Specimens of the first Atlantic submarine cable, 1858.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This cable 'tree' is made up of specimens from the first Atlantic submarine cable. The first complete trans-Atlantic telegraph cable was laid by the British war steamer, 'Agamemnon', and the American war steamer, 'Niagara', in 1858. The vesels met in the middle of the ocean where the two halves of the cable were joined. The cable was only in operation for three weeks before it failed. Another attempt was made in 1865, but this too failed when the cable broke two miles under the sea. In 1866 Brunel's (1806-1859) steam ship, the 'Great Eastern', laid the first succesful trans-Atlantic telegraph cable. Parts of the original cables were also retrieved and later sold by Cyrus W Field (1819-1892), financier of the Atlantic Telegraph Company.