On the 16th August 1858 the first Officia Transatlantic Cable message from Europe tc America was sent by Queen Victoria to Jame. Buchanan, President of the United States, anc was the culmination of the hard struggle to establish a telegraphic link. In 1856 a retired American Merchant, Cyrus West Field and a syndicate of his friends formed the Atlantic Telegraph Company. An order was placed with R.S. Newell and Company of Birkenhead, and Glass, Elliot & Company of Greenwich for 2500 nautical miles of cable. The core for both being supplied by the Gutta Percha Company.
The Royal Navy loaned HMS Agamemnon, 3500ton 91 gun sailing Ship of the Line, the first to be built with a steam engine, and the United States Navy loaned the 5200ton Steam Screen Corvette Niagara, each was to lay half of the transatlantic cable. Agamemnon collected the Greenwich cable and Niagara loaded the Birkenhead cable.
The two ships met at Queenstown on 30th July 1857, where the two cables were joined together and tested. Proceeding to Valentia the shore end was laid from Niagara by the tug Willing Maid. Laying out the cable was dogged by frequent breaks and the cable end became lost in 2000 fathoms of water. Both ships returned to Plymouth and unloaded the cable into tanks.
A second attempt, with improved paying out gear was planned for 1858. The two ships left Plymouth in June and met in mid Atlantic. It was planned that both pay-out simultaneously it opposite directions. Three times the plan ended in failure and they returned to Queenstown.
Directors Meeting in London decided upon one final attempt. The ships set off again on the 17th July 1858 but this time laying proceeded smoothly with Agamemnon reaching Valentia or the 5th August and Niagara arriving at Trinity Bay later that day. The shore ends were both landed by small boats.
Two months after the "Official opening", after passing only 723 messages, the cable failed. It was not until 1865 that another attempt to lay an Atlantic cable would be made, this time employing the Great Eastern in her most successful role
Source : Irish stamps at an.post & Cableships and Submarine Cables by K.R. Haig 1968
Ireland SG? 2008
Irish stamps website
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