Cable laying machinery on the deck of the SS 'Great Eastern', c 1867.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859), the Great Eastern was the largest vessel afloat until she was broken up in 1888. Built of iron, she was 692 feet long, and could accommodate 4000 passengers. Limitations of technology necessitated the use of both paddle-wheels and a screw propeller. She made her maiden voyage across the Atlantic in 1860. Although not a commercial success as a liner, between 1865 and 1873 she did valuable work laying submarine cables, including the first permanent transatlantic telegraph link, reducing communication times from the length of a sea voyage to a few minutes. One of eleven sepia prints from an album of photographs of Atlantic telegraph cable machinery by J Thomson of 21 High Park Street, Liverpool.