The Red Sea Line: The 1870 Cable from England to India
6By Bill Burns and Stewart Ash
March 16, 2020
150 years ago this summer, on 6 June 1870, the final section of the first submarine cable from England to India, known as the Red Sea Line, was landed at Porth Curnow cove in Cornwall. In continuous use as a cable landing site ever since, this is also the home of the PK Porthcurno Museum of Global Communications, pkporthcurno.com, which is celebrating the anniversary of the inauguration of this cable with a number of special events in 2020.
The genesis of the project was in December 1866, when shortly after its successful completion of two Atlantic cables in September that year, the Telegraph Construction & Maintenance Company (Telcon) had proposed to the Secretary of State for India, “That the telegraph line from Susa to Suez shall be continued from Suez to Bombay (Mumbai) by a submarine cable from Suez, or other point in the Red Sea to Aden, from Aden to Kooria Mooria, and thence, in a direct line, to Bombay.”
The British Government was not inclined to fund this proposal, but in 1868, John Pender (1816-96), who had been largely instrumental in organizing Telcon to lay the Atlantic cables and was at that time its Chairman, resigned from Telcon in favour of his close friend Sir Daniel Gooch (1816-89) and began to form a number of companies to manage various parts of the route to India. He retained his large stock holdings in Telcon, which then undertook to manufacture and lay the lines for the new companies upon terms which gave them a large portion of the pecuniary responsibility.