In 1850, the very first subsea copper cable was laid between England and France by a small paddle-driven steam tug called the Goliath. The task was undertaken by Global Marines predecessor and it was an event that marked the start of the submarine cable industry. More than 160 years on, the underwater networks are a vital component to the world's financial, political and social make-up. It is up to Global Marine to engineer, install, maintain, and repair the cables.
We have been very much in the telecom space ever since then, Global Marines CEO Ian Douglas says, from the days of the telegraph right through coaxial telephone, and then into the area of fibre optic, which of course was really when the subsea cable came into its own. The internet lives on subsea fibre cable. If you had to physically represent the internet, it actually sits on a million kilometres of cable underneath the ocean.
"We have laid about 300,000 kilometres of it since the dawn of fibre optics, which was in the 90s. So thats about 23 per cent of all of the fibre which is out there in the ocean today. We are also entrusted to maintain that cable on behalf of many of the telecom companies around the world. Even though we do our best to protect these cables, you do get fishermen dragging them up, you get ships anchors going across them, and you get various other things damaging them such as earthquakes and subsea volcanoes."
"We are the guys who get called out to go into the middle of the ocean to repair those cables on behalf of our customers. As of now, we have done more than a third of all of those maintenance operations around the world."
Ian says he is often met with frazzled but curious looks when he tells people what he does for a living. "It's a question I get asked probably every time I go to dinner with people, he laughs. People often puzzle about how we do it, especially when you consider that some of the cables are eight kilometres below the water surface out in the middle of the sea."