Workmen laying telegraph cable, 1866.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
One of six watercolours by Robert Dudley of the Atlantic telegraph cable laying expedition. In 1866 Isambard Kingdom Brunel's 'Great Eastern' became the first ship to succesfully lay a permanent communications cable acros the Atlantic from Ireland to Newfoundland, following failed attempts in 1858 and 1865. The expedition also managed to repair the abandoned 1865 cable. The use of cable to relay telegraph mesages reduced transatlantic communication times from the length of a sea voyage to a few seconds.