Glass tube containing a portion of the first submarine cable laid between Dover and Calais, 1875-1913

1875-1913 in England

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1913-230 Pt1: Portion of the first submarine cable laid between Dover and Calais, made by the Gutta Percha Company,
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Glass tube containing a portion of the first submarine cable between Dover and Calais, plus screws for mounting, unknown maker, England, 1875-1913.

This cable consists of a single copper wire, with gutta-perch insulation, but no armouring. It was held down to the bed of the sea by lead weights attached at 100-yard (91.4 m) intervals. It was laid between Dover and Cap Gris Nez on 28 August 1850, and failed during the first night, reportedly because a fisherman had caught the cable with his anchor and, without realising what it was, cut it free. The cable was not expected to be a permanent success, and the action of the tides soon destroyed the insulating material. It was intended as a test of the possibility of the idea of laying a cable between England and France. Having proved that it was possible, a second cable was laid the following year in 1851.

On display

Science Museum: Information Age Gallery: Cable

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Object Number:
1913-230 Pt2
copper (alloy), glass and metal (unknown)
  • furnishing and equipment
Donated by the General Post Office

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