of the company presided, in the grand saloon; and, after giving the toasts of "The Queen" and "The President of the United States," proposed the "Health of her Majesty's Ministers." The Duke of Somerset, after returning thanks, proposed "Success to the undertaking;" and the chairman then gave "The American Minister, Mr. Adams," congratulating all present on the friendly relations existing between this country and the United States, and alluding with feeling to the good friendship, delicacy, judgment, and tact Mr. Adams had invariably displayed in every circumstance connected with this country in which his diplomatic talents had been called into play. After a suitable response, the party broke up, and the remainder of the afternoon was devoted to the inspection of the ship, and to the examination of charts and maps giving the soundings of her approaching voyage, sanguine predictions of the complete success of the enterprise being uttered on all sides.

The Great Eastern left her moorings at Saltpan Reach, near Chatham, on Saturday last, for the Nore. Steam was got up on board at an early hour on Saturday morning; and, notwithstanding that the machinery of the Great Eastern has not been brought into use for considerably more then twelve months, the engines worked with remarkable speed and regularity, while they were stopped and started within a very few seconds after the word was passed. At half-past twelve the order was given for starting the Great Eastern, and she immediately began moving down the Channel towards Garrison Point and the Nore Light. The spot selected for her was about five miles below the Nore Light, where there is a depth of at least seven fathoms at low tides. By direction of the Government, the Porcupine, surveying-steamer, had been previously engaged in making a survey of the channel from the Medway to the Nore, and marking out the route by buoys and boats, so as to prevent the possibility of any untoward occurrence. On the Great Eastern passing the various vessels of war in harbour, the crews crowded the rigging and saluted the steamer with loud cheers. On board the Formidable, 84, flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir C. Talbot, Commander-in-Chief, the marines presented arms; while on board the Cumberland, 70, the band, as the Great Eastern steamed past, played alternately "Rule Britannia" and "Hail, Columbia." The paddle-wheels made about six revolutions per minute, and the screw rather more, and this speed was maintained until the harbour was cleared. On rounding Garrison Point a large concourse of spectators vociferously cheered as the Great Eastern passed. Accompanying the steamer were the Vivid, Locust, and Sheerness, Admiralty steamers, with three private steamers, the Porcupine standing about half a mile in advance to show the way to be taken. At a few minutes after two the anchorage-ground below the Nore and the Mouse Lights was reached, and the Great Eastern brought up, the whole of the operations connected with her removal from her old to her new anchorage having been effected without the least accident. Here she remains at anchor for a few days for the adjustment of her compasses, and to receive on board the remainder of her coals and stores.

The Great Eastern has in her about 7000 tons of cable, or, including the iron tanks which contain it and the water in which it is sunk, about 9000 tons in all. In addition to this she has 7000 tons of coal on board, and 1500 tons more to take in. Her total weight, including engines, will then be rather over 21,000 tons, a stupendous mass for any ship to carry, but well within the capacity of the Great Eastern, of which the tonnage is 24,000.

Before the following spring tides set in, which will be towards the end of next week, the Great Eastern will start for Valencia. She will be met there by the two ships of war, the Terrible and the Sphinx, appointed to convoy her. Both these vessels are being fitted with the best apparatus for deep-sea soundings; with buoys and means for buoying the end of the cable, if it should become necessary; and with Bollen's night-light naval signals, with which the Great Eastern is likewise to be supplied. To avoid all chance of accident, the big ship will not approach the Irish coast nearer than twenty or twenty-five miles, and her stay off Valencia will be limited to the time occupied in making a splice with the massive shore end, which, for a length of twenty-five miles from the coast, will be laid previous to her arrival. This monstrous shore end, which is the heaviest and strongest piece of cable ever made, will be laid from the head of a sheltered inlet near Cahirciveen out to the distance we have stated, where the end will be buoyed and watched by the ships of war till the Great Eastern herself comes up. Some idea of the strength and solidity of this great end may be guessed by the fact that its weight per mile is very little short of half the weight of an ordinary railway metal. For the shore end of Newfoundland only three miles are required, and this short length will be sent in the Great Eastern. When once the splice is made from the great cable-ship to the English shore end--an operation which will consume about five hours--the work of laying the cable will begin. By that time every mile of the cable in the three tanks will have been joined up, and at a stated hour, morning and evening, a series of signals will be sent through the cable to the land at Valencia, and thence to London, giving the latitude and longitude of the great ship, the state of the weather, and the number of miles paid out. The cable will be first taken out from the forward tank, next from that midships, and lastly from that astern; and, if all goes well, the vessel should arrive with nearly 500 miles of cable in her still unused--an excess which is most wisely allowed, in case of accident. Since the paying-out apparatus has been in work its action has been faultless.

Messrs. Canning, Clifford, and Temple have absolute charge of all the details connected with the submergence. Mr. De Sauty is in charge of the electrical condition of the cable for the makers; Mr. Varley goes to represent the Atlantic Company; and Professor Thomson as scientific adviser and referee. These gentlemen, however, are only the chiefs of the various large departmental staff which will be on board.

If all go well, both as to course and rate of steaming, telegraphic communication with the United States may be looked for about the 20th inst.

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