The "Great Eastern" Laying the First Transatlantic Telegraph Cable


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, March 11, 1865

This site features an online archive of the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. This archive includes incredible eye-witness accounts of the key events of this period. This material offers the serious student of the war a resource not available elsewhere.

(Scroll Down to See Entire Page, or Newspaper Thumbnails below will take you to the page of interest)


Capture of Wilmington

Capture of Wilmington

Lee Colored Troops

Lee's Plan to use Colored Troops

Capture of Charleston

Capture of Charleston, South Carolina

Field Hospital

Civil War Field Hospital

Transatlantic Telegraph

Laying First Transatlantic Telegraph

Jeff Davis Cartoon

Jeff Davis Cartoon



Signal Station

Petersburg Signal Station

Harper's Ferry

Harper's Ferry

Telegraph Cable

Telegraph Cable






[MARCH 11, 1865.


either in depth of tone or duration, of which latter assertion we have proof in the fact of the Greeks having found purple robes in the treasury of the king of Persia that were known to be two hundred years old, and vet were brilliant as ever that a very little of this matter, which must, we think, have be n largely diluted, went a long way in the process of dyeing. Another way was to draw the animal out of its shell, squeeze it gently to obtain the much covet d liquor, and then allow it again to retire into its house, the animal being restored to a tank to feed and gather additional dye. This process was repeated till the animal became so weak and worthless that it was thrown to feed other fish. Smaller shell, again were entirely crushed in a kind of mill, and the liquor drained off for use. The tint varied considerably it seems, according to the living and feeding-place of the animal, just as it is found in the present day that the color and flavor of all kinds of fish are dependent on the kind of water in which they live, and the quality of the

is a suitable substance to write with on either calico or silk ; the figures, in marking linen, will first, as Mr. Cole tells us, appear of a green, then of a yellow color, and then by successive changes will at last become purple. The mode of dyeing adopted by the Tyrians was to gather all the liquor into a bath, in which, for a longer or shorter period, always according to the intensity of color desired, they steeped the wool or other substance which was to be colored.

After the wool had been immersed for the requisite time in this preliminary bath, it was then thrown into a boiler filled with the liquor of another variety of shell fish, and the stuffs that under went this double process were very greatly esteemed and very costly, each pound weight of the colored wool being valued at not less than thirty pounds sterling ! In fact, the genuine purple was even more valuable than gold itself. Immense quantities of the shell fish were required, because each pound weight of stuff to be dyed required six pounds


WE give on this and the next page two illustrations one representing the Great Eastern lying in the Medway, and receiving the Atlantic Telegraph Cable from one of the hulks employed to bring it from the manufacturers' yard at East Greenwich ; the other showing the manner in which the cable is coiled and, stowed away on board the Great Eastern. That mighty vessel, "hugest of all that swim the ocean deep," has undergone an internal transformation to fit her for her new duties as a cable ship. The great object was to get as few coils of cable as possible in fact, if possible, to have it all in one. Large, however, as the Great Eastern is, she could never hold the Atlantic Cable in one coil, for, apart from its weight, which is 5000 tons, its bulk in one mass would be gigantic a coil 58 feet in diameter and nearly 60 feet high, enough to fill Astley's Theatre from the ground of the circus almost to the

The work of shipping the cable was begun on Thursday, the 19th ult., and will continue without intermission now until nearly the end of May, by which time it is hoped all will be coiled away snugly on board the great steamship. The total quantity of rope required to connect Valentia with Bull's Bay. Newfoundland, allowing for the "slack" which must run out to prevent too great a strain on the cable, is about 2300 nautical, or nearly 2700 statute miles. With this length a liberal margin is given of nearly 600 statute miles of rope for slack caused by currents, possible rough weather, and the avoidance of any thing like unusual strain on the cable in the deepest water. Over one part of the route the depth is as great as from 2000 to 2500 fathoms, or nearly throe statute miles a depth, however, which is only considered of moment in case of rough weather in paying out, the mere strength of the cable being sufficient to bear its own weight in eleven miles of still water. In this respect as, indeed, in all others the new cable has an enormous su-


food they can obtain. The largest and best fed Murice, of course, produced the finest dye.

A Bristol merchant of the name of Cole leaves us some crude information on the subject of this dye, dated so far back as 1684. This gentleman had heard through his correspondents of an ingenious Irishman who gained a great deal of money by marking fine linen with a beautiful purple color, the preparation of which was a secret only known to himself. Setting out in search of this native genius, Mr. Cole was not long in discovering that his fine coloring matter was obtained from a sea shell. Briefly his directions, which apply to the whelk (Buccinum), are as follows : when the shell has been lightly broken, throw the slug, i.e., the inhabitant of the shell, into fresh water, where it will very speedily die. A white vein will then be seen lying transversely next to the head of the fish, and the matter from this vessel must be picked out with a camel hair pencil it forms the dye. This

of the dye liquor, which must, of course, have been greatly diluted; but not even the well known fecundity of shell fish could stand such a constant drain as was needed for the dye works ; and of the quantities used we have evidence in the mounds that remain, so that it is no wonder that in time the art was abandoned or lost, rather because of a want of the raw material than from any tyrannical restriction in the manufacture. If we wanted to resume the making of this purple nowadays an eminent scientific man tells us that the best and cheapest way to manufacture it would be, not from these shell fish, but from Peruvian guano. However, with the brilliant aniline dyes of the nineteenth century there is no need for us to reintroduce the Tyrian purple, even with the knowledge of the fact before us, that we could artificially cultivate the "buckies',' in any required quantity, in the same way as we can multiply our supplies of oysters or pearl mussels.

roof. It is disposed, therefore, in three circular tanks one aft, one amidships, and one forward. Each of these tanks is of solid wrought iron, watertight, built on what is called the 30-foot deck, and, with some minute differences, all are nearly alike in size viz., 58 feet diameter and 20 feet high. The forward tank is, from the shape of the ship, smaller in diameter than those amidships and aft, but the heights of all are alike. This tank is shown in the engraving on our next page, with the first portion of the cable. In order to sustain the enormous additional weight which will be placed on the decks when the whole of the cable is on board, the deck on which the tanks are erected is strengthened by a system of knees and deck beams, while the lateral pressure of the cable against the sides of the tanks will be overcome by an arrangement of beams and supports, with the object of confining the dead weight of the cable to the centre of the ship, and overcoming all outward pressure.

periority over the old and ill used rope which was first laid, and which, to the amazement of all those who knew its real condition, nevertheless remained in fair working order for a few days. In size, in strength, in better condition, better insulation, and better outer covering, the new rope is never less than three times as good as the old one, while in many cases, and these the most important, its superiority is four or five times greater. Though a much larger cable, its weight in water per mile is less than half that of its unfortunate predecessor, its breaking strain is 7 3/4 tons against 3 1/4 tons, the maximum strength of the old rope. The method of joining up the two mile lengths in which it is constructed is also a great improvement upon the soldered joints in the wires of the first cable, while the standards for insulation and " conductivity" are as high as those devised for the Persian Gulf cable, and the tests are continuous in every portion of the manufacture.

Great Eastern




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