Forty Years On The Pacific/Pacific Cable
THE Pacific Cable was completed in 1902, and the first message was sent by Sir Stanford Fleming, on October 1, 1902; he was thus-enabled to girdle the globe by using the existing cables via India and Europe.
Like all other new undertakings, the Pacific Cable had many obstacles to face. Vested interest already controlling cable businesses did not calmly submit to any move that would curtail their revenue. For years after completion, the Pacific Cable was run at a loss, owing to lack of patronage, although it was owned by the people whose taxes went to make up the deficiency. Happily, now, the experimental period has passed, and in 1916 the Pacific Cable carried eight million words, showing a profit of about $89,600.
The progress of the traffic lodged and handled is best compared in the following figures:
The progressive volume of traffic is singularly gratifying, and indicates a growing recognition of the advantages secured by an Imperial-owned cable.
The laying of the Sydney-Auckland Cable in 1912 has further greatly enhanced the value of the service to and from Australia. This secures duplicated routes for all traffic given transit at Norfolk Island, and forms a great factor for avoidance of slow transit to both International and Intercolonial traffic. The route of the cable is as follows:
As a result of their labors, the contractors for the cable company found that the bed of the Pacific Ocean was one continuous row of hills from Brisbane to Norfolk Island, where the cable rests at an average depth of 2,500 fathoms; from Norfolk Island to Fiji it sinks to a depth of 2,600 fathoms (nearly three miles); from Fiji to Fanning Island the greatest depth is 3,071 fathoms, with a minimum depth of 1,700 fathoms; from Fanning Island to British Columbia the greatest depth is 2,700 fathoms. The temperature, at a depth of 2,500 fathoms, averages about 34° Fahrenheit.
To render it immune from attack by Teredos—a marine molluscan borer—which is active to a depth of four hundred fathoms, the cable has to be provided with a special brass tape binding. This also prevents any damage from fish bites, a further menace that is found in the tropics.
With the establishment of the Pacific Cable, a revision of rates was secured. A comparison between the present tariff and that existing prior to 1902 shows the great reduction in charges for cable facilities to and from the Southern Hemisphere. The concessions have been further extended by introduction of deferred (half rate) and week-end (quarter rate) classifications. The commercial community has evidenced its appreciation of these changes by the immense advance in the number of words lodged for telegraphic transit. War conditions have occasioned frequent disturbances of the half and quarter rate service, but the temporary suspension, at intervals, is an experience that can be confidently viewed as non-existent in normal times.
The cost and maintenance of the Pacific Cable are divided as follows:
New Zealand...............two eighteenths
Imperial Government...............five eighteenths
The cost of the Pacific Cable was roughly about £2,000,000 sterling, or $10,000,000.