When you hear terms like “the cloud” being bandied about, it’s hard not to conjure up images of internet infrastructure being some servers housed in slick network of Gattaca-style complexes, each connected by some glowing, neon-colored optical cables like something out of Tron all topped off by touches from other sci-fi films.
Although shown to be relatively reliable, the reality is far less sexy: just a massive fiber optic cable lying along the murky depths of the ocean floor. What’s worse is that our internet service is constantly under attack by none other than hungry sharks. These occasional nibbles cause companies such as Google to undergo costly repair and reinforcement projects at several locations of their own undersea cables to protect themselves from the ravenous fish.
Recently a product manager from Google, Dan Belcher, showed a clip of a shark taking on an undersea cable at an event to highlight the various dangers they face and the need for solid construction. Belcher mentioned that the company reinforces their cables in a Kevlar-like material. They didn’t go into much more detail, which is good. The less the sharks know the better.
Sharks aren’t the only hazard to the cable you might be using now either. Changes in terrain or fishing ships and their anchors can also put big old potholes in the information superhighway.
Among these dangers, however, sharks are more peculiar. It’s not entirely clear what is so appetizing about fiber optic lines to these predators. One theory is that the light being transmitted through the lines is regularly given boosts by devices which in turn give off an electric field. This might be mistaken as something edible to a shark which then goes in for the kill.
It’s a big “F-you” to many of us who have upheld an “I don’t mess with you, you don’t mess with me” agreement with the sharks. I, for one, have done my best to stay far away from the ocean and the sharks in it. And now they’re all up in my business screwing with my ability to easily access my spreadsheets and photo albums from either the home or office computer? Screw you sharks! Unless of course this is some kind of protest against some of the untruths spread during the recent Shark Week, in which case fair enough…
Really, the main thing we can all take away of this is a mental image of a physical component of the internet. So the next time you get an email from a Nigerian prince who manages a bank, you can imagine the magical journey it took through a rich ecosystem of polychaete worms and bioluminescent organisms as it made its way to your device, just narrowly missing the jaws of death on its way.