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THE
NATIONAL
GEOGRAPHIC
MAGAZINE

THE INFLUENCE OF SUBMARINE

SUBMARINE CABLES UPON MILITARY AND NAVAL SUPREMACY

By GEORGE O. SQUIER, CAPT. SIGNAL Corps, U. S. A.

T

THE accidental non-delivery of two probably have been sent to the coast of cable messages from the Minister Spain, and the land operations in Cuba

of Marine (Bermejo) to the Com- directed against Havana. mander-in-Chief of the Spanish Squad- Cervera's fleet not eliminated, who can ron (Cervera) at Martinique, undoubt- say how long Spain may not have been edly largely changed the whole history of able to resist, and what additional blood the Spanish-American War.

and treasure the struggle may have cost One of these telegrams informed him the United States. of coal supply near at hand, and the other The story of the Spanish-American granted him permission to return at once, War is largely a story of “coal and with his squadron, to Spain.

cables.” That war for the first time Admiral Cervera's firm stand against demonstrated the dominating influence the despatch of the Spanish squadron of submarine cable communications in from the coast of Spain to West Indian the conduct of a naval war. As a result waters is heroically and almost patheti- of it the principal maritime powers, with cally shown in the recent publication, by colonial possessions, are each at present permission of the Queen Regent, of the elaborating their

elaborating their “cable policy," and

” official despatches. At Cape Verde, and have awakened to a realization of the before and after, by cable and by letter, fact that reliable submarine communicahe points out the unpreparedness of his tions under exclusive control are not only squadron, and predicts its certain de- absolutely necessary, but exercise a domstruction if it proceeds. Knowing his inating influence upon the control of the strong views, it is probable that he would seas, whether in commercial strategy or have lost no time in coaling and starting in military and naval strategy. back to Spain.

A modern war between two naval powWith Cervera's squadron returned to ers has reduced itself largely to a war Spain there would have been no Santiago of “coal and cables.” campaign, the Flying Squadron would At present the submarine telegraph is a powerful instruinient of war, more Strategy has been defined as “the scipowerful, indeed, than battleships and ence of combining and employing the cruisers, since by its wonderful and in- means which the different branches of the stantaneous: conmunications of thought, art of war afford, for the purpose of it brings distant countries and colonies forming projects of operations and of together in sympathy, which is the only directing great military or naval movetrue and permanent tie.

ments; the art of moving troops or ships

so as to be enabled either to dispense ELÈCTRICITY THE IDEAL MEANS OF

with a battle or to deliver one with the TRANSMITTING INTELLIGENCE.

greatest advantage and with the most

decisive results." The triumphs of science in the last half It is believed that the more the foun-century have been nowhere more exem- dations of successful strategy are anaplified than in the enormous strides made lyzed, both as the science of conceiving in the facility of transmitting intelligence. military plans and as an art of executing The mails, the telegraph, and the tele- the same, the more it will become clear phone are civilizing the world. Perfect that the strategist who is possessed of the as is the mail system of to-day, a monu- most efficient and reliable means of obment to organization, yet its swiftest taining and communicating information, messenger-steam-is so far outstripped, both of the enemy and his own forces, either on land or sea, by the practically will have a paramount and insuperable instantaneous electric current, that the advantage. tendency, year by year, is to put more of Maritime nations are at present bethe world's business

upon the wire."

ginning to realize that it is not ships and Time has an international money value coaling stations alone which measure in trade, and a paramount strategic value maritime strength, but also reliable and in war. The fastest mail express, or the efficient means of directing, concentratswiftest ocean ship, are as naught com- ing, supplying, or withdrawing those pared with the velocity of the electrical

ships upon the great chess-board of the impulse which practically annihilates any

sea. terrestrial dimension. As the distance

means of communication over increases, electricity surpasses steam in a great distances at sea nothing compares, continuously increasing ratio.

A mes

at the present state of practical science, sage is to be sent half way around the with the submarine cable. The nation earth; the minutes required by the tele- with exclusively controlled submarine graph run into weeks and months by the

communications, not possessed by'an adslow process of the mails. Steam time versary, has an organized service of suris directly a function of the distance to veillance which is not only important be traversed, and from the nature of during actual war, but which may and things is twice as long for two miles will prove a powerful weapon in the as for one. If, then, the cable saves diplomatic and preparatory conflict which six days between Europe and America, always precedes a declaration of war, it will save more than twice this time and these communications are a means between America and the East, and is, of securing a first real victory, even befrom this point of view, correspondingly fore war has been formally declared. important and necessary. Since electric- It may be said, therefore, that the very ity so far outstrips any other known foundation of successful natal strategy vehicle for transmitting intelligence, it is efficient and crclusively controlled must eventually carry all the most im- communications, and the lack of them portant of the world's information. more serious than inferior ships.

As a

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scarcely fifty years old, yet the British THE IMPERIAL CABLE SYSTEM OF

Empire is already bound together in one GREAT BRITAIN.

vast intelligence, transmission system, As soon as the possibility of communi- with London as its centre. Nothing imcating at long distance, by means of sub- portant can happen in any quarter of the marine cables, was practically demon- globe which does not find its way to this strated, England saw what commercial great world's news exchange-London. and political preponderance the creation And this system is and has been a prinof a great network of cables, resting cipal element of her strength and has under her control, would give her. With largely made possible a government inout letting herself be discouraged by cluding subjects naturally widely differheavy losses in the beginning, with a ing in character, habits, and modes of perseverance worthy of admiration, she thought. has succeeded in creating and developing, This great cable system is the more methodically and without delay, a net- important since no other country has such work of submarine telegraphic cables, a system, and this fact has placed in the which to-day encircles a large part of the hands of the British Empire a powerful entire world.

means of real dominion over the rest of The English cables, up to the present, the world. Nor is England satisfied with have been laid principally by private her present extensive telegraph system of companies, but Article 7 of the condi- world control; she has in projection for tions which govern them provides that the very near future an extension of this all official despatches shall have prece- system, which will be nothing less than dence over others; Article 3, that the a British imperial telegraph system encompanies can have no foreigners among circling the entire globe. their employees, nor can the wires pass

It was early discovered by every couninto a foreign office, nor under the con- try in Europe that so efficient and valutrol of a foreign government; and Arti- able a servant to trade and commerce, cle 9, that in case of war the government so important an aid to the state itself as can occupy the different stations and the telegraph, should become a national place its own employees therein.

institution. Great Britain, France, AusDuring the past two years, however, tria, Prussia, Russia, Sardinia, Italy, there has been a great national protest Spain, Portugal, and Belgium, each in England and the colonies against the established state telegraph system. exorbitant rates imposed by the monopoly Thirty years ago the English telegraph of the private cable corporations, until lines were transferred to the state, and the principle of absolute state ownership experience has shown that this has been has come to be a controlling one in done with advantage to the state itself England's future cable policy.

and to the benefit of the public. At the England's sea-power is not alone present moment the British Empire is admeasured by the number, character, and vancing rapidly to the accomplishment of tonnage of her war-ships. It is im- a state controlled cable system. Imperial mensely increased by the system of ex- penny-postage having been recently realclusively controlled submarine cable net- ized throughout the British Empire, the work, which at present forms four-fifths next great step in imperial development of all the cables in the world, woven like along this line is to connect the statea spider's web to include all her prin- owned land telegraph systems of the cipal colonies, fortified ports, and coaling Empire by a state-owned and controlled stations.

system of submarine cables. Submarine cable communication is An essential and necessary condition

a

which has guided in the conception and to Fiji Island, thence to Norfolk Island, realization of this cable system has been and from thence by two branches to New that none of the lines shall touch foreign Zealand, and the eastern coast of Aussoil. So important has been this prin- . tralia. The land lines of Australia would ciple in the proposed British-Pacific cable then complete telegraph connection with that we find Great Britain, for some years the western coast. past, anxiously negotiating for sove- In the Indian Ocean it is proposed to reignty over an insignificant island in the connect West Australia to Cocos Island, Hawaiian group upon which to land her and thence to Mauritius, and from thence proposed cable to Australasia ; and, failing to Natal and Cape Town. Cocos Island in this, we find her boldly ready to lay a is further to be connected with Singapore single span

of cable of over 3,500 nautical by a branch cable. Singapore is already miles in length from Vancouver to Fan- in connection with Hong Kong by an allning Island, for the sole imperial reason British cable. Another branch is also that the cable shall touch only soil ex- proposed from Cocos Island to Ceylon. clusively owned and controlled by Great At Mauritius a connection would be Britain. This principle will be bought in formed with the existing cable at Seythis case at the price of permanently chelles, Aden, and Bombay. In the Atplacing at a disadvantage British cable lantic Ocean, in order to avoid the shallow traffic in the Pacific; since, as will be seas along the west coast of Africa, Spain, pointed out later, the United States, by Portugal, and France, a cable from Cape the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands, Town, touching at St. Helena, Ascencan reach the East across the mid-Pacific sion, and mid-ocean stations, and extendby cables having no single span longer ing to Bathurst, which is already conthan the present Atlantic cables, and yet nected by existing cables to Gibraltar, has adhere to the same principle of landing been laid within the last few months. only on territory belonging to the United Its construction was hastened after the States.

outbreak of the Boer war to furnish an

alternate British route to South Africa BRITISH-PACIFIC CABLE.

by the West Coast. It is further proEngland at present has direct tele- posed to extend the cable from Ascension graphic connection with Vancouver with to the British Island of Bermuda, perwires independent of any foreign power. haps touching at Barbados as a midPractically all of the Atlantic cables land- ocean station. At Bermuda a connection ing at Newfoundland or Nova Scotia would be formed with the cable already from the coast of Ireland are under existing at Halifax, and that point with British control, and, in connection with the Canadian and trans-Atlantic lines. the Canadian Pacific telegraphic lines. The extension of the above cables in the

, therefore furnish England with direct Pacific, the Indian, and the Atlantic communication to the west coast of North oceans would involve the expenditure of America.

something like £6,000,000 sterling and The proposed British-Pacific cable has the laying of about 23,000 knots of new been prominently before the British Gov- cable. With the equipment and experiernment as an imperial measure for a ence which Great Britain has had in number of years. It has been the subject cable-laying, these new cables can be of colonial conferences and of exhaustive manufactured and laid by England in an research by a Pacific Cable Commission. incredibly short time, and there can be Its construction is now assured beyond little doubt but that this extension of a reasonable doubt. The route from British cables, if not along the exact line Vancouver is to Fanning Island, thence above specified, yet with slight variations

It

will be an accomplishment of the near of the Army to cover the islands with a future.

network of wires, so complete and reWith this extension of imperial cable liable that intercommunication is insured added to her already extensive state- at all times. In the pacification of Cuba owned land-line system, England will and Porto Rico, in the suppression of have the most complete telegraphic sys- the Philippine uprising, it is believed that tem in existence, placing the following there has been no more potent agent fortified and garrisoned coaling stations than the military telegraph. in direct connection each with any other, For years Spain had been trying to viz.: Hong Kong, Singapore, Trincoma- pacify the Island of Cuba, and yet her lee, Colombo, Aden, Cape Town, Simons telegraph system was incomplete, obsoBay, St. Helena, Ascension, Saint Lucia, lete, and unreliable in the extreme. Jamaica, Bermuda, Halifax, Esquimalt, was possible for bands of insurgents to King George's Sound, and Thursday move about much at their pleasure, apIsland. The following “ defended ports pearing here and there, with no means would likewise be connected, viz.: Dur- of locating or concentrating for their ban, Karachi, Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, destruction. It was not that the number Rangoon, Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart, of troops was not sufficient, so much as Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, Towns- that there were no efficient means of ville. Auckland, Wellington, Lyttelton, directing the troops in such a way as to and Dunedin.

make results decisive. With the completion of the cable across the Pacific the last telegraphic gap will

TELEGRAPH SYSTEM IN CUBA AND

PORTO RICO. be completed around the earth. Great Britain will then have the great advan- Since the evacuation of Cuba by Spantage of duplicate routes, since from any ish troops the land telegraph system has point there will be two routes—one east been entirely reconstructed by the United and one west—to any other station. States Signal Corps, and now aggregates

about 2,500 miles, including a central PROPOSED COLONIAL TELEGRAPH

trunk line the entire length of the island, SYSTEM FOR THE UNITED STATES

which is duplicated from Havana to Since the events of the Spanish- Sancti Spiritus. In addition to this American War the supreme impor- unk line there are thirteen lines across tance of exclusively controlled com- the island, which divide it up into communications, as a means of military and paratively small sections. Every mile of naval warfare, has been recognized as these lines has been reconstructed, under never before. All the principal nations great difficulties, yet their reliability is are studying this subject in its various evidenced by the fact that the entire aspects, and already a distinct cable pol- Porto Rican Government business, which icy is entering into the politics of the is now transmitted over the new land principal countries possessing colonies lines from Havana to Santiago, was conand seeking for commercial, military, ducted during the month of June, 1900, and naval supremacy.

without a single interruption. In this connection it may be of interest

In the Island of Porto Rico every imto note briefly what has been the tele- portant commercial or military point is graph policy of the United States in in telegraph connection by a system of dealing with the territory of our new lines, which have also been entirely repossessions. In Cuba and Porto Rico, constructed and the routes improved and in the Philippine Archipelago, every since the disastrous hurricane of August, effort has been made by the Signal Corps 1899.

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