As you reach for your mobile phone to contact friends and relatives overseas you may be surprised to learn of the time when you physically had to book a call for a specific day and time with the firm Cable and Wireless at Pender Place in St Julians in order to call someone abroad.

The history of telecommunications on these islands, which has come a long way, has its own colourful episodes. An artifact that is closely connected with this history is the cable-laying vessel, the Levant II.

This ship was used by the Eastern Telegraph Company, which was opened by John Pender. Offices the company had in St Julians were built on a parcel of land that is still known as Pender Place. Built as a trawler, the vessel was refitted as a cable layer.

At the start of hostilities during WWI, the Levant II was requisitioned from the Eastern Telegraph Company to serve in Gallipoli to lay submarine communication cables there.

When the Anzacs landed at Suvla Bay, the captain of the ship started laying a cable, a dangerous operation in the prevailing circumstances. For the deed, the captain and crew were awarded a war decoration.

After its return to Malta, the vessel laid and maintained cables connecting Malta to Sicily, Libya and Alexandria.

The story of this ship will be told on TVM on Sunday at 6 p.m. in the series X'Qala l-Baħar.

Emi Farrugia, the executive producer of X'Qala l-Baħar, said he had found the wreck in 1999 but it was unclear which ship she was.

For many years she was simply known among the local diving community as the cable ship or the cable layer.

Mr Farrugia considers the period 1994-2004 as his golden years when his team of divers discovered about nine wrecks. "This wreck (the Levant II) was the only one I found that I did not know what she was. The year 1911 and a name of Brown and Co. on one of the fixtures found on the ship were the only clues available but no records were found of any cable ships lost during hostilities off Grand Harbour.

"Researcher Lina Fabri had, recently quite by chance, come across a photo on the internet of the Levant II and I immediately realised that I was looking at the shipwreck I had found 10 years ago. In order to verify the find I measured the wreck and the measurements tallied with the details of the original".

In 1952, the vessel was beyond repair and of no more use so it was decided to scrap it. As she was being towed out to the spoil ground outside Valletta, the Levant II started taking in water and sunk about a kilometer off Grand Harbour.

Telegraph company family tree

The Anglo Mediterranean Telegraph Company » Eastern Telegraph Company » The Cable & Wireless Telegraph Company » Telemalta » Maltacom » Go

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