Speed! speed the cable! let it run A loving girdle round the earth, Till all the nations 'neath the sun Shall be as brothers of one hearth.
As brothers pledging, hand in hand, One freedom for the world abroad, One commerce over every land, One language, and one God.'
The rejoicing reached a climax in September, when a public service was held in Trinity Church, and Mr. Field, the hero of the hour, as head and mainspring of the expedition, received an ovation in the Crystal Palace at New York. The mayor presented him with a golden casket as a souvenir of 'the grandest enterprise of our day and generation.' The band played 'God save the Queen,' and the whole audience rose to their feet. In the evening there was a magnificent torchlight procession of the city firemen.
That very day the cable breathed its last. Its insulation had been failing for some days, and the only signals which could be read were those given by the mirror galvanometer.[It is said to have broken down while Newfoundland was vainly attempting to inform Valentia that it was sending with THREE HUNDRED AND TWELVE CELLS!] The reaction at this news was tremendous. Some writers even hinted that the line was a mere hoax, and others pronounced it a stock exchange speculation. Sensible men doubted whether the cable had ever 'spoken;' but in addition to the royal despatch, items of daily news had passed through the wire; for instance, the announcement of a collision between two ships, the Arabia and the Europa, off Cape Race, Newfoundland, and an order from London, countermanding the departure of a regiment in Canada for the seat of the Indian Mutiny, which had come to an end.
Mr. Field was by no means daunted at the failure. He was even more eager to renew the work, since he had come so near to success. But the public had lost confidence in the scheme, and all his efforts to revive the company were futile. It was not until 1864 that with the assistance of Mr. Thomas (afterwards Lord) Brassey, and Mr. (now Sir) John Fender, that he succeeded in raising the necessary capital. The Glass, Elliot, and Gutta-Percha Companies were united to form the well-known Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company, which undertook to manufacture and lay the new cable.
Much experience had been gained in the meanwhile. Long cables had been submerged in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The Board of Trade in 1859 had appointed a committee of experts, including Professor Wheatstone, to investigate the whole subject, and the results were published in a Blue-book. Profiting by these aids, an improved type of cable was designed. The core consisted of a strand of seven very pure copper wires weighing 300 lbs. a knot, coated with Chatterton's compound, which is impervious to water, then covered with four layers of gutta-percha alternating with four thin layers of the compound cementing the whole, and bringing the weight of the insulator to 400 lbs. per knot. This core was served with hemp saturated in a preservative solution, and on the hemp as a padding were spirally wound eighteen single wires of soft steel, each covered with fine strands of Manilla yam steeped in the preservative. The weight of the new cable was 35.75 cwt. per knot, or nearly twice the weight of the old, and it was stronger in proportion.
Ten years before, Mr. Marc Isambard Brunel, the architect of the Great Eastern, had taken Mr. Field to Blackwall, where the leviathan was lying, and said to him, 'There is the ship to lay the Atlantic cable.' She was now purchased to fulfil the mission. Her immense hull was fitted with three iron tanks for the reception of 2,300 miles of cable, and her decks furnished with the paying-out gear. Captain (now Sir) James Anderson, of the Cunard steamer China, a thorough seaman, was appointed to the command, with Captain Moriarty, R.N., as chief navigating officer. Mr. (afterwards Sir) Samuel Canning was engineer for the contractors, the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company, and Mr. de Sauty their electrician; Professor Thomson and Mr. Cromwell Fleetwood Varley were the electricians for the Atlantic Telegraph Company. The Press was ably represented by Dr. W. H. Russell, correspondent of the TIMES. The Great Eastern took on board seven or eight thousand tons of coal to feed her fires, a prodigious quantity of stores, and a multitude of live stock which turned her decks into a farmyard. Her crew all told numbered 500 men.
At noon on Saturday, July 15, 1865, the Great Eastern left the Nore for Foilhommerum Bay, Valentia Island, where the shore end was laid by the Caroline.