During a recent discussion of Internet outages, my son asked an interesting question. “Who fixes those cables when they break?” The answer: submarine operators like John Rennie of Global Marine Systems, whose work is profiled at Popular Science. Rennie pilots a six-ton, $10-million remotely operated vehicle (ROV) known as “the Beast,” which can scour the ocean floor to find and fix damaged telecommunications cables.
PopSci.com’s James Geary describes the sub as a “lunar lander on steroids.” Here’s am excerpt: “Working at depths of more than a mile, it can trundle along the seabed on caterpillar treads or, when its thrusters kick in, skim above canyons like a hovercraft, at a top speed of three knots. Rennie and his team of six control the Beast via a joystick, using its sonar, video cameras and metal detector to locate damaged cables. Plucking a cable from the ocean floor is akin to picking up a piece of thread in a blizzard while wearing a catcher’s mitt. Currents can be fierce, which makes it difficult to hold the Beast steady above the cable. Visibility can be close to nil, which means that even finding the cable in the first place can be a long and frustrating process of trial and error.” An interesting read about the workers who fix the Net when it’s busted. (Link via Slashdot).