Confused Sharks Keep Trying To Eat Google’s Undersea Data Cables

Confused Sharks Keep Trying To Eat Google’s Undersea Data Cables

Laying fibre optic cables down on the ocean floor is a massive undertaking in its own right. But now, Google actually has to go back and reinforce some of its thousands of kilometres of undersea cable — because hungry sharks keep mistaking the world’s data lines for lunch.

The reinforcement initiative, announced just last week at a Google Cloud Roadshow event, is no small feat. Google owns over 160,000km of private fibre optic routes around the world. And while Google cloud team project manager Dan Belcher did reveal that Google has been wrapping its trans-Pacific submarine cables in “Kevlar-like material” to protect against shark attacks, that’s about all he was willing to divulge.

But why are sharks so tempted by our glass-cored, internet-pumping pipes? As Network World points out, it’s been theorised that any electric impulses the cable sends out could actually mimic the currents made by sharks’ potential prey:

Unlike short-haul terrestrial fibre cables or old copper cables where the fibre did not emit noticeable fields, undersea cables must carry high voltage power to the undersea repeaters, which result in both electric and magnetic fields around and along the cable … Some sharks mistaken the electric fields for distressed fish and attempt to feed on the cable.”

So while the new Kevlar-like coating might not do much to suppress the cable’s output of electric signals, it should make the sharks’ favourite high-tech chew toy a hell of a lot safer — both for Google and the sharks themselves. [Network World via The Guardian]