Shark attack! Google wraps underwater cables in Kevlar-like vests

Filed Under: Featured, Google

Google has to wrap its trans-Pacific underwater fiber cables in a Kevlar-like material, because sharks are quite partial to having a munch on them.

Dan Belcher, a product manager on Google's cloud team, said that the company goes to great lengths to protect its infrastructure, including wrapping underwater cables to protect against shark attacks, NetworkWorld reports.

In fact, Google has a good amount of infrastructure to protect.

The company last week announced that it was investing in a new, $300 million undersea fiber optical cable system running between the US and Japan, called FASTER, that's designed to provide much higher broadband speeds to countries in Asia.

This isn't the first time that sharks have gnawed on underwater cables.

A 1987 story from the New York Times describes how an experimental fiber optic cable laid off the Canary Islands a few years earlier was being chomped on.

Composite image of shark and cables courtesy of ShutterstockIt wasn't hard to figure out the source of the damage, given that sharks tend to leave teeth behind, embedded in the objects they taste.

Sharks continually shed teeth and then grow new ones to replace those left behind in undersea cables or in things they can actually eat.

Google's description of fiber cable says the fragile glass of each strand of fiber is put into a protective casing to protect it from breaking.

A polyurethane jacket goes over the whole bundle, but just underneath is a protective layer - what Google says is Kevlar-like protection.

"Kevlar" is a brand name for a synthetic material of high tensile strength-to-weight ratio, which makes it 5 times stronger than steel on an equal weight basis.

Kevlar, a DuPont invention, has been used to replace steel in racing tires, bicycle tires and racing sails, as well as in body armor.

If sharks manage to bite through it, we will let you know.

But for now, assume that those responsible for any throttled bandwidth issues you might experience are likely not finned.

Composite image of cables and shark courtesy of Shutterstock.

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11 Responses to Shark attack! Google wraps underwater cables in Kevlar-like vests

  1. Wouldn't an EM shield work better?

  2. n00dle5 · 379 days ago

    Does it help stop the NSA from tapping the lines?

  3. Joe · 379 days ago

    Part of the government's plan to bring back hundreds of thousands of IT jobs lost to offshore workers?

  4. E.M.H. · 379 days ago

    What's the big deal? Neal Stephenson back in his 1996 piece "Mother Earth Motherboard" already noted that antishark protection was applied to such cables ("In shallower waters, additional layers of protection are laid on, beginning with a steel antishark jacket. As the shore is approached, various other layers of steel armoring wires are added..."). Different material, but same idea.

  5. richard lambert · 378 days ago

    Broadband access in the far east is susposed to be faster than the US now. Is Google going to slow it down with pop-up ads?

  6. cdoggyd · 378 days ago

    Slightly off topic, but don't asian countries already have the fastest broadband on the globe? Google should help the slower broadband countries increase speed.

    • Andrew Ludgate · 378 days ago

      The drop points on both ends for the NTT cable indicate it will be used to create low-latency, high-bandwidth connections between educational institutions and medical research institutions in Asia and North America. So I think the idea here is to join the west coast of the US to the fast broadband enjoyed in Asia, for the purpose of high definition videoconferencing, pooled datacrunching.

      So they're basically hooking up their local high speed network to the local high speed networks in Asia.

  7. If I send email or access sites in asia, will I be asked for my permission before my data is sent via this google cable?

    Are they saying if the data passing along it will be subject to google's standard 'privacy' policy ? ... the one that says any data entering, leaving or at rest on their systems will be accessed by them.

  8. Me2 · 374 days ago

    NSA and Google teaming to spy on Asia?

  9. anubis · 352 days ago

    From wikipedia: "Gutta-percha was particularly suitable for this purpose, as it was not attacked by marine plants or animals, a problem which had disabled previous undersea cables. The material was a major constituent of Chatterton's compound used as an insulating sealant for telegraph and other electrical cables. Polyethylene's superior insulative property has displaced it."

  10. Mithun · 295 days ago

    This gives a whole new definition to the term 'wireshark'!

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.