A Miracle in the Making

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pss great easternWell, it’s only 2,500 miles!!
It is now almost 158 years ago that one man’s dedication and perseverance bore fruit.
Cyrus W. Field, a retired American paper merchant, formed a company in 1854 with the intention of improving and speeding up communication between North America and Britain. The idea was to transmit telecommunication signals between those lands.

Cyrus W Field

Cyrus W.Field

The stumbling block was the great expanse of water between origin and destination – the Atlantic Ocean.

FDC

Issued on August 15th, 1958, the above stamp commemorates the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Atlantic Cable. First placed on sale in New York City, the design features a line linking two hemispheres, with sketches of Neptune – God of the Sea – and one of his mermaids.

The plan was to lay cables on the ocean floor, from New York City to Ireland, via Newfoundland. It must have seemed almost beyond belief at the time, but, with the financial assistance of brave investors and help from the American and British governments the plan materialized. Field managed to persuade both governments to loan two ships, the American frigate Niagara and H.M.S. Agamemnon, to lay the cable.

FDCAfter many failed attempts, in mid-August 1858, the line was completed and Queen Victoria and U.S. President James Buchanan exchanged congratulatory messages. However, three weeks later the line broke and it wasn’t until 1866 that the line became permanently operative. Nonetheless, it opened a new era in overseas and global communications.

FDC

2008 Eire cover, HMS Agamemnon and USS Niagara mid-ocean, preparing to lay the 1858 Atlantic Cable

the steamship Great Eastern

Issued by Great Britain in 2006, this stamp depicts the steamship Great Eastern – very relevant to this article. The ship was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, whose vision and daring produced some of the greatest engineering wonders of Victorian Britain. Launched in 1858, the Great Eastern was the largest ship ever built at the time, and had the capacity to carry 4,000 passengers around the world without refuelling. In 1865/6 the Great Eastern was used to lay a more technologically-advanced transatlantic cable.

This link gives access to a great website made by Mr. Bill Burns, a wonderful source of information on the subject.

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