The Atlantic TelegraphThe Illustrated London News, vol. 47, no. 1329, p. 151.
August 19, 1865
The Great Eastern has at last arrived, and the anxiety which had begun to be felt for those on board her is at an end. That she has so far failed in the object of her mission is scarcely any news, but the story of that failure is full of interest. She arrived off Crookhaven on Thursday morning, and furnishes the following particulars of the operations for laying the Atlantic telegraph cable:--
The Great Eastern sailed from Valencia, after making the splice with the shore end, on the 23rd of July, and continued on her voyage to lat. 51.25, long: 89.6, being 1063 miles from Valencia, and 600 miles from Heart's Content, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland. She had then paid out 1212 miles of cable, when it parted, on the 2nd of August, at 12.35 p.m., in soundings of 3900 yards, under the following circumstances: --A partial loss of insulation having bean discovered, the Great Eastern was stopped to recover that portion of the cable in which the fault lay, electrical tests placing it probably within six miles. The cable was passed from the stern to the bow of the ship for this purpose, and, after getting in two miles of cable, the fault being still overboard, the cable broke about ten yards in board of the wheel at the bow, having been injured by chafing on the stern.
Two previous faults had been discovered--the first in soundings of about 1000 yards, and the second in about 4100 yards--and had been successfully recovered and made good; and in the first case ten miles, and in the second two miles and a half, of cable were hauled in.
After the cable parted, a grapnel with two nautical miles and a half of rope was lowered, the ship being placed so as to drift over the line of the cable. The cable was hooked on the 3rd, and when 2200 yards of the rope had been hauled in a swivel in the latter gave way, and 2800 yards of rope were lost, the cable having been lifted 1200 yards from the bottom. On the 4th a buoy, with a flag and ball, was moored with 500 yards of rope to mark the place. It is in lat. 51.35, long. 38.42.30.
From the 4th fogs said adverse winds prevented a further attempt until the 7th, which was then made nearer the end of the cable, and was unsuccessful from the same cause when the cable had been lifted about 1000 yards. Another buoy was here placed in lat. 51.28.30, long. 38.56.9.
A third attempt was made on the 10th, which failed on account of the grapnel chain having fouled the flukes of the grapnel. The grapnel and last 800 yards of rope came up covered with ooze.
A fourth attempt was made on the 11th, at 3 p.m., which also failed through the breaking of the grapnel rope when the cable had been raised 600 yards from the bottom.
The stock of rope having now become exhausted, it became necessary to proceed to England for more and stronger tackle.
The practical conclusions unanimously arrived at by those [e]ngaged in the various capacities in the expedition are as follow:--
Firstly--That the steam-ship Great Eastern, from her size and consequent steadiness, together with the better control obtained over her by both the paddles and screw, render it possible and safe to lay an Atlantic telegraph cable in any weather.
Secondly--That the paying-out machinery, constructed for the purpose by Messrs. S. Canning and Clifford, worked perfectly, and can be confidently relied on.
Thirdly--That the insulation of the gutta-percha-covered conductor improved when submerged to more than double what it had been before starting; and has proved itself to be the best insulated cable ever manufactured, and many times higher than the standard required by the contract. The cause of the two faults which were recovered was in each case a perforation of the gutta-percha through to the proper conductor by a piece of iron wire found sticking in the cable. Electrically, the third fault was analogous to the first. The difficulty may be provided against in future.
Fourthly--That nothing has occurred to create the least doubt in the minds of those engaged in the expedition of the practicability of successfully laying and working an Atlantic telegraph cable; but, on the contrary, their confidence has been largely increased by the confidence obtained on this voyage.
Fifthly--That the Great Eastern steam-ship, supplied with sufficiently strong tackle and hauling-in machinery for depth of 4000 to 5000 yards, there is little or no doubt of the possibility of recovering the lost end of the cable and completing the line already about two thirds laid.
The Great Eastern proceeds direct to Sheerness. All well on board. She reports having parted company with H.M.S. Sphinx a few days after starting. The weather was for the most part very calm, but often foggy and rainy. A stiff breeze blew on two days; but, although the sea washed over the Terrible, scarcely any motion was observable on board the Great Eastern, her greatest roll being 7½ degrees, and her greatest pitching 1 to 1¼ degree. The cable paid out beautifully, and, owing to its diameter and lightness, the strain required to prevent too rapid egress never exceeded 14 cwt. Its angle with the horizon during the paying-out rarely exceeded 9½ deg. No difficulty whatever was experienced in mooring the buoys in the deepest water, two having been left behind moored with pieces of cable that had been picked up from a depth of two miles. One of them rode out a stiff summer gale, its position after nine days being unchanged. Captain Moriarty's chronometers found the true position of the ship to within a fraction of a mile.
The Terrible has sailed for Newfoundland to coal.