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Telecom Cables Under the Ocean are Affected By Natural Disasters Too!

Telecom Cables Under the Ocean are Affected By Natural Disasters Too!

On March 11, 2011, a major earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. This earthquake was one of the five strongest earthquakes ever recorded in history and the tsunami that resulted from it disabled Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant just 150 miles north of Tokyo.

Within only a few days, half of the plant’s reactors had suffered severe fuel damage, raising fear that radiation would spread throughout Japan and around the world.

While much of the world was worrying about Fukushima, there was another, less obvious problem under the ocean – the submarine cables lying along the ocean floor, which carried voice and Internet communications to and from Japan, had been harshly damaged by the earthquake. Palmer-Felgate, a Verizon project manager who directs submarine-cable repairs all over the world, realized this adverse effect of the earthquake. He reported, “The Japan earthquake caused a whole series of underwater landslides. At least seven of our cables were buried over by several kilometers of sediment.”

After Fukushima, Palmer-Felgate helped the cable companies and engineers to find the location of the cable breaks by transmitting a pulse from a landing station on the coast and measuring the distance to the fault. Palmer-Felgate’s team directed remotely operated underwater vehicles to find the severed pieces, which they then lifted and rejoined the cables. It ended up taking several weeks to fully restore the telecommunications infrastructure and get Japan back to full connectivity.

Today, there are over 200 telecommunications cables buried underneath the ocean worldwide, creating the backbone of our international economy. GeoTel Communications specializes in mapping telecommunications infrastructure with GIS data to produce telecom maps. In fact, GeoTel’s maps of the Internet were featured at the Archive Centre Mundaneum in Belgium. If you’re interested in telecom maps, fiber maps, fiber network maps, or any of our telecom GIS data sets, give us a call at (800) 277-2172!

Valerie Stephen