The 1866 submarine cable snaked along the Atlantic Ocean seabed to connect Telegraph Field at Foilhommerum Bay on Valentia Island, Co Kerry (Ireland) to Heart’s Content in Newfoundland (now part of Canada). The 1866 cable wasn’t actually the first trans-Atlantic submarine cable though; it was the fourth attempt, though the first which was successful, after multiple failed attempts in 1857, 1858, and 1865.
The first message successfully sent across a trans-Atlantic cable occurred on 16 August 1858 and ushered in an era of drastically reduced communication times. Before submarine telegraph cables, the speed of trans-Atlantic communication was the speed of the fastest ship that carried a handwritten message between North America and Europe, which took about a week and often much longer due to the notoriously bad weather and rough seas of the North Atlantic. The 1858 trans-Atlantic telegraph cable allowed for (short) messages and responses to be received in the same day – 19th century instant messaging. Although modern submarine cables dwarf the transmission performance of the first submarine telegraph cables, the latter was still an impressive feat nonetheless and laid the foundation for mankind’s biggest engineering feat ever – the global Internet.