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The Atlantic Sentinel - D.R. Tarrant Atlantic Sentinel
D.R. Tarrant

Price: CDN$14.95
Softcover, 159 pp
Flanker Press
ISBN 1-894463-00-5
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 transatlantic cables.

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 were landed.

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.

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