The first trans-Atlantic communications cable was laid in 1858, carried across the ocean by two ships and connected to create instantaneous communication across an ocean.
Unfortunately, it only worked for few days, and it was almost ten years before a replacement was successfully laid. That cable, however, remained in service for a century.
I only mention that because I came across this global map of submarine communications cables. A cartography of big data streams at the bottom of the sea.
It all looks so tidy and reassuringly mechanical on a map like this.
Still, each and every festively colored line represents something like this:
Some of the cables, like those that cross the Izu-Ogasawara Trench off Japan, rest at 8000 meters (26,000 ft), a depth that almost equals the height of Mt. Everest. At some point, most of them must end up looking like some version of this:
The nuts and bolts of the modern world are subject to breakage, mostly due to either environmental forces (volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, storms) or human activity (mostly fishing lines, mining operations or dropped anchors).
Given the lack of knowledge of the Atlantic sea bed in the 19th century, it’s all the more impressive that the first successful cable last 100 years.