Can I Get a Connection? Laying the Transatlantic Telephone Cable, 1955-1956

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Workers on the shoreline feeding the transatlantic telephone cable into the water. The cable ship Monarch is in the background.
Workers on the shoreline feeding the transatlantic telephone cable into the water. The cable ship Monarch is in the background.
Workers are laying the shore end of the transatlantic cable at Clarenville, Newfoundland, 1955. Cable ship Monarch is docked in the background. Oil drums floating in the water are used to float the cable. American Telephone & Telegraph Company, 1955. Mariners’ Museum Collection #P0001.004-PC407

Imagine a time before cell phones

when telephone communication simply didn’t exist outside of one’s own country.

OneRepublic’s song Connection is one of the Museum’s theme songs. For us, it echoes our mission: The Mariners’ Museum and Park connects people to the world’s waters, because through the waters—through our shared maritime heritage—we are connected to one another.

Getting that Connection.

Looking down inside a tank that holds the telephone cable.
Cable is stored in one of four cable tanks. Monarch can carry about 2,000 miles of cable at one time. American Telephone & Telegraph Company, 1955. Mariners’ Museum Collection #P0001.004-PC424

Sixty-five years ago this summer, the laying of the first transatlantic telephone cable was completed. The project was jointly supported by American Telephone & Telegraph Company, the General Post Office of the United Kingdom and the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation.

Map of the North Atlantic Ocean showing where the cable would be laid.

The British cable ship Monarch is documented here during the historic cable laying operation. Cable was laid in three sections: a section on each end (Newfoundland and Scotland) that connected to a central section.

Shows a cut-away view of the submarine telephone cable in which the copper wire can transmit 36 voices simultaneously.
A cut-away of the cable shows its intricate make-up. The coper wire, over which 36 voices can flow simultaneously, is only slightly more than a tenth of an inch in diameter. The diameter of the cable is 1.84 inches. American Telephone & Telegraph Company, 1955. Mariners’ Museum Collection #P0001.004-PC426

The first phone call was made September 25, 1956 between New York, Ottawa and London. It can be heard here:

 

 

 

 

Sources:

OneRepublic. Accessed May 3, 2021, https://onerepublic.com/

Burns, Bill. Accessed May 2, 2021, https://atlantic-cable.com/Cables/1956TAT-1/

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