TAT-1 Cable Landing Station at Gallanach Bay, Oban

In 1956, the first transatlantic cable was laid between Gallanach Bay, south of Oban in Scotland and Clarenville, Newfoundland.

The cable could carry 36 channels with 4kHz bandwidth, which was later reduced to 3kHz to allow 48 channels.

The cable landing station at Gallanach is still standing, and can be seen on Google Earth.

Photographs of the stripped interior can be seen on derilictplaces.co.uk.

According to this article http://exotc.org/2012/10/07/the-secret-submarine-cable/ the TAT-1 terminal equipment was located within the hillside for protection against attack.  The article suggests that CANTAT-1 terminated at Oban in a windowed building on a cliff face, it is not known if this is the same location as TAT-1 terminates, although the building above would fit the description.

Excellent historical info by Dave Boyle about the route back to Glasgow for the cable (crossing Loch Awe) here also reproduced here.

Interesting article in the Bell System Journal about the route selection and cable laying.

A new article form The Register has some further information on TAT-1, including the photo below showing the cable shrouded in concrete in the foreground.TAT-1 cable

The article is here.

11 thoughts on “TAT-1 Cable Landing Station at Gallanach Bay, Oban

  1. Robert Brand

    Nice to see this website and the care being taken to document the past. My pages are not totally historic but the history stuff is pretty accurate. http://exotc.org OTC was the Australian government’s International carrier and was a mixture of cable and satellite systems. I looked after the Power feed and carrier parts of the COMPAC cable and the carrier parts of the SEACOM cable, as well as TV, audio Programmes, TASI (Time Assignment and Speech Interpolation channel multiplication equipment) and lots of other gear including Apollo 11 switching equipment that I had some small part wiring it all up. ANZCAN came in after I left that site / company.

    We all thought satellite would be the future given the narrow bandwidth of cable, but we soon changed our minds as the world got connected by fibre optic undersea cables.

    I now work on space interests beyond earth orbit and I have an 11 year old son with his HAM radio license since he was 9. We enjoy launching and recovering high altitude balloon flights and we will be doing number 15 shortly. http://wotzup.com he does all the navigation and tracking around the dirt roads in central NSW (600km west of Sydney). He tells me where to drive! I’m 61.

    Reply
    1. Steve

      Hello Robert,

      Thank you for your comments.

      I am slowly filling up the pages here with what I can find out about cable landings and cable landing stations in the UK.

      My interest is biased around the ’70s and ’80s when the Post Office were the main carrier in the UK.

      Google Earth and KIS-ORCA are proving a great help.

      Steve.

      Reply
  2. G

    Steve,

    At the back right hand side of the building pictured above there is a connecting corridor leading to the two storey underground section. I got access to the underground section in 2000 and took some pictures which can be seen on the Secret Scotland forum under the TAT1 entry. The underground section was indeed protected by blast doors and had it’s own generators and air filtration systems. Sadly the lower level is now full of water so only the upper is pictured, at least that was how it was 13 years ago. Hope that is of interest.

    Reply
  3. admin Post author

    G,

    Thank very much for the link to the secretscotland forum.

    Lots of great info there, including a further link to photos of the underground facilities.

    Steve.

    Reply
  4. G

    No worries,

    Hope you find it is of interest. Good to see some effort in maintaining a record of this place which has huge historic cold war significance and it is a shame that it has been allowed to simply rot away.

    I grew up in Oban and although the presence of the facility was generally known, I don’t think the significance and scale was. It always had an air of mystery around it and all the more so given the landowners zero tolorance to public access! From the sea on a quiet day you could hear the pumps running as they pumped the water out of the tunnel (the lower level is now full of water) When the place closed (1990 ish?) my brother saw the lorries with the generators and other removed equipment passing his house on the road down to Gallanach.

    When my friend and I managed to gain access in 2000 we were amazed by what we found. We’d heard about the underground “bunker” but had not realised it was quite so extensive. A well kept secret!

    I also have somewhere a copy of an old post office engineer journal which describes the buidling of the Oban base. It is a scanned copy and not great quality but it is readable. Not sure how I can get that to you.

    All the best

    Reply
  5. BRIAN DIBBEN

    I worked in both London Kingsway and Faraday during the 50s and 60s and the Oban Cables were terminated in both these Exchanges. TAT and TASSI. LONDON KINGSWAY was also underground in High Holborn (31-33).The Equipment in Kings way was East of Trunk Test and when removed the area was used for Radio and TV interference group. In Faraday the equipment was on 1st Floor North Block.
    Am visiting Oban next week and hope to see where Cables came ashore

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hello Brian,

      That is very interesting to know. I don’t suppose you would have any photos of the equipment form the time?

      You are probably aware of the articles published by Subterranea Britannica about Kingsway at

      http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/sites/k/kingsway/

      By TASSI, I assume you are meaning Time Assignment Speech Interpolation (finding gaps in conversations, and inserting snippets of other conversations into the gaps, to increase capacity)?

      Good luck in Oban. I visited in the 1990s looking for the cable landing, but I did not appreciate then that the cable landing station was on private land. A small boat may be required, or perhaps right to roam is legal in Scotland now…

      Steve.

      Reply
  6. John Ridlehoover

    I have a small section of the cable that terminated at Oban, Scotland in 1956. It measures 4 1/2 inches long & is 1 1/4 inches in diameter. It has a solid copper core at the center, a copper shield separated by about 1/4 inch another outer thicker shield of unknown-to-me material all of which are sheathed in a olive drab colored outer water-proof jacket of unknown-to-me material. It was given to my now wife by one of the workers at the time. She watched much of the operation as the terminal was very near her father’s farm (Gallanach Moor). I could provide a few photos if I knew how to upload them to your site.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hello John,

      I would love to share the photos and will email you separately about this.

      Steve.

      Reply
  7. peter

    went down the “tunnel” a few times as a child with my father who was an engineer…he would have to take a turn on call during the night…i do not know the full story but particularly on windy nights some form of power surge occurred and my father would have to travel down to reset a trip…as a general rule if the lights in our house flickered then shortly after you could expect a telephone call…i think the lights flickering tripped an emergency generator on underground and my father was resetting mains power and turning the generator off…all exciting stuff for a young boy!

    Reply

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