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1874: Werner von Siemens gives his inaugural address before the Prussian Academy of Sciences. This recognition means more to him than any other award. He, Werner von Siemens, the technical expert and self-made man, has been accepted into the group of learned academics!

But he’s extremely tense. Because shortly before the festivities, he receives a disturbing message:

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July 2, 1874 ++++ Faraday has struck an iceberg south of Halifax. ++++ Please come at once. William. ++++

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It’s a disaster. The Faraday, the Siemens brothers’ new cable-laying ship, has sunk!? This would be a financial catastrophe – and the sad end to a project that had a great start: laying a telegraph cable between Europe and North America.

We’ll get it done.

It’s a disaster. The Faraday, the Siemens brothers’ new cable-laying ship, has sunk!? This would be a financial catastrophe – and the sad end to a project that had a great start: laying a telegraph cable between Europe and North America.

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In the early 1870s, three functional cables connect the two continents. Operating them is extremely profitable, so there’s heavy competition on the market. The British entrepreneur John Pender dominates the business. He has been successful in gaining control of the existing cables and dictating prices based on his monopoly.

Siemens Brothers is a troublesome competitor for the cartel. Over the past ten years, the company has gained vast know-how in cable-laying while constantly improving the technology and testing methods and building its own cable plant, which supplies the entire world.

Pender is willing to use any means
to oust Siemens Brothers from the market.
Will he succeed?

In the early 1870s, three functional cables connect the two continents. Operating them is extremely profitable, so there’s heavy competition on the market. The British entrepreneur John Pender dominates the business. He has been successful in gaining control of the existing cables and dictating prices based on his monopoly.

Pender is willing to use any means
to oust Siemens Brothers from the market.
Will he succeed?

Siemens Brothers is a troublesome competitor for the cartel. Over the past ten years, the company has gained vast know-how in cable-laying while constantly improving the technology and testing methods and building its own cable plant, which supplies the entire world.

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NORTH AMERICA ATLANTIC EUROPE AFRICA

Technical malfunction

June 1874

Defective cable

Sabotage

July 2, 1874

Incorrect message about wreck of the Faraday

Technical malfunction

September 1, 1874

Signal malfunction

Cable break

September 6, 1874

Cable break

Cable break

May 15, 1875

Cable breaks for the third time

Sabotage

September 27, 1875

cable cut

Sabotage

September 28, 1875

cable cut

Sabotage

December 10, 1875

cable cut

Cable break

September 11, 1874

Cable break

Technical malfunction

November 8, 1874

Defect in cable; it must be cut. Damage with loss of cable.

Technical malfunction

May 2, 1875

Insulation defect in cable

Full risk:
The Siemens Brothers transatlantic cable

5/1874

9/1874

5/1875

9/1875

1/1876

Message

Telegram

Technical malfunction

Cable break

Sabotage

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The message about the wreck of the Faraday is just one of many dirty tricks – a series of intrigues, misleading messages, and deliberate attacks that constantly threaten the project.

Werner von Siemens starts to have doubts about the project. But his brothers Carl and William are determined to see the matter through.

The message about the wreck of the Faraday is just one of many dirty tricks – a series of intrigues, misleading messages, and deliberate attacks that constantly threaten the project.

Werner von Siemens starts to have doubts about the project. But his brothers Carl and William are determined to see the matter through.

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Cable-laying begins:

The first section leads from Torbay, near Halifax, Canada, to Rye Beach, near Portsmouth in the United States.

NORTH AMERICA ATLANTIC

Cable-laying begins:

The first section leads from Torbay, near Halifax, Canada, to Rye Beach, near Portsmouth in the United States.

The first portion is complete after three tough months. Carl returns to England in early August to prepare for the main expedition: laying 4,000 kilometers of cable between the continents.

Technical malfunction

June 1874

Defective cable, heavy fog impedes repair. 14-day delay.

Sabotage

July 2, 1874

Reuters telegram in der British newspaper the Times: ++++ The steamer Faraday has struck on an iceberg off Halifax ++++

Telegram

June 1874

Nothing heard from the Faraday since June 11. Werner and Wilhelm extremely concerned.

Telegram

July 3, 1874

A telegram from Carl in Torbay reveals the Reuters message is a trick: “Work there successfully completed, leaving for Portsmouth, thank God!”

5/30/1874
Work starts

6/1874

7/1874

8/5/1874
Finished

Message

Telegram

Technical malfunction

Cable break

Sabotage

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The main expedition begins.

It will connect Ballinskelligs Bay, Ireland, with Torbay, near Halifax, Canada.

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ATLANTIC IRELAND
Ballinskelligs Bay

Message

September 6, 1874

The report of the break reaches all of England within an hour. The competition gloats: “It is a rotten cable!”

Cable break

September 6, 1874

A break in the cable!

Signal malfunction

September 1, 1874

Werner stops cable-laying operations; the cable is hauled in and repaired.

The Faraday arrives on the Irish coast in late August 1874. Werner von Siemens watches the cable being laid from a land station in Ballinskelligs Bay. A #mirror galvanometer provides information about the condition of the cable – and reports a problem on September 1. This is soon followed by a break in the cable!

Message

Telegram

Technical malfunction

Cable break

Sabotage

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A disaster: The broken cable is 5,000 meters down. It seems impossible to raise it. The #shareholders panic. Even William loses his nerve and calls for his brother Carl to be removed. Werner attempts to smooth things over. Two anxious days pass.

A disaster: The broken cable is 5,000 meters down. It seems impossible to raise it. The #shareholders panic. Even William loses his nerve and calls for his brother Carl to be removed. Werner attempts to smooth things over. Two anxious days pass.

But then comes a movement of the galvanometer.
The anchor, which has been dropped to a great depth, must have hit the end of the cable! The impossible happens: The cable can be retrieved and the problem is fixed. Carl is celebrated as a hero.

Telegram

September 6, 1874

William to Werner: “I do not believe that Carl [...] is masterful enough to be able to remedy this fault!”

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That joy does not last. The Siemens brothers must continually cope with breaks in the cable and other problems. Doubts about the success of the expedition grow louder.

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NORTH AMERICA ATLANTIC EUROPE AFRICA

Cable break

September 11, 1874

The cable breaks again. The crew searches in vain during two stormy weeks at sea. Now Carl also begins to have doubts about the expedition.

Telegram

September 17, 1874

Werner to William: “Once again, dear brother, please remain calm and confident.”

Telegram

October 10, 1874

Carl to Werner: “If only I had never allowed myself to be convinced to come here!”

Message

November 2, 1874

Dispatch to London: “Faraday picked up Cable in lat. 50,31 N., long 24,19 W. depth eighteen hundred seventy fathom, [...] cable perfect.”

Telegram

November 2, 1874

Werner von Siemens: “So there is finally a ray of sunshine!”

Message

November 2, 1874

Dispatch to London: “Faraday picked up Cable in lat. 50,31 N., long 24,19 W. depth eighteen hundred seventy fathom, [...] cable perfect.”

Technical malfunction

November 8, 1874

The cable is defective. During a violent storm, the crew attempts to secure the cable to a buoy. The chain of the buoy is caught up in the ship’s propeller. The ship is damaged and drifts off course.

Telegram

November 18, 1874

William to Werner: “Calming the directors, shareholders, and the public here is hateful work.”

Technical malfunction

November 23, 1874

The cable is found at 834 fathoms but cannot be repaired.

Telegram

December 22, 1874

Carl to Werner: “Misfortune seems to be following us.”

Message

December 1874

The wildest rumors are circulating in London. Reports in the press increase mistrust of Siemens.

Telegram

December 1874

Werner to William: “More than ever before, I am now of the view that we will get this aggravating and stressful business off our backs.”

Technical malfunction

January 1875

The inevitable happens: Carl stops the search. The winter weather forces a break in cable-laying.

Technical malfunction

January 1875

The inevitable happens: Carl stops the search. The winter weather forces a break in cable-laying.

Carl suspends cable-laying in January 1875. The project is to be resumed in spring, after the weather improves.

8/1874

1/1875

Message

Telegram

Technical malfunction

Cable break

Sabotage

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The Faraday sets sail again on April 4, 1875, and in June the first signal is sent between Torbay and Ballinskelligs Bay. But the cable still does not work well. There are more costly interruptions.

And then, on September 5, 1875, the cable is in place.

The Faraday sets sail again on April 4, 1875, and in June the first signal is sent between Torbay and Ballinskelligs Bay. But the cable still does not work well. There are more costly interruptions.

And then, on September 5, 1875, the cable is in place.

The telegraph line officially begins operating ten days later. Using it to send messages is much less expensive than using competitors’ services, and the cable is soon generating high revenues.

Telegram

September 7, 1875

Werner to Carl:
“This difficult work is finally done, and the cable is faultless! Thank God this nightmare is over.”

The Siemens brothers have achieved their objective!

In a short time, 30 % of all telegrams across the Atlantic travel over the Siemens cable. Revenues increase daily.

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The competitors is up in arms – and go on the attack.
The battle reaches fever pitch.

September 27, 1875:
The cable suddenly falls silent
The cause is found to be violent destruction

December 10, 1875:
Cable break barely 185 kilometers from Torbay
The cause is found to be sabotage

January 23, 1876: another failure
The cause is found to be deliberate cutting of the cable using an ax

The Siemens brothers are stunned.

The criminal acts of sabotage are a serious threat to Direct United States Cable Company.

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Werner von Siemens employs other methods. He retains independent specialists to investigate. Their conclusion: The new cable is technically satisfactory, and all of the failures are due to sabotage.

The expert report that is published discredits the competitors. Attacks on the cable suddenly stop.

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NORTH AMERICA ATLANTIC EUROPE AFRICA

It all ends well, in spite of all the resistance.

Siemens Brothers becomes a global player in the submarine cable market.

Siemens Brothers lays another eight transatlantic cables by 1901.

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But Werner von Siemens doesn’t rest on his laurels.
He’s thinking of the future of his company and his family –

and continues vigorously pursuing his objectives.

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Credits

Publisher

Siemens Historical Institute (SHI)
Nonnendammallee 101
13629 Berlin
Germany

Responsible for content
(pursuant to Section 55, para. 2 of the German Interstate Broadcasting Treaty (RStV))

Christoph Wegener
Siemens Historical Institute (SHI)
Nonnendammallee 101
13629 Berlin
Germany

Idea & concept

Sabine Dittler, SHI
Maximilian Heinrich, Virtual Identity AG

Script

Julia M. Novak

Research support

Johannes Bähr

Editorial team

Sabine Dittler, SHI
Julia M. Novak
Christoph Wegener, SHI

Design & animation

Joachim Roschka, Virtual Identity AG

Programming

Henk Blankenberg, Virtual Identity AG
Daniel Heidecke, Virtual Identity AG

Music & sound design

TAUCHER Sound Environments

Project management

Mareike Heilwagen, Virtual Identity AG

Project head

Sabine Dittler, SHI

Picture credits, Episode 1

Georg Simon Ohm: bpk, Berlin

Picture credits, Episode 2

Picture credits, Episode 3

Turbulent seas: iStock.com/stanchev

Wake: iStock.com/orbitrob

Underwater: iStock.com/Jezperklauzen

Stormy seas: aim/iStock/Thinkstock

Coastline: Rick Jacobs/iStock/Thinkstock

Picture credits, Episode 4

All other pictures are from the archives of the Siemens Historical Institute or Siemens AG. The copyrights belong to Siemens AG, Munich / Berlin.

All pictures are from the archives of the Siemens Historical Institute or Siemens AG. The copyrights belong to Siemens AG, Munich / Berlin.

All other pictures are from the archives of the Siemens Historical Institute or Siemens AG. The copyrights belong to Siemens AG, Munich / Berlin.

All pictures are from the archives of the Siemens Historical Institute or Siemens AG. The copyrights belong to Siemens AG, Munich / Berlin.

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