Translation of the depths of the sea: 800 kilometer canal NEPTUNE spends online on the ocean floor
of the Ethernet cable to your home on your desktop does not have to deal with c different inhabitants of the oceans, such as for example the starfish. i>
Tectonic Juan de Fuca Plate - today one of the smallest size in the world. It is located a few hundred kilometers from Oregon, Washington and British Columbia coast. However, weaknesses in the size of Juan de Fuca pay off her communication skills. It has become home to a unique, high-speed optical cable network, which has found its way through the bottom of the deep Pacific Ocean at the end of 2009.
This channel is called NEPTUNE - the North-East Pacific Time-Series Underwater Networked Experiment (Northeast Pacific underwater experimental network without temporary disruptions - approx. Interpreter i>). Its length - more than 800 kilometers, which is comparable with the length of 40 000 subway cars, concatenated into one long train.
A team of scientists, researchers and engineers from the nonprofit group Oceans Network Canada supports the work of the network, the introduction of which is worth 111 million Canadian dollars, and annual support - 17 million. It should be noted that we are dealing with an unusual underwater cable. In contrast to these cables, instead of crossing all the ocean floor, NEPTUNE returns back to the coast - to the very place from which to start. And although NEPTUNE is designed to improve the transfer of information across the ocean, it also collects information about him and his life on the bottom.
So forget about the Internet of Things: NEPTUNE connected to the Internet an entire tectonic plates.
The deep sea - the final frontier h4> The professor of Oceanography John Delaney of the Washington University proposed the idea of NEPTUNE in the mid-90s, anticipating that the subsequent speedy development of the Internet will have a much broader meaning than simply linking home and office computers between a. He suggested that the "distributed network of automated sensors in the ocean environment" will continuously monitor the seas, using such methods, the researchers at the ships go to sea in certain short periods of time can hardly imagine or afford.
Back in our day, we can see that due to the continued support of the seabed is still a considerable achievement. Despite the fact that we have long ago mastered the ability to communicate wirelessly with the satellites and space ship at a distance of billions of kilometers away from us, the depths of the ocean represent a different, scarcely opened for development abroad. To begin with, it is worth noting that the water there is no wireless communications - everything must be connected to wires, waterproof and protected against risk factors, such as accidentally thrown anchor, corrosion and leaks. In this respect, the Juan de Fuca is also a significant threat: each code on the plate at about 400 earthquakes occur.
Incredibly, Ocean Networks Canada managed to make it so that the whole system works. Five deepwater locations throughout NEPTUNE serve as a place for a huge number of sensors and devices from recognition systems tsunami seismic survey to measure the amount of greenhouse gases in the ocean ecosystem. The deepest of the locations - the sixth, which is not enough funding for continuous observation, located on the edge of the platform Juan de Fuca at a depth of 2.4 km below the ocean's surface - almost as deep as I can dive submarines Alcatel-Lucent, lay the cable NEPTUNE. < br />
Each of the locations is already up to second provides valuable information about the health of our oceans and the planet as a whole, using methods which are at the sea surface, scientists can only dream of during only a few weeks of summer. By connecting the network to the Internet, we have the opportunity to watch relay and analyze this information in real-time, worldwide. This is an absolute realization of the vision and Delaney is one of the most important tasks NEPTUNE.
However NEPTUNE start to work in real time and maintain it in such condition was difficult. Based on several years of the project, we can safely say that people had never invented the computer networks that would work at such depths.
Project Map coverage NEPTUNE i>
Installing and launching h4> Wally - a robot the size of a small refrigerator. He travels along the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Its wire allows it to move within 70 meters in any direction. At the bottom flora and fauna, he lives in the area of geothermal faults, which its operators tenderly called «Wallyland». This name clearly read a hint of the theme park, unless your idea of entertainment is a greenhouse full of bacteria and gas hydrates - solid formation of icy methane stable only at a depth of not less than a kilometer below sea level. Here in this place of Wally lived for almost two years.
Wally does not look like the usual robotic underwater crawlers: they usually do not stay under water for such a long time. Even scientists who run them do it in the most unusual way - with the help of remote control via the Internet, at the other end of the planet. Through NEPTUNE, crawler is constantly connected to the network, receives power from the shore and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, throughout the year.
Geophysicist Skyuervot Martin, who is something of a liaison between Wally and his far-operators in Germany, does not know any other deep crawler that would work in a similar way. Perhaps the point here is that companies such as Alcatel-Lucent, as a rule do not conduct any work in places that Wally and other devices NEPTUNE call their home.
"We wanted to lay the cables in place, which is usually avoided when laying, wherever they are never put" - says Kim Juniper. This Marine Microbiology is the scientific director of the Ocean Networks Canada, acting as a mediator between the cable network and scientists from around the world involved in the development of devices that his team uses such as Wally. In the period from 2004 to 2006, as chief scientist, he worked on the design of the cable route NEPTUNE closely with Alcatel-Lucent.
In his office, in the damp smelling, dotted with trees campus of the University of Victoria, which is Ocean Networks Canada is calling your house, Juniper, dressed in a strict shirt with a wide tie, now look more like a manager's office, rather than the oceanographer. In order to show me clearly, he opened large underwater map of the network, which proved to be much more of his desk.
Trunk cable carries a tremendous amount of power - 80 kW, 8 kW of electricity and the channel bandwidth of 4 Gbps on each location. In the interval up to the edge of the continental shelf, which reaches a depth of just over 400 m, the cable is covered with an armored shell, and with it reaches a diameter of 3.8 cm. With the plow, he digs into the ocean floor to a depth of at least one meter, eventually reaching a depth of laying more than 1.2 km at a maximum distance from the shore.
However, there is always a chance of a cliff and it was here that came to the aid plan to implement the network in a loop. Juniper can not say exactly when the idea came, however, he assumed a role played by a hostile environment of the ocean. The idea is that instead of having to pull the long cable into the ocean, leaving its end somewhere in the abyss of the sea, the cable makes a loop back to the coast station, from where it begins. And because the power and information circulate in both directions in the event of any breakage or malfunction of the equipment, the team can reconfigure NEPTUNE to offset the effects of a crash. And even though the network in this state can only run at half speed, it provides a level of fault tolerance, which in the majority of underwater cables have.
Further, in each of the six locations on the route of the main line - Canyon Berkeley, mountain range Endeavor, channel Folger, bay cascades slope Kleykvot and Middle Valley, the cable is divided into secondary cables, which are called "branches." Branches of these are very important, as they help NEPTUNE get to where no one dares to go Alcatel-Lucent - areas where the bottom surface are bare rocks, geothermal wells and frequent landslides. Each process leads to a site that will best be thought of as huge underwater network switch, which delivers the power low voltage and provides information communication infrastructure NEPTUNE second level consisting of sensors and instrumentation platforms.
«Alcatel-Lucent has never tried to carry electricity cables and connect devices directly under the water - says Juniper - Open your submarine cables for the rest of the world - the last thing they want to do».
However, the ability to connect devices to the network and disable them under water is the key to the whole project. In each of the five operating locations NEPTUNE (on the sixth installed devices, but there is no funding) is a device called a switching box. Switching boxes taken from the low-voltage power supply units, are connected to their data cables, and distribute them further to the instrument platform (which is usually a plurality of sensors) are transmitted crawlers and devices with high demands on bandwidth, such as hydrophones and cameras. Almost all of it can be plugged in or disconnected from it directly under the water, with the help of remote-controlled underwater technology that allows the team to improve the service to make and install new devices without making any changes to the underlying network elements.
The result is a confusion of the auxiliary cables is quite similar to the situation with the wires in your home router, that's just under the water, and with a total length of almost 90 km.
Here is the assembly close-up, in a test tank i>
"We always made Alcatel-Lucent emerge from their comfort zone. We ask them about it and they do it for the sake of science. I think, however, that in the future they will use a much more conservative solutions for laying telecommunications cables, in particular, would like to avoid the volcanic areas "- laughing Juniper.
But the team NEPTUNE, on the contrary, there is no choice. All equipment installed outside units, from cables to high-resolution cameras - possession Ocean Networks Canada. And in such an inhospitable environment monitoring is needed most.
It is not the usual maintenance h4> The Canadian Border Ship John P. Tully considered "small" ship. Built in 1984 and named after the famous Canadian oceanographer, it reaches 65 meters in length. But walk through the loaded deck equipment tally before his departure in early May, it is staggering. The number of technical equipment that the team had packed it dramatically change your idea about the true size of the ship.
Remotely controlled underwater vehicle called Oceanic Explorer, the size of a compact SUV, sitting in the stern, with the deck stretched wires. Nearby are two cargo container, which is located inside the center of the control unit and control panel satellite communication system. Inside the ship, stacked to the ceiling with a rope, and related, there are shelves with photographic and broadcast equipment, and most of the wood surface is dotted with holes for the screws, screwed for fixing a small electronics.
Twice a year, in a few weeks to sail under the title "Installation of the abyss", held for the technical work, the director of operations for the observant Adrian Round calling like the vessel home. Slim Round bearded familiar with life at sea. Now retired commanding officer of the Canadian Navy ship "Algonquin" and the base commander "Eskvimalt" on Vancouver Island near Victoria, he spent in the Navy 26 years in Canada. And for 10 years he worked with the Ocean Networks Canada.
Given the fact that the primary infrastructure has long been established, sailing this year is almost entirely devoted to the maintenance of secondary network infrastructure: it is necessary to get to the surface equipment, clean equipment, calibrate sensors, and pull the old new. Despite the fact that the presence of journalists on this voyage is not provided, Round more than willing to commit a tour of Tully, the last batch of equipment is moved to the deck by hand, cranes and hoists.
NEPTUNE exists through devices and sensors - Electronic shupaltsam constantly followed, gathering information about water and life on the seabed. Usually they are kept in protective structures in conversation called a "bank." Are the banks to protect the power supply and network equipment in the nodes of NEPTUNE, and banks for units distributed throughout the depth. These structures are filled with air or with an indicator of pressure on the surface or oily incompressible fluid, which protects the electronics inside.
The irony is that the sea water here is both an assistant and a hindrance: the banks are designed to not only use the features of sea water for their own purposes, but also to resist the negative effects of it. Despite the fact that the whole system is grounded to sea water and the ocean is also a good conductor of heat, electricity sometimes behaves with respect to water is not as intended NEPTUNE engineers. When the voltage goes from the device to the outside is not as it should, it may cause a short circuit in the seawater. Network course is designed with a certain margin of safety in case of leaks, but no more. If time does not isolate or disconnect devices, short circuit may burn a hole in the wall of the structure under pressure, making the equipment vulnerable to sea.
There are other cases where corrosion eats away material. "Everybody thinks, 'Oh, well, just do all stainless steel!'. However, if you leave near the stainless steel surface covered hydrothermal cracks after a few months of it he will be nothing left - explains Round - So instead, we use stainless steel, titanium. Well, if you do not go below 1000 m, we can safely use the plastic covers. »
The first such waterproof Ethernet cable that uses NEPTUNE, invented the company's oil and gas industry i>
Example of connecting cables i>
Most of these metal and plastic products Round and his team have done on their own, at the Center for Marine Technology nearby. Much has been done for the first time and is not always possible to find pre-finished components, but the cables that connect devices, junction boxes and components NEPTUNE actually already been invented before the oil and gas industry, therefore, be available for purchase. At the end of a large rubber cable that holds the Round has a connector sleeve resembling fire hose, but with gold plated contacts inside it, arranged in concentric circles.
Before their electrical connection at the bottom of the depth, the gold-plated contacts go through that Round describes as oil baths and removal of water, as when the "no salt water - no problem." The result is the same as the inclusion of the Ethernet cable into the back of your router, with the exception that, in the case of Adrian, all the work onboard submarine Tally operator-control device that controls a robotic arm.
The sleeves are filled with silicone oil - incompressible fluid, which eliminates the likelihood that at lower depths of the cable may be damaged. Round very much did not want to, because these cables are not cheap. Only one pair of connecting copper Ethernet connectors can cost $ 25,000 and this amount is doubled if the network requires extension of fiber-optic cables and new connectors, which are required to connect to the instrument platforms and junction boxes, if the distance between them is greater than 70 m. Some of these platforms, the satellites operate at a distance of several kilometers. In order to save money wherever possible, NEPTUNE use a dry pair of connectors. They are only $ 2,500 per pair, and are made of titanium, which is preferable for a depth of more than 400 m. A drawback to their use is that they can be joined only on land.