Softcover, 159 pp
A highly underdocumented aspect of
Newfoundland's history is its role in transatlantic
communications. During the 1850s, Newfoundland
played a leading role in attempts to bridge the
Atlantic, as its geographic location made it the
natural choice as the western terminus for
The story of transatlantic communications in
Newfoundland began with the arrival of Frederick
Gisborne in 1851 with plans to telegraphically
connect the island with the Nova Scotia mainland.
Gisborne established a company named
Newfoundland Electric Telegraph, which became
insolvent in late 1853, after constructing its
telegraph line only from St. John's to Brigus.
Subsequently, however, Gisborne met New York
businessman Cyrus Field, who seized the grander
notion of not only constructing a telegraph line
across Newfoundland, but extending it even further
- across the Atlantic Ocean, connecting Europe with North America. Field organized a number of
companies to pursue this objective, including the New York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph
Company, the Atlantic Telegraph Company, and Anglo-American Telegraph, all of which were involved
with early transatlantic cables.
In 1858, the world's first transatlantic telegraph cable was placed between Valentia, Ireland and
Sunnyside, Trinity Bay; however, it lasted only three weeks. In 1866, after many failed attempts, the
Great Eastern installed the first successful permanent cable between Valentia and Heart's Content.
Additional cables were installed to Heart's Content in the late 1800s. In the early 1900s, cable stations
were also constructed at Bay Roberts, Harbour Grace and St. John's, where other transatlantic cables
Atlantic Sentinel traces the exciting history of transatlantic communications, beginning with
Gisborne's arrival in Newfoundland. The book focuses on the critical role that Newfoundland played in
transatlantic telegraph communications and chronicles the submarine cable landings in the province. The
towns covered are Heart's Content (Anglo-American and Western Union), Bay Roberts (Western Union),
Harbour Grace (Direct United States Cable, and Cable and Wireless), and St. John's (Commercial Cable).
Also reviewed are Clarenville, Deer Lake, and Wild Cove (Corner Brook), where Canadian Overseas
Telecommunication Corporation had transatlantic cable operations.
Atlantic Sentinel is illustrated with sixty vintage photographs and maps. The illustrations range from
sketches of the early transatlantic attempts in the 1850s and 1860s to photographs of cable station staff in
the twentieth century. The book contains 160 pages as well as a comprehensive index.