150 Years Since the First Submarine Cable in Portugal
On 8 June 1870, the rst underwater telegraph cable linking Portugal (Carcavelos) to the United Kingdom (Porthcurno) came into service, with the inauguration involving an exchange of telegrams between King Luís I and Queen Victoria.
It was a period of growing development in international trade, particularly in the colonial empires. It is not surprising, therefore, that submarine cable communications became known as the eighth wonder of the world following their launch.
The main Portuguese international submarine cable stations were located at Carcavelos (on the mainland), Horta (in the Azores), Funchal (in Madeira) and São Vicente (in Cape Verde). Due to its geographical location – in the middle of the Atlantic, halfway between North America and Europe – Horta played a uniquely important role in the international submarine telegraph network.
In the tradition of "New Worlds to the World", so well expressed by Luís de Camões, Portugal positioned itself as an important hub in the world's submarine cable network, promoting the interconnection of several international systems. Portugal thus facilitated communications between the continents and contributed to uniting the multiple and distant communities in those territories where it was present.
Today, Portugal is the only country in the world to have direct submarine cable connections with all the continents (except Antarctica), with 12 cable connection points with international optical submarine systems. Submarine cables are essential to maintaining the territorial, social and economic cohesion of the country, ensuring interconnections between the entire domestic network across the mainland, the Azores and Madeira, as well as interconnecting all the islands of those archipelagos.
In 2020, the 150th anniversary of the submarine cable in Portugal, it is important to recognise the role played by submarine cables in international and national communications, and their contribution to the development of the information society and to the connections between distinct geographies. Many people are unaware that submarine cables are the means of communication that supports almost all international data tra c, thus enabling the development and sustainability of the information society. This means of communication is also the central platform for the adoption of cutting-edge technologies. There can be no doubt that in the future, as in the past, communications will continue to pass along the seabed where, discreetly and unsuspected, submarine cables will continue to play a fundamental role in the service of humanity.