David Papp Blog

Google guards against shark attacks

Reports of sharks attacking undersea fiber optic cables have actually been happening since the 1980s. This phenomenon is something that has recently caught media attention as footage of sharks aggressively biting undersea fiber-optic cables have resurfaced on the Internet.

Why do they do it?

There are over 60,000 miles of older copper wiring found under the depths of the sea but they seem to be ignored by the streak of aggressive shark attacks that have been reported over the years. One theory as to why sharks specifically attack fiber-optic cables instead of copper cables is that fiber-optic wiring radiates an electric current that activates a shark’s instinct to attack. Essentially, it mistakes these signals for a living organism, which it considers as prey.

Google owns valuable fiber-optic cables found under the sea that stretch for thousands of miles. These cables stream data and information all over the world. Without these cables, the high-speed Internet we enjoy would not be possible. Some of the wires with their outer jacket are just as small as a typical garden hose, which is why this valuable hardware needs to be protected from all kinds of damages.

Protective coating applied

Google is reinforcing fiber-optic cables with what’s described as Kevlar-like material, which serve as a buffer and protective coating. With the company partnering with Asian telecoms in order to build FASTER, a new and highly sophisticated a trans-Pacific cable, taking proactive measures in minimizing threats to this infrastructure is wise. The new cable will provide high-speed connectivity of up to 60 terabits per second and will cost around $300 million dollars to construct.

Aside from shark attacks, undersea cables are susceptible to damage caused by human activity. In fact, sharks don’t even come close to us humans – one of the biggest causes of cable damage is ship anchors dropping on them as well as large-scale fishing activities.

33 thoughts on “Google guards against shark attacks”

  1. Sharks attacking underground water cables is definitely something I have never given though to, LOL! A 300 million dollar cable is quite amazing to think about. It makes me wonder about the people who have jobs installing such things. Working underwater all day would be very interesting.

    • Working underwater would be interesting! (and maybe a little terrifying). Can you imagine how much money someone with that job makes a year? I bet it is quite a bit.

  2. It’s funny, we tend to think of the internet as this incorporeal thing, almost like a presence. This has become especially true with the introduction of G3; we can go just about anywhere and still be online.

    Which is why it feels so peculiar when we read about stuff like sharks munching on cables. It really brings home the point that the internet is really a huge set of physical, tangible, objects. In a sense, I suppose this makes it even more impressive that it’s managed to become as omnipresent and abstract as it has.

    This also stresses how fragile the internet is. It’s permeated all our lives, it’s the cornerstone of our businesses, we use it daily, and yet it’s vulnerable to things as trivial as shark attacks. A sobering thought.

    • Indeed. It is also amazing that the Internet itself is free, when considering that the costs of laying down, and maintaining all these undersea cables and infrastructure is nothing short of staggering. The Internet is definitely the biggest technological leap of the century, and I hope that it remains free and access can spread to every single person in the world in the near future.

  3. Isn’t there a new method to getting speeds just as good as fiber optic using existing copper connections? Why don’t they spend money on employing that rather than repairing and creating these underwater fiber optic connections that’ll just get damaged over and over again? Also, if Google does actually take the smart route and take advantage of these old copper connections, they’d probably be able to roll out a 1 Gbps connection to more cities internationally!

  4. I never though they had problems with sharks attacking their cables.
    It’s awesome that Google really care and want to invest in the best things possible. 300$ million are a lot of money but damn, 60 terabites/second.. That’s amazing!
    Cables underwater are very tricky but I think Google got this!

  5. I read the title and I thought ‘Shark Attacks’ was a metaphor for hacker, never thought it to be quite literal. $300 million for a cable? Wow now that’s one really expensive piece of cable. But it’s really funny how people would need that much speed when it comes to transferring data.

  6. Wow. They’re using Kevlar to protect the cables? Now that is some tough protection right there. It goes to show how important the internet is to us. If I travel back in time and tell my 15 year old nerdy self that we’ll be protecting internet cables using Kevlar in the future then I think I would call myself crazy.

  7. Wow 60 terabits per second if pretty fast, I can’t even imagine that speed. But the price is just way too high. I mean, $300 million? I think it would be better put to use if it’s invested in other places but it’s not my money so it’s okay.

    As far as the sharks are concerned well it just goes to show that they’re really built to kill. If they needed to cover up the cables with Kevlar-like coating then these sharks must really be that strong.

    • Well the 60 terabits is not just for any person or community, it is the lifeblood of entire nations connected to the Internet. I think for with so many corporations and businesses dependent on the Internet today, $300 million does not come across as that much compared to what they would lose out on if the Internet did not exist.

  8. Didn’t even know sharks do this. Well Google definitely thinks of everything. And $300 million shouldn’t be a problem for one of the world’s biggest companies. About the speed, that’s another great factor from this project.

  9. Very interesting article. I never heard of shark attacks underground. That sounds a little bazaar.

  10. I literally laughed out loud at the title of this article. Very amusing and informative read. I didnt even realize that there are cables in the ocean but it totally makes sense. I wonder if those electric currents have any effect on the sea life long term? Loved this article. It made me smile and taught me something new.

  11. I’m amused by this article, on how sophisticated our internet backbone made of If I recall correctly I have heard this from my Professor back in college about fiber optics on the underground ocean. Shark attacks are definitively a big threat, Using Kevlar as coating is a crazy, but also a good idea.

    • I found this article really amusing too 🙂 It’s amazing to think that we have internet almost everywhere and it no longer seems like such an impossible thing, but when I think about the fact we depend on those fiber optic cables I just can’t fail to see how our internet is so fragile! At least its backbone it is…

      • That’s right man, fiber optic cables are like bridges that connect and links people, hence the internet, amazing right? 🙂

    • I agree. I thought the internet is all wireless and radio actually, no need for cables. I thought they just bounce off of satellites and then bounce to the next and so one.

      But the thing that amuses me the most about this is that they’re spending a lot of money on the new cables. I mean sure it’s for a good cause but $300 million is a lot of money.

      • That mode of communication will really cause a lot of loss. Data sent in a wireless manner will encounter a lot of interference. If this were not true, then we will have no need for cables. However, reality says otherwise.

  12. So shark attacks are not just limited to human beings, hmm? Well, I guess it’s mainly the callous nature of us human beings that’s partly at fault here. Hopefully new technology will bring about some changes that help the wires and the sharks stay protected

  13. When I read the title, what was going on my mind was “Oh, there must be a new malware”, I have never thought that it would be so literal. Lol. Although we have discussed fiber optics and all in college, I have never given much thought that this would actually be an issue, since from what I know Fiber optic cables actually has a Kevlar coating since it will be exposed to an harsh environment such as the ocean.

    Anyway, this should have been foreseen by the engineers before they actually implemented the project. About 3 months ago, we actually experienced connectivity issues because of matters like this where the fiber optic cables in the ocean floor has been damaged, and our COUNTRY was left with very slow connection, even in the office for a few days.

  14. This is really cool! I didn’t even know sharks could detect electricity even if the wires are shielded.

    I’m a bit worried about the environmental effects of this, though. Would the material be safe to add to the ecosystem?

  15. Wow, this is very interesting and something that I never thought about. It makes sense though, as sharks have very phenomenal senses. Many people forget that our Internet has to have a medium in order to get overseas. This is probably why human activity is most damaging. It is just like on ground with underground pipes/cables; people dig without checking for them because they do not even think about them being underground in the first place.

  16. This blog is awesome, to be honest I had never even had stopped to think about this! I think I hear about it a while ago, something about a fiber optic cable getting damaged somewhere and as a result a lot people lost access to internet in Egypt or something like that. I don’t remember the details, I just remember hearing about that, but never knew what damaged the cable.

    Uhm, I often take the internet for granted, I think many of us do, because we fail to see how fragile internet is. To think we are depending on those fiber optic wires…

  17. fiber optics are the best they are super fast. Nobody can keep up with it as of now. They should make the protection stronger for elements that can damage it.

    • Most of America is deprived of this amazing and super fast service. It sometimes sucks to be American, my internet is super slow and it is so because it’s all I’ve got.

      • You may be able to get fiber optic speeds soon in your area. Some researchers have found methods of transferring data extremely fast over copper wires, and because of our land line system, you probably do have copper wires running to or near your house. No longer is expanding a problem if you can use existing infrastructure to deliver fast internet speeds.

  18. This is news to me! I would never have known that sharks do this. I am only thinking that in a few years our ocean floors will be littered with cables, it should cause some trouble, right? Poor sharks, I hope they do not go all mental because of these wires.

  19. I find this utterly fascinating! I had absolutely no clue. I really hope more research is done on the phenomenon, because it seems a perfect opportunity to learn more about these creatures as well as our affect on them.

  20. This is some troubling and intriguing information. To think the internet and the activity of the people that use it has some danger posed against it comes as a bit of surprise. I’m glad Google is doing what they can to protect those necessary fiber-optic cables, because I’d hate to experience a slow internet connection and if worse comes to worse, none at all.

  21. Wait. I thought it is supposed to be the opposite. I am sure that fiber optics carry light and not electricity. This light is trapped within the fiber. Copper wires on the other hand are the ones that radiates signals. The reason that Fiber optics are better is that it has little to no interference from stray electric signals.

    Shark attacks on cables though. This is the first time I have heard of it.

  22. Wow, this is the first time I’m hearing about this. Interesting. I’m thinking it’s going to cost google a fortune to redo all those cables. But if it needs to be done, they so be it. They need to do it. But I can’t help but wonder who will be paying for it.

  23. If I remember correctly sharks have those little tiny dark circular bumps around their snouts called the Jacobson’s organ. They use it feel different electrical currents, as you say, to catch fish. It’s a pretty interesting dynamic from from two entities that normally would never have anything to do with each other. Google and sharks. Amazing.

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