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Scottish anchorages

Port Cuthaich (Sound of Kerrera)

This is not in the Sailing Directions so don't stray into the adjacent Port Làthaich where cables are marked on the chart, instead aim for Port Cuthaich which provides a very pretty anchorage on sand, obviously only in the right weather conditions — not in a south-westerly gale where the Gaelic translation of 'Port Madness' seems rather apt. But looking southwest to where the horizon is open to the Atlantic, where better to bring ashore the first transatlantic telephone cable — allowing 36 simultaneous voice calls, quite a lot at the time. At first to Newfoundland in 1956, a suprisingly recent event, one piece of cable was laid over the Atlantic seabed and remained in use until 1978, a surprisingly short time considering the cost and effort involved. It was a remarkable technological triumph of its day, now all but forgotten, except on YouTube where you will find a wonderfully dated account of how the cable was laid.


The cable is long gone but the remains of the concrete pipes can still be seen at low tide. Of the three cables on the chart, only the concrete pipe for the one to the northwest is intact, the other two have been broken up but are still visible. Presumably one pipe housed the cable to Newfoundland, and another the cable from Newfoundland. But what about the third? There is yet another concrete pipe a bit further to the southwest, but what was that for? On the shore is the flat roofed and ugly derelict terminal building, and behind it the closed-off tunnels which took the cables through the cliff and on to London.


For a while in the Cold War this very cable was used as part of the the hot-line between the USA and the Soviet Union. And you can hear a recording of a stilted and no doubt scripted phone chat between the Canadian Prime Minister and the Queen back in 1961.



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The entrance to one of the tunnels taking the cables into the cliff and on to London

The concrete pipe which once housed one of the cables

The view southwest ... to Newfoundland