Google's making news with reports that it wraps its undersea cables in Kevlar-like material so sharks don't chomp them apart. The story is making the rounds after a company official said attacks have been reported that could create a problem for the thousands of miles of cables that exist under the water's surface.
An official with the Silicon Valley search company said it has developed a Kevlar-like sheath that coats and protects the cables, offering protection from potential attacks. This has been the standard for Google's undersea cables to ensure they are safe from marine life, and particularly sharks.
It also helps protect them from far more common threats such as ship anchors and drag lines from fishing trawlers, which account for about 70 percent of cable problems caused by outside forces. Earthquakes, and currents that move them, also can cause problems. Cables often are buried where possible for additional protection.
That outer protective layer is also a means of protecting animal life in the water from injuring themselves when biting the cables, which are made of glass fibers that could protrude into the water if the casing is not put in place. Google Product Manager Dan Belcher made the revelations at a Google marketing event in Boston.
"Since fiber is made of fragile glass, its casing is built to protect it from breaking," Google tells in its FAQ on fiber-optic cables. "A fiber-optic cable often includes (listed from the outer layer inward): An outer polyurethane jacket, a protective layer (made from a material like Kevlar), a plastic coating (in different colors, so technicians can follow the path of each strand), and enclosed in all of these, a glass fiber."
Sharks seem an odd animal to attack the cables. However, according to researchers, it appears the electromagnetic pulses emitting by the cables could attract the animal as it has a hyper-sensitized ability to track such fields. A report (PDF) on cables by the International Cable Protection Committee says, "Attacks could be due to cable smell, color, motion or electro-magnetic field."
The fiber-optic cables carry Internet traffic around the world, Tech Times reports. The glass fibers are protected from movement or breakage with an outer layer, a protective layer and a plastic coating. The goal of the fibers is to deliver Internet speeds at 1 gigabit per second, which is 100 times faster than basic broadband.
"All submarine equipment providers support a variety of cables with different degrees of hardening that depend on the cable depth, and protect against a number of external aggressors like ship anchors/trawlers/fishing, seabed corrosion, and yes, even sharks," a Google spokesperson told VICE's Motherboard blog in an email.
The effort to ensure the continued running of the cables and the company's sense of duty to the marine life that encircles the cables is a positive for the company, which hopes that it can continue to be seen in a positive light.