This map shows the 15 current undersea cable lines stretching from the United States to the Far East. The PacNet-SubCom cable is only the latest. Company officials would not disclose the exact cost of the project, but conceded it was in excess of $100 million. PacNet laid half the cable, about 5,000 miles, from Los Angeles to the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Another company laid the remaining 4,500 miles from Japan. Total length: 9,500 miles.
With the protective outside covering stripped away, the fiber optic cable appears almost too thin to handle the massive traffic it must carry as well the immense pressures of the ocean depths. Its only about 1 inch thick, yet billions of bits of data flow through it hourly. The larger section is a completed splice.
This yellow machine at the stern of the Global Sentinel is a large, heavy plow that can dig a trench 1.5 meters deep and prepare for the burial of a cable line, should it be required to do so. As cable comes up to a continental shelf, it is required to be buried, so as not to interfere with the fishing industry—because of deep-water nets that are becoming more commonplace.
Finally, on the bridge, the fine-tuning control for the ship (when docking, for example) is a joystick, with a graphical representation on a screen nearby.