For a single day in 1858, Sunnyside was known as Niagara City and flew its own unique flag.
August 5, 1858 - Flag Flown over Sunnyside which was known as Niagara City
The greatest engineering feat of the 19th century was the connecting of continents through a 2,500-mile undersea cable from Valencia, Ireland, to Bull Arm and later Heart’s Content in Trinity Bay, Newfoundland. The difficulty of this undertaking can be compared to the moon landing in the 20th century.
The electric telegraph swept across Europe in the 1840s and was bought to North America in 1842 by Samuel Morse, who raised the idea of a cable across the Atlantic—but the idea did not take hold until people here in Newfoundland recognized its feasibility. In 1851, Bishop John T. Mullock of St. John’s mused that the city could be “the first link in the electric chain which will unite the Old World and the New.” This captured the imagination of Frederic Newton Gisborne, an inventor and electrician, who in turn sold the idea to American businessman-financier Cyrus Field. According to others at the meeting, Field was not all that interested until Gisborne produced a map and traced the route from Newfoundland to Ireland. “Ah,” said Field, “that puts a different complexion on the whole thing.”
To connect the continents, they needed 2,500 miles of cable which contained 340,000 miles of wire - enough to circle the earth thirteen times.
There was no ship large enough to hold the entire cable, so two ships were used—the American ship Niagara and the British ship Agamemnon. On August 6, 1857, the shore section was brought to land at Valencia. The ships, with an accompanying squadron, then left for Newfoundland. After 380 miles had been laid, the cable snapped and there was no way to retrieve it from a depth of 3,658 metres (12,000 feet). Two more attempts in 1857 and 1858 also ended with breaks in the cable.
In July 1858, the ships set out again with a different plan. This time they would meet mid-ocean, splice the cables together and head in opposite directions. Communication between the ships was improved because of new equipment that enabled them to send simple messages back and forth. This time, there were no breaks in the line. The Niagara had clear sailing to reach Trinity Bay but the Agamemnon faced several storms before reaching Valencia.
John Mullaly, a writer on the Niagara, recorded the beauty of the day on August 5, 1858, as they sailed down Trinity Bay with sun shining on icebergs to crown their achievement. There were, however, few people to witness it.
The cable was ready for business on August 16. Official messages were exchanged between Queen Victoria and President James Buchanan. The cable operated for about three weeks. Unfortunately, transmission was slow and signals were weak. On September 2, the Bull Arm Cable Office received its last message. For the next six weeks, nothing but static was transmitted and then the line went dead. The connection failed because the power was so strong it burned through the insulation and shorted out the cable.
The dream of a transatlantic cable became a reality eight years later when a new cable was landed at Heart’s Content. By that time, a newer and larger ship - the Great Eastern - was large enough to carry the entire cable.
Eventually, the Sunnyside cable office was sold to Capt. William Stevenson, who moved it to Harbour Grace and used it as a family home. The building is still standing and was used by the Stevenson family until a few years ago. The outbuildings were sold to the Adams family in Come By Chance.
Sketch of the Cable Office
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