- Historic Sites
“i’ll Put A Girdle Round The Earth In Forty Minutes”
It took a decade of effort, heart-breaking disappointments, and the largest ship afloat before Cyrus Field could lay a successful cable across the Atlantic
October 1958 | Volume 9, Issue 6
In England, where the progress of the expedition was known at every minute, excitement and confidence mounted day by day. In the United States, however, it was different, for there was no news of what was happening, nor could there be until the ships actually arrived—if they did. Some spectators were waiting hopefully in Newfoundland, but, as Henry Field remarks, not so many as the last year, for the memory of their disappointment was too fresh, and they feared the same result again.
But still a faithful few were there who kept their daily watch … it is Friday morning, the ayth July. They are up early and looking eastwards to see the day break, when a ship is seen in the offing. Spy-glasses are turned towards her. She comes nearer—and look, there is another and another. And now the hull of the Great Eastern looms all glorious in that morning sky. They are coming! Instantly all is wild excitement. The Albany is the first to round the point and enter the bay. The Terrible is close behind. The Medway stops an hour or two to join on the heavy shoreend, while the Great Eastern , gliding calmly in as if she had done nothing remarkable, drops her anchor in front of the telegraph house, having trailed behind her a chain of two thousand miles, to bind the old world to the new.
No name could be more appropriate than that of the landing place—Heart’s Content. “Heart’s Content was chosen now because its waters are still and deep, so that a cable skirting the north side of the Banks of Newfoundland can be brought in deep water almost till it touches the shore. All around the land rises to pine-crested heights; and here the telegraph fleet, after its memorable journey, lay in quiet, under the shadow of the encircling hills.”
The triumph was marred by a slight annoyance; the St. Lawrence cable had been broken, and so there was a delay of two days before the telegraph connection could be completed to the United States. It was not until the morning of Sunday, July 29, that New York received the message: “Heart’s Content, July 27. We arrived here at 9 o’clock this morning. All well. Thank God, the cable is laid and in perfect working order. Cyrus W. Field.”
[But Cyrus Field was not finished. As soon as the Great Eastern could be refueled, she and the rest of the telegraph fleet rendezvoused in the Atlantic near the buoy marking the spot where the 1865 cable had parted. Then began a grueling effort to hook and raise the severed cable. On the thirtieth attempt success was achieved. The Great Eastern had brought 600 miles of cable from Newfoundland; this was spliced to the recovered line and the great ship turned westward again, bringing her second transatlantic cable into Heart’s Content only four weeks after she had arrived with the first. “The long and weary battle was ended,” Mr. Clarke concludes. “From that day to this, America and Europe have never been out of touch for more than a few hours at a time.”]