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Kerry, Ireland

Telegraph Field Valentia Island

This beautiful site is where the first transatlantic telegraph was sent from.  

Two whole weeks is an eternity in the age of instant communication, but until the mid-19th century, it took at least that long for a message to travel across the Atlantic. American businessman Cyrus West Field wanted to change this. It was his life mission to connect North America and Europe via telegraph.

The installation of the first successful transatlantic telegraph cable under the ocean was completed on August 5, 1858. After a few failed attempts over the previous year, four ships—two from Britain and two from the United States, successfully installed the cable without it breaking halfway, allowing messages to be sent from Valentia Harbor in Ireland to Trinity Bay in Newfoundland.

A few test messages were sent back and forth, after which President James Buchanan and Queen Victoria swapped pleasantries using the new technology. The glow of this fantastic achievement was, however, short-lived. The cable was not strong enough, and the high voltages passing through damaged it within three weeks. 

The system was improved over the next several years, and in 1866, a ship finished laying the first permanent telegraph cable across the ocean. Valentia Island and Heart’s Content in Newfoundland were the endpoints of the cable. This signaled the beginning of an era of faster interaction, and made the Telegraph Field on Valentia Island a crucial site in the history of communication. Telegraphic messages zoomed in and out of the Valentia cable station for 100 years, until in 1966, it was closed down.

Today, a plaque marks the importance of the spot. In recent years, efforts have been made to have the area declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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