Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Thread Across the Ocean: The Heroic Story of the Transatlantic Cable” as Want to Read:
A Thread Across the Ocean: The Heroic Story of the Transatlantic Cable
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Thread Across the Ocean: The Heroic Story of the Transatlantic Cable

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  262 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Today, in a world in which news flashes around the globe in an instant, time lags are inconceivable. In the mid-nineteenth century, communication between the United States and Europe -- the center of world affairs -- was only as quick as the fastest ship could cross the Atlantic, making the United States isolated and vulnerable.

But in 1866, the Old and New Worlds were unit
Paperback, 272 pages
Published July 1st 2003 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2002)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Thread Across the Ocean, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Thread Across the Ocean

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 530)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
This book has a lot of interesting information about the first Trans-Atlantic cable, but there is also a lot of information I didn't really care about as well. It comes out a bit dry. Not a bad book overall, but I'd really only recommend it for people who are really interested in the subject matter/time period.
Feb 07, 2008 Patrick rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: entrepreneurs
Interesting story, but a mediocre book. The laying of the transatlantic telegraph cable was the Internet revolution of the 19th century, and the tale of how this enterprise was completed is very compelling.

But that tale isn't enough for the author, who pads his book with numerous tangents about ancillary subjects that add nothing to the main story...often these tangents don't even provide much relevant background information (which is why I think the author included them in the first place). Th
Never in my entire life did I ever stop and think about how landline phonecalls are made. They really ARE land lines that criss-cross the oceans! This is a great story about Cyrus Fields, the man with a vision of connecting Europe and the US by submarine telegraphic cable. Where it used to take months for news to cross the ocean, he was responsible for crunching it down to minutes.

There was a LOT of trial and error -- years of it. Lots of money lost and lots of cable gone. Several times the ship
Entertaining popular history of a subject about which I knew little.The author relied on limited, secondary source material, it seemed, and filled his book with footnotes unrelated to the rest of the book (but still interesting). I would have liked a little more information about the science that went into the project.
John Steele Gordon is one of my favorite business history authors. I discovered him when I read "The Great Game: The Emergence of Wall Street" (almost by accident). I highly, highly recommend his books for anyone who loves business, the economy and finance through time.
Just getting into this book, and finding it a great read so far. Moves along at a nice clip, with great details that illustrate the climate of entrepreneurial spirit, industrial development, and political relations, and even the evolution of business-as-we-know-it of the time (mid-1800s, just before the Civil War).

A story I certainly hadn't given much thought before - but now I can see right away how it affected so much in so many places. If the book continues in this vein, it will be a definit
A fascinating history of laying the first transatlantic cable and how it succeeded and changed the world, although it was considered an impossible task at the time. This is a great book to put into perspective the communications capabilities that we take completely for granted. The narrative is fast-paced and well-written--I'm looking for more of Gordon's work. He includes great little details about the people involved; the technologies, engineering, and science; and the world as it was when the ...more
Ben Wilson
Oct 11, 2007 Ben Wilson rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like their new timely
Shelves: steampunk
As you read this review, consider just how this information came to you. You don't even know, do you? Wires, radio-waves, birds maybe. Bees with little tiny buckets of information.

Back 150 years ago, this review would have been written long-hand, sealed with wax, given to a post rider and hopefully, maybe, possibly, would get to you in a week or more. Forbid you live across the sea! Unreliable post on the ground and then a harrowing week-or-more journey across the Atlantic Ocean. A response wou
Gordon breathed life into the movers and shakers of the 1800's - an era when dreamers with access to money were encouraged to do. And Cyrus Field was such a dreamer. His vision was "instant" communication between Europe and the US. The way to achieve that was to lay telegraph cable along the floor of the ocean from Ireland to NewFoundland - a fete requiring creating cable that would sink to the bottom of the ocean, finding a ship that could carry tons of cable, regulating the weather (Ha!), rais ...more
I hardly ever read non-fiction, but this was recommended by a coworker. I read the entire thing in 2 days. Very interesting story of the first time continents could communicate immediately.
Doc Kinne
After a somewhat slow start, this story got going very nicely. Its interesting following a story that really didn't work out at first. It took four separate times for the Atlantic cable to be laid successfully, something you just don't expect these days. But they didn't lose hope, and they kept going until it was done, even though it took years, and in doing so it transformed the world.

Sir Arthur Clarke called the laying of the Atlantic cable the "Apollo Moon project of the Victorian era." It co
A great read about an amazing endeavour. Interesting to read something positive about corporations - I'm so used to thinking of them negatively, but in the 1800s the invention of corporations let people try things like this without risking their own fortunes, so much easier to get investors.
Even though I knew they succeeded, it was still pretty nerve-wracking as each attempt fell apart. Great to see how they changed over time, became more professional and learned from their mistakes. Just amazi
This was a short narrative about the laying of the first transatlantic telegraph cable. It goes into some detail about the route of laying the cable up through Canada and then across the Atlantic from Newfoundland. It is also informative about the importance of the cable as part of the infrastructure of the emergent global society that emerged between 1870-1914. It helps to know some of the broader business history going on during this age of big business, but the book does stand alone if needed ...more
I thought this was a great read. A subject that could have been dry was bought to life by excellent writing
So close to 5 stars
If you like this book yoiu will love Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time
Even though I am surrounded by technology that Cyrus Field couldn't conceive of, I am still completely amazed by what he and his team accomplished in 1866. "A Thread Across The Ocean" is about how a telegraph line was laid between Ireland and Newfoundland, but even more so it is a story about perseverance, as Field and others overcame multiple failures, any one of which could have made them give up on their endeavor.
This is the story of the laying of the Atlantic cable. It is a testimony to the preserverance of the men of that era. I think the story is well written and the footnotes a wealth of information -- adding so much to the understanding of the men, attitudes and events of the time. It was a remarkable accomplishment made by men of innovation, intelligence, means and determination. Inspiring!
Jing Xu
The Atlantic cable was an engineering marvel. That was an exciting time of the engineering history. Many of the modern technologies were still in their infancy. To read the book is like reading a who's who list for of some contemporary engineers and scientists I heard of and admired.
David R.
Gordon's account of the 1860s effort to lay a transatlantic telegraph cable is fast paced and adequately feels the financial and physical tensions. It sometimes gets a bit too breathless and there are occasional errors of fact (e.g. Gen. Z.Taylor neither planned nor led the conquest of Mexico City). However, the overall treatment is quite fine.
A very readable, concise history of the weighing of the first trans-Atlantic cable in the mid-19th century. Not quite as technologically oriented as I might have preferred, but interesting story nonetheless. It's interesting to hear about businesses that can endure very expensive failures multiple times and from them learn lessons that left them try again.

Yeah, couldn't really get into this book for some reason.. Perhaps the writting style or lack of character development.
I did find lots of it intensely interesting though.

Cyrus field, never heard that name before I read this book.

It's strange how at the time it was such a significant event yet today no one knows anything about it.
Apr 08, 2012 James rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to James by: Andy Goldfarb
Thoroughly entertaining book about business and technology in the latter half of the nineteenth century. I wouldn't have thought that reading about the laying of the transatlantic cable would be engrossing, but it was. Understanding the state of technology in that time period spotlights how extraordinary and rapid the pace of change has been.
Michael Harris
A Friends of the Concord Library find. An interesting story of the struggle to lay the first Atlantic communication channel which was rich in detail but not written so as to feel I was part of the process. I learned but did not feel I participated in the "adventure".
A very interesting adventure, but this book is a bit tiresome in recounting each and every attempt to lay the first cable. The book has lots of details about the financing and organizing of the company and about Cyrus Field the man behind the venture.
I wanted to like this book, the story of the laying of the first transatlantic telegraph cable, but I didn't. There is a lot of detail that didn't interest me, I would have liked it a lot better as a short story or magazine article.
Jim Noyes
Fascinating read, not only about the cable but about the Industrial Revolution
Jp Bleibtreu
Actually better than I expected. I am a sucker for non-fiction of this sort but it was spectacularly written and a very riveting account of a Sisyphean undertaking. I put it up there next to the Professor and the Madman.
Kacee Delauren
I thought this was a very compelling and awe-inspiring story. The audacity and wherewithal it took to complete a trans-atlantic cable-crossing amazes me. This was enough drama in this book to translate well into a movie.
One of my most favorite books! It's such a wonderful success story! It made me more determined to stick out the rough patches in my life, knowing that in the end it would all work out for my good.
Another interesting slice of history from JSG, who always manages to weave interesting asides into his writing.
Very entertaining and gives real historical perspective to the laying of the first transatlantic cable.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 17 18 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Lighthouse Stevensons: The extraordinary story of the building of the Scottish lighthouses by the ancestors of Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Frozen Water Trade: A True Story
  • Discarded Science: Ideas That Seemed Good at the Time...
  • Evolution's Captain: The Dark Fate of the Man Who Sailed Charles Darwin Around the World
  • Meet You in Hell: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and the Bitter Partnership That Changed America
  • Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad
  • One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw
  • The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error That Transformed the World
  • Rounding the Horn: Being the Story of Williwaws and Windjammers, Drake, Darwin, Murdered Missionaries and Naked Natives--a Deck's-eye View of Cape Horn
  • The Victorian Internet
  • Blood, Iron And Gold: How The Railways Transformed The World
  • The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man Who Measured London
  • To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World
  • Shackleton's Forgotten Men: The Untold Tragedy of the Endurance Epic
  • Tyrannosaurus Sue: The Extraordinary Saga of the Largest, Most Fought Over T-Rex Ever Found
  • Demon of the Waters: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Whaleship Globe
  • Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens
  • Slide Rule
Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power The Great Game: the Emergence of Wall Street as a World Power 1653-2000 Hamilton's Blessing: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Our National Debt The Business of America: Tales from the Marketplace - American Enterprise from the Settling of New England to the Breakup of AT&T Scarlet Woman of Wall Street

Share This Book