“Orak, I have a question. Do you remember the Tonga volcanic eruption?” Verum quizzed.
“Surely. On January 15th, a massive underwater volcano erupted near Tonga, an island nation near the South Pacific. This eruption led to a tsunami that spread across the ocean in just a few hours. The giant waves hit Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, as well as west the coast of North and South America,” replied Orak.
“Do you remember the damage it caused? The communication lines and internet connection were interrupted. There is news of undersea internet cable damage. Can you tell how it will be fixed?” added Verum.
A thoughtful Orak sat on his chair and picked up his Book of Everything. As he was flipping through the book, Verum quickly added, “I will tell you more: there is an undersea fiber-optic cable that connects Tonga to the rest of the world. It was damaged during the eruption.”
“Firstly,” Orak started to explain, “an undersea cable or submarine communications cable is a cable that is laid in the waterways. These cables either carry electricity or they are used for telecommunication. Cables longer than about 70 kilometers (43 mi) use direct current because the loss is too big with alternating current.
The cable, which is operated by Tonga Cable, has been broken about 37km (23 miles) off the shore. But it will not require a lot of effort to fix it,” paused Orak, looking up at Verum.
“Thank goodness!” replied Verum.
“The team will send a pulse of light from the island. A machine will measure how long it takes to travel and this will help them locate the break area. Then a cable-repair boat will go to the spot and will use either an ROV (remotely-operated underwater vehicle) or a grapnel (basically a tool with a hook on a chain) to bring the broken end.
Then it will be re-joined to fresh cable on the boat itself. This process will be followed at the other end of the break,” said Orak.
“No wonder! This is a simple task and that’s why my crystal ball report said it will take around five to seven days to fix it if all goes as per the plan. But I must say that the experts will have to ensure the area is safe for the boat and the crew. No other volcano is likely to erupt,” added Verum.
There are over 430 cables, spanning distances of 1.3 million km (800,000 miles) around the world. Many are on the ocean floor and are safe from frequent damages, except when there is a natural disaster. For example, Tonga’s volcanic eruption.
Similar damage occurred in 2006, when an earthquake off the coast of Taiwan broke a cable, resulting in broken communication.
While in many countries there are many such cables so the damages do not result in extreme consequences. But in countries such as Tonga with just one such cable, it becomes difficult if it is damaged.