'The Foul Flake, night of July 17', 1866.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
One of six watercolours by Robert Dudley of the Atlantic cable laying expedition of 1866, showing sailors on deck hauling rope beneath a stormy sky. 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, Canada, 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.