TAT - 1 Transatlantic Telephone Cable - Oban - April 2012

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The Cat Crept In

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Mar 13, 2010
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TAT-1 Transatlantic Telephone Cable

This comes ashore at Gallanach Bay in the grounds of Gallanach House. It was the first transatlantic telephone cable and came into service in 1956. The cable is no long used but the buildings remain. Part of the site was in a tunnel in the rockface.
The cable carried the "Hot Line" between Washington, London and Moscow,

Global telephone communications using submarine cables began on 25 September 1956, when the first transatlantic undersea telephone system, TAT-1, went into service. This site is the eastern terminal of the transatlantic cable that stretched west to Clarenville, Newfoundland. TAT-1 was a great technological achievement providing unparalleled reliability with fragile components in hostile environments. It was made possible through the efforts of engineers at AT&T Bell Laboratories and British Post Office. The system operated until 1978.

















Thanks for looking...
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Excellent find. I like it when explores involve places which have some real history attached to them.
This is a sad end to a very significant site in the history of communications. In 2006 the importance of TAT-1 was recognized by designation of the project as an IEEE Milestone in Electrical Engineering. Commemorative plaques were installed at 52 Cormack Dr., Clarenville, Newfoundland, Canada; at the Cape Breton Fossil Centre in Sydney Mines on Cape Breton Island, Canada; and in Gallanach Bay. Unfortunately, according to the IEEE, "The plaque at Gallanach Bay, about 3km south of Oban, Scotland. is currently underwater and not in a safe location."

My site on the history of undersea cables has a section on TAT-1, which includes an audio file of part of the first conversation over the line.
Most of the cable and some of the repeaters were made by the British company STC, and this page has further details.

Thanks for all the photos of the site in its present condition - a valuable contribution to the history of the project.

ref- post below, and a bump before the item was closed .
I'm giving my recollections of one who worked in this place for a short period of time in the early 70's, where even then security was tight and cameras were frowned on, if not banned.
The original station was hewn out of the hillside pre 1955 in the days of the cold war and served as the original link for telecommunications/ between the UK and USA, including coms from UK early warning stations to USA and carried the USA-Moscow hot line.

Building in question as shown is not just one Transatlantic cable terminal opened in 1955. The surface building at the front in darker stone is the original building for welfare and admin for TAT1( the UK-STATES cable), with the white glasshouse shown above as the terminal for CANTAT 1( Canadian transatlantic cable ),and opened in 1961.
With this photo of the internals of the admin/welfare building

To give an idea of size, the brickwork at the left was approx 2metre. And this was the surface building.

From the welfare room a passage way ( Adit 1)
ran a short way ( past the eventual entrance to the later surface building ) to a massive bomb proof steel door. After that it was approx 100yds ( run by us mad young keen techs as a macho keep fit session,several times a day) to the equipment room. Some idea of the size can be gleaned by considering that the start of the Adit1 ( and underground chamber ) was parallel to the smaller window of the Welfare room and the other Adit 2 is as per
An idea of Adit 1 is
And the steel door is
With Adit 2
In the welfare room was situated an alarm board
to let staff know of problems in the stations.
In the underground cavern there were two levels. The upper level contained the equipment needed to convert 80 calls to be carried over one co axial cable and the power feeding equipment needed to power the amplifiers to amplify the signals over the vast distance. On a floor below was a power suite with a generator etc to provide power in the event of mains failure. Some thing noted was the air filtration stuff, but beyond the steel doors, there was no welfare facilities/drinking water purification or cooking facilities, so what happened to anyone on duty if they got advanced warning of a four minute warning is anyone's guess.
The other photos on the original report refer to the surface station built to service the Oban - Canada CANTAT1 cable.
Someone mentioned it was "most inhospitable" ,and they only saw the surface buildings. Someone else suggested it might make a "great home". Might be , but with a hidden subterranean two level cavern attached. The original report only sees the tip of the hillside iceberg. Haven seen the sum total, what you ( joe public)see is only the tip of the iceberg.
Very interesting; especially in the new knowledge that this is one of many important communication 'centres' in the West that appear to have been mentioned in those KGB Moscow papers, released a while back.
I don't know about a house, but it would make a great hideout for a Bond villain!
Thinking back, I'd suggest that the surface building mentioned in the first photo I posted would have been roughly the size of the hillside station. For those interested in technicalities, the design of the Cantat 1 equipment/cable was proved in the Anglo Swedish submarine system from Middlesbrough to Gotenburg ( in Sweden). Both are identical( I know as I've worked on both). I can't remember what was in the ground floor of the Cantat 1 building, though I'd suggest it was power generating equipment, in case of a mains power fail.
My thanks to "The cat crept in" for giving me the chance to see memories from my early career ( and happy days of marriage). I've seen posts on other sites of how the lower floor of the hillside station is now flooded.
Cableguy pointed me in the direction of this site and I'm pleased to fill in a few blanks in his site's history add to an excellent review of this old girl with some inside information.
I can assure Dawnwarrior that after dark , the route from the admin block to the hillside equipment ( manned by one bloke, with the other somewhere in the surface building) was not a good experience.
I know another poster follows this post ( and he'll be a lot more interested in the tech stuff I got this doc from ), but I thought that members might like to see the place as it was.
Surface building as built


Technical drawings of Hillside cavity

Cavity under construction


Anyone going to look at this site further should look at the drawing and remember that the basement( power room is marked as 13' , and at last report it was flooded. WARNING.From my memory, the access from the welfare room to the cavity had no access to the power room, but that could have changed . ANYONE GOING PAST THE STEEL DOORS SHOULD BE AWARE OF THIS, if it's possible.
Bill- I've posted a snippet of what is coming your way . This is one site that like you, the members might like to see more of "as I am now, so might you be- this is me as I was", as all we see is what is now, and this is one part of our history. Cantat( the white surface building ) is the next stage in our history, before fibre optics and data comms took over international coms. What folks might not realise is that this site was needed for communications for the security of the Western World.

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