SES Digitisation project

SES Digitisation project

The PK Porthcurno Archive includes 448 engineer’s final reports regarding the laying or repairing of telegraph cables from all around the world ranging in date from 1870 to 1965.

A typical engineer’s final report includes information regarding the surveying of the proposed route, the length and type of cable required, testing of the cable during manufacture, shipping data, paying out of the cable, and final tests. Accompanying this mechanical and technical data is also an expedition diary in which the day-to-day events would be recorded from the time the cableship left its moorings to the completion of the lay. The early reports are beautifully handwritten – with little room for error!

Some of the reports also contain detailed diagrams, including cross-sections of the cables, maps, charts and blueprints. Some even include photographs that were taken by the engineer during the laying of the cables.

Subsea Environmental Services were very interested in these reports as the company recovers and recycles redundant submarine telecommunications cables. The detailed information provided on the cables is invaluable for planning which cables to recover.

As part of a two-year project sponsored by Subsea Environmental Services we have been digitising these reports using a high spec book scanner purchased for PK Porthcurno by Subsea. To date 254 reports have been digitised by our Digital Collections Officer, Duncan Mackenzie. All these reports will be available to view when our collection goes online in December 2021.

Subsea have also offered to gift to PK Porthcurno samples of the cables they recover. It will be extraordinary to see these cables, some of which would have been on the seabed for over 100 years.

Charlotte Todd, Head of Collections and Learning

Subsea is pleased to be able to assist PK Porthcurno by sponsoring this digitisation project. The contents of the Engineers reports being digitised is remarkable in its depth and making this available, electronically, will allow the investigation of this early era of telecommunications history, whilst preserving the quality of the documents themselves.

Subsea’s ongoing objective is to safely recover and recycle the valuable materials used in the manufacture of all submarine cable types, now out of service. The digitization of these reports opens up a significant potential for this work and will further our goal of re-introducing the materials they contain into the circular economy.

Simon Appleby, Subsea Environment Services

Go to SES Subsea Environment Services for further information.

About Subsea Environment Services

SES is a privately owned, independent environmental marine services company based in New York City.

Since 2014, SES has recovered 13,670 miles of submarine cable, more than any other party during this period and has evolved from a promising concept into a viable, sustainable business.

As new technology makes older systems redundant, these Out-Of-Service telegraph, coaxial and fibre optic cables present a significant opportunity for recycling as their constituent materials are of the highest quality and thus can be efficiently reintroduced into manufacturing processes.

To put this into context, the cable SES has removed from the ocean floor represents over 36,000 Metric Tons of man-made material re-introduced into the World’s supply chain.

Carrying over 95% of the world’s data and voice traffic, the global submarine cable infrastructure is the keystone of our modern world economy and maintaining its integrity is a core principle of SES.

SES Digitisation project
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