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History of the Clarenville Trans-Atlantic cable Station

Clarenville can claim the distinction of being chosen as the first place for the laying of the Trans-Atlantic Telephone Cable which took place in June, 1955.

Following a decision of Great Britain, United States and Canada, Clarenville was used as the Western terminal of the Trans Atlantic Telephone cable.

The first transatlantic telephone cable  between Clarenville, Newfoundland and Oban was inaugurated on 25 September 1956. It was designed to link both the United States and Canada to the U.K., with facilities for links to other European countries. It provided 30 telephone circuits to America and 6 to Canada, as well as a number of telegraph circuits to Canada. 

 The Post Office Cable Ship HMTS 'Monarch'
participated in the Clarenville Cable lay

Photo Source: BBC News

TAT-1, the first transatlantic telephone cable, 1956

Photo Source: The Underwater web


Bring the Cable into Clarenville Station

Photo Source: BBC News

On 25 September 1956, the first cable connecting the UK and North America "went live". The 2,240-mile cable ran from Gallanach Bay, near Oban in Argyll and Bute, to Clarenville. It trebled the number of calls that could be made across the Atlantic. The project took three years to complete and cost more than £12.5m. The connection, named TAT1, allowed 36 simultaneous transatlantic conversations. In its first year of service, it carried almost 300,000 calls at a cost of £3 for three minutes. Previous calls had to be made using radio links, which were far less reliable.

Source: The Electric Construction Company

E.C.C. designed and manufactured the power equipment for the Oban terminal station, as is mentioned in the advert on the above.

The cable station is bomb resistant and had its own diesel power unit and generates the power for half of the telephone cable/across the Atlantic. This very significant communications station was operated by the Eastern Telephone and Telegraph Company until 1978 when it was purchased by Newfoundland Telephone and the Transatlantic cable ceased to operate any longer.

The building is now converted to an apartment building.

Clarenville and IEEE mark 50th anniversary of first Transatlantic call in the above photo Sept 24 2006

Photo Source: Shannon Oak

Photo Source: Shannon Oak


Voices Under the Water

Clarenville and IEEE mark 50th anniversary of first Transatlantic call
The Packet

Clarenville and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) will, Sept. 24, mark the 50th anniversary of the first transatlantic telephone call.

In a special ceremony that day, a commemorative plaque will be unveiled at the site of the old cable station on Cormack Drive.

Thanks to modern technology, including satellites, global communication is virtually instant. In that regard it is surprising that the first telephone call made between North America and Europe was just 50 years ago.

The headline in the New York Times on September 26, 1956, read "First Call Made by Telephone to Europe".

Prior to that, transatlantic communication was relegated to telegrams or an expensive radio service, which was subject to fluctuations in sound quality.

The IEEE has a program called "Milestones in Electrical Engineering and Computing", which honours significant achievements in the history of electrical and electronics engineering around the world.

There are only 70 milestone sites in the world.

Of the five milestones in Canada, three are located in this province — Heart’s Content for the 1866 transatlantic telegraph cable, Signal Hill in St. John’s for the reception of the first wireless signal across the Atlantic by Marconi in 1901 and the newest milestone in Clarenville to mark the first telephone conversation across the Atlantic.

"This is quite an honour," says Clarenville town councillor Elizabeth Muller who is also co-ordinator of projects for the Clarenville Heritage Society.

Muller explains the plaque will be mounted next to the existing one, which was unveiled last year to mark the 50th anniversary of the laying of the transatlantic cable.

"We have added an addition to the monument that is there now; and our interpretation signs, explaining the history of the cable laying, are also completed."

Muller says this kind of international recognition will help put Clarenville on the map and she hopes the site will become a destination for tourists visiting the area.

Early challenges

In 1956 telegraph cables had spanned the ocean for close to 100 years and the telephone had become a staple of communication throughout North America.

However, making the telephone connection between Europe and the New World posed a significant challenge.

After decades of research and development, engineers of the American Bell System had a design for a transatlantic telephone cable ready in 1942. It wasn’t put into service at that time due to the outbreak of WWII.

What engineers came up with was a cable with built-in amplifiers, needed to maintain signal strength, at 50-mile intervals. This was a considerable feat, considering the technology of the day meant fragile vacuum tubes had to be used in the amplifiers.

Following the war Bell and the British Post Office co-operated in a joint project to lay the cable — Called TAT-1, across the Atlantic, in 1955, from Clarenville to Oban, Scotland.

The cable was then run overland from Clarenville to Terrenceville on the Burin Peninsula and on to Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia.

The system began carrying conversations, a maximum of 36 at a time, on September 26, 1956.

"The fact this is being recognized as one of only five milestones in the entire country shows the importance of the event," says Clarenville mayor Fred Best.

Best says this will give the town another foothold toward developing its heritage.

"It is another step and a big step because it is one of the things Clarenville is noted for."

At the same time Best recognizes the work the Clarenville Heritage Society has done toward promoting and preserving the town’s history.

The ceremony begins at 1 p.m., Sept. 24, near the old cable station on Cormack Drive. All members of the general public are invited to attend.

Source: Kirk Squires, The Packet



I would love to have more information along with some older photos from inside the cable stations. Along with any photos of the Cable ship.