Atlantic Sentinel

by

Donald R. Tarrant

            Newfoundland's role in transatlantic telegraph and telephone communications has been underdocumented. During the 1850s, the British colony played a leading role in  bridging the Atlantic, as its geographic location made it the natural choice as the western terminus for transatlantic submarine telegraph cables.

        The story of transatlantic communications in Newfoundland began with the arrival of Frederick Gisborne in 1851 with plans to telegraphically connect the island with the Nova Scotia mainland. Gisborne established a company named Newfoundland Electric Telegraph, which became insolvent in late 1853, after constructing its telegraph line only from St. John's to Brigus. Subsequently, however, Gisborne met New York businessman Cyrus Field, who seized the grander notion of not only constructing a telegraph line across Newfoundland, but extending it even further - across the Atlantic Ocean, connecting Europe with North America. Field organized a number of companies to pursue this objective, including the New York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph Company, the Atlantic Telegraph Company, and Anglo-American Telegraph, all of which were involved with early transatlantic cables.

        In 1858, the world's first transatlantic telegraph cable was placed between Valentia, Ireland and Sunnyside, Trinity Bay; however, it lasted only three weeks. In 1866, after many failed attempts, the Great Eastern installed the first successful permanent cable between Valentia and Heart's Content. Additional cables were installed to Heart's Content in the late 1800s. In the early 1900s, cable stations were also constructed at Bay Roberts, Harbour Grace and St. John's, where other transatlantic cables were landed.

      Atlantic Sentinel traces the exciting history of transatlantic communications, beginning with Gisborne's arrival in Newfoundland. The book focuses on the critical role that Newfoundland played in transatlantic telegraph communications and chronicles the submarine cable landings in the province. The towns covered are Heart's Content (Anglo-American and Western Union), Bay Roberts (Western Union), Harbour Grace (Direct United States Cable, and Cable and Wireless), and St. John's (Commercial Cable). Also reviewed are Clarenville, Deer Lake, and Wild Cove (Corner Brook), where Canadian Overseas Telecommunication Corporation had transatlantic cable operations.

        Atlantic Sentinel is illustrated with sixty vintage photographs and maps. The illustrations range from sketches of the early transatlantic attempts in the 1850s and 1860s to photographs of cable station staff in the twentieth century. The book contains 160 pages as well as a comprehensive index.
 
 

          Below are the chapter headings for Atlantic Sentinel.

PROLOGUE

THE ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH

               FREDERICK NEWTON GISBORNE

CYRUS FIELD ENTERS THE SCENE

THE ATLANTIC CONQUEST BEGINS - THE 1857 ATTEMPT

SUCCESS AND DISAPPOINTMENT - THE 1858 ATLANTIC CABLE

OTHER PROPOSALS

SO CLOSE BUT YET SO FAR - THE 1865 ATLANTIC CABLE

TRIUMPH AT LAST - THE 1866 ATLANTIC CABLE

EXPANSION OF TRANSATLANTIC TELEGRAPHY

ANGLO-AMERICAN/WESTERN UNION  - HEART'S CONTENT

WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY - BAY ROBERTS

DIRECT UNITED STATES CABLE COMPANY - HARBOUR GRACE

COMMERCIAL CABLE COMPANY - ST. JOHN'S

FROM TELEGRAPH TO TELEPHONE CABLES

CANADIAN OVERSEAS TELECOMMUNICATION CORPORATION (COTC)

END OF AN ERA

ENDNOTES

BIBLIOGRAPHY

APPENDIX - MAJOR SUBMARINE CABLES REFERENCED

INDEX

      Below are some of the vintage images found in the book.

        Donald Tarrant was born in St. John's, and lived his first ten years on Bell Island. He was educated at Bishop Feild College and Bishops College in St. John's. He received a B.Sc. (Mathematics) from Memorial University in 1967, and a B. A. Sc. (Electrical Engineering) from the University of Toronto in 1970. He received an M. Eng. (Industrial Engineering) from Memorial University in 1982.

       Don joined Newfoundland Telephone in 1969 and retired from there in 1996. He spent the early part of his career in various engineering capacities. From 1990, until his retirement, he was General Manager - Rates and Regulatory Matters. He has written and presented engineering technical papers on various communications issues at technical conferences in Ottawa, Calgary and Geneva. He was also the author of Telegraph and Telephone Companies in Newfoundland, a major article in the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Marconi's Miracle:the wireless bridging of the Atlantic, a book on Guglielmo Marconi's reception in 1901 of the first transatlantic wireless message on Signal Hill, St. John's Newfoundland. Don presently resides in St. John's, Newfoundland.

         Atlantic Sentinel is available from Newfoundland bookstores or from Flanker Press Ltd., P.O. Box 2522, Station C, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, telephone 709-739-4477, email: info@flankerpress.com

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