The Faraday

The Launch of the Cable Ship Faraday

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The Farady at Launch

This ship laid most of the original Commercial Cable Company Cables, although it was originally commissioned as stated below for the laying of the DIRECT UNITED STATES TELEGRAPH COMPANY cable from Ireland to Halifax.

This is the text of the Illustrated London News article (April 4th 1874) which accompanied the picture:


A large iron steam-ship, named after that most eminent natural philosopher, the late Professor Michael Faraday, was launched, on Feb. 17, at Lower Walker, near Newcastle-on-Tyne, from the building-yard of Messrs. C. Mitchell and Co. Our Illustration has been deferred till now for want of space. The Faraday has been built to the order of Messrs. Siemens Brothers, of London, for the purpose of laying the Atlantic cable of the Direct United States Cable Company and other cables. This vessel is 360 ft. long, 52 ft. beam, 36 ft. deep, and measures 5000 tons gross register, but will carry about 6000 tons dead weight. The iron hull has been built under the inspection of Lloyd's agents, and obtained the highest certificate of classification. But the ship receives enormous additional strength from her peculiar structure. This consists chiefly of three enormous cable-tanks, constructed of plate-iron, and forming a series of double arches, supporting the sides of the vessel. These tanks are also united together, and to the general fabric of the hull, by five iron decks. The upper and main iron decks are supplemented by the usual decks of wood for the comfort and convenience of those on board. The vessel is double-bottomed, the space between the two bottoms being a network of iron girders for carrying the cable-tanks, and at the same time giving longitudinal strength to that portion of the hull. The space is further utilised for carrying water-ballast, to trim the vessel as the cable is run out, and also to enable her to make a voyage across the Atlantic without any cargo or other weight on board beyond fuel. A very complete and well-devised system of valves, cocks, pipes, and auxiliary engine-power has been introduced into the vessel for filling and emptying any single compartment of the double bottom, or for flooding any one of the cable-tanks. The whole system is under the control of the engineers, and is worked from the engine-room.

In outward appearance the Faraday is unlike other ocean steamers, her bow and stern being of the same form. She is also provided with a rudder at each end, the whole being so arranged that the vessel may be navigated ahead or astern, as desired, when paying out or picking up a cable. The steering is accomplished by means of a steam-engine placed amidships ; and, to provide against accidents, each rudder is supplied with strong screw steering gear, worked in the usual manner by manual power. The anchors and cable chains are worked by Harfield's steam windlass, and all heavy labour about the vessel is performed by steam apparatus placed in various positions along the deck. The Faraday is rigged in the most approved manner of ocean steamers; and, for the accommodation of the large staff of officers, electricians, and crew, amounting to about 150 persons, the vessel is fitted up with the cabins and all other appliances of a large passenger-steamer, in addition to those of a cable-ship.

The Faraday will be propelled by machinery on the compound surface condensing principle, manufactured by Messrs. T. Clark and Co., of Newcastle. There are two distinct sets of engines, each working a separate screw, the vessel being thus provided with two propellers, usually called twin screws} The object of this arrangement is to obtain steering or manoeuvring power, which is a very important condition in cable-laying. Each set of engines is placed vertically over the shaft, and has two cylinders, one high pressure and the other low pressure, by which great regularity of motion is obtained; and, by a high degree of expansion in working the system, an important economy of fuel is effected. By these means this great vessel is enabled to carry her immense burden of cable at an expenditure of fuel which would have seemed impracticable a few years ago.

The deck machinery required for paying out and picking up cables is manufactured by the Vulcan Foundry Company.


Duncan Gunn-Russell posted this information on [1] on October 5, 2004:

"...A wreck well worth a dive on is the Faraday. This is to be found close to the cliffs just below St. Annes Head Lighthouse at the entrance to Milford Haven, Wales. It is a shallow wreck of a cable layer (in about 12 meters). It is well broken up but offers a good rummage as well as a lot of sea-life but can be prone to kelp."

However, as Ian Mosely has pointed out - this is probably the second Faraday:

"I think the wreck off St Annes point is that of the second Faraday built in 1923 (my grandfather, Cuthbert Kelvin was one of the survivors of an attack by a Heinkel 111."