PORTHCURNO (ENGLAND): Newly discovered documents have revealed the first telegraph messages and rejoicing when England was first connected to India on June 23, 1870, via thousands of miles of cables painstakingly laid under the sea, cutting the time from months to minutes .

Located on the Atlantic coast 506km south west of London, the Sylvan Porthcurno Valley in Cornwall was the unlikely site of a revolution that allowed Britain and its former colonies to communicate with each other.

Museum officials told a visiting PTI correspondent that Porthcurno was the center of international cable communications from 1870 to 1970, and a training center for the communications industry until 1993.

Now a museum of rare equipment and details of the history of the telegraph, Porthcurno has secured millions of pounds in funding to develop an international education program that includes community groups in India.

One of the rare archives discovered last week is a collection of the first telegraph messages sent from Porthcurno and Mumbai (then Bombay).

Until that historic day, communication between England and India was unreliable and often lasted for months.

According to the document, the first message was sent on the night of June 23, 1870 and the response was received within 5 minutes, which was a technological feat at the time.

The message was called a ‘free telegram’ between the ‘Managing Director in London and the Manager in Bombay’.

The first message was from ‘Anderson to Stacey: How are you all?’ to which the answer was ‘All well’.

Anderson’s second message was, “Ask the gentlemen of the press, Bombay, to send a message to the gentlemen of the press, New York.”

After several messages that evening, including some to the Governor of Bombay, from Lady Mayo to Viceroy Lord Mayo in Shimla, and one from the Prince of Wales to the Viceroy, a response was received from Bombay journalists.

It read: ‘From the press of India to the press of America, the press of India is sending salaam to the press of America. Respond quickly’.

The document states that the Viceroy of India sent a telegraph to the President of the United States and “received a reply that reached him within 7 hours and 40 minutes”.

The Viceroy’s message, read in the United States Congress the same evening, read: “The Viceroy of India speaks directly by telegraph to the President of the United States for the first time. May the completion of the long line of uninterrupted communication of lasting union between the eastern and western worlds”.

Telegraphic communication with India was first established in 1864 by land telegraph lines from Europe to the top of the Persian Gulf and then by submarine cable to Karachi, but the overland portion was never satisfactory leading to attempts to lay more reliable cables under the sea.

In 1869, telegraph pioneer John Pender founded the British Indian Submarine Telegraph Company, whose job was to lay submarine cables to India.

The five ships used to lay the thousands of miles of cables were the Great Eastern, William Cory, Chiltern, Hawk and Hibernia.

It took six weeks to lay the cables from Suez to Bombay. This was followed by the construction of the last link from Malta to Porthcurno.

It was the first long-distance cable ‘chain’, and opened to the public with much acclaim, museum archives show.

After the connection to India was established, Porthcurno was connected to several other areas around the world via submarine cables.

At its peak, it was the world’s largest 14-cable station in operation. Porthcurno’s telegraphic code name was ‘PK’.

During the Second World War, tunnels were dug by Cornish miners to house an underground building and Porthcurno’s entire telegraph operations.

The building today houses the museum and the archives that started the communication revolution at the end of the nineteenth century.

In addition to the £1.44 million received in January, the museum received £35,000 this week from international telecommunications organization SubOptic to develop an educational project involving community groups in India, among others.

Museum officials said the money will fund an international education program that will benefit users from spring 2013.

It will feature online learning resources including video clips, animations and games that will allow users to explore the science of global cable-based telecommunications as well as its effects on local identity, democracy and culture.

This post Documents reveal contents of first telegraph message between India and England

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