21st February 1877

The Channel Islands were cut off from the outside world

The Channel Islands have long relied on cable communications to stay in touch with the outside world. Less than four decades after Morse invented the telegraph, Guernsey was part of the global network – the Internet of its day. Many considered it an essential part of modern life, allowing them to send messages more quickly than by ship.

Guernsey was the hub of the network, with cables from the Dartmouth in Devon landing there. Operators in Guernsey routed the signal to Jersey, and took down messages from Jersey to send on to the mainland.

It all worked perfectly until in the late 1870s. Without a backup cable, a break in the sole link in February 1877 left the islands cut off.

Telegraph down

Communication had to revert to the steam packet, the regular mail ship service. Effectively aping the broken part of the cable, it dropped off all messages for the Channel Islands at Guernsey. Any that needed forwarding on were opened and telegraphed from there. Any that the operators had received from Jersey were written out and handed to the steam packet’s captain to ferry back to the mainland.

The break was a serious blow to the speedy, efficient communication the Channel Islands had enjoyed to that point. To put it into context, it would be like going from broadband back to dial-up today.

Fixing the fault was a long, drawn-out process. The ship that had been contracted to do the work – the International – only arrived at Dartmouth on 22 March. By then, more than a month had passed since the original break.

International reached Guernsey a week later and started her survey. The crew located the break in the cable 25 miles off Guernsey’s coast, and set about repaiding it. Services were finally restored on Sunday 7 April, six weeks after the connection had first been lost.


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Other events that occured in February

Mail ship wrecked on Black Rock 1st
Oil rig stranded at Grandes Rocques
Birth of Generaloberst Friedrich Dollmann 2nd
Death of Sir Charles Hayward 3rd
St Martin’s parish church consecrated 4th
Guernsey suffers its worst storm in 35 years 5th
Guernsey watchmaker helps Stone of Scone manhunt 6th
Guernsey Language Commission formed 7th
Queen Mary executed while wearing Guernsey stockings 8th
Guernsey gets its first postbox
Guernsey Society celebrates its 70th anniversary 9th
Guernsey’s last execution didn’t go according to plan 10th
The last issue of GUNS was distributed 11th
Alderney gets its first full-time radio station 12th
Guernsey’s last duel 13th
Specsavers’ Mary Perkins was born 14th
Blue Islands takes to the skies
Guernsey gets its own flag 15th
Birth of concrete poet Dom Sylvester Houedard 16th
HMS Guernsey launched in Aberdeen 17th
Guernsey’s first Methodist minister arrives 18th
Aurigny Air Services founded 19th
Guernsey Railway Company runs its first services 20th
The Channel Islands were cut off from the outside world 21st
St Sampson was ordained a bishop 22nd
Death of Thomas Fiott de Havilland 23rd
Murder inquiry ends with suicide 24th
Death of occupation resister Marie Ozanne 25th
Guernsey’s first banker dies 26th
Release of Reverend Harry Samuel 27th
Plans for St Sampson power station approved 28th
Second World War bomb detonated 29th