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The invisible seafaring industry that keeps the internet afloat

Captain Shoichi Suzuki sits in front of the control panels in the bridge of the Ocean Link.
Photo by Go Takayama for The Verge

On the afternoon of March 11th, 2011, Mitsuyoshi Hirai, the chief engineer of the cable maintenance ship Ocean Link, was sitting in his cabin 20 miles off Japan’s eastern coast, completing the paperwork that comes at the end of every repair. Two weeks earlier, something — you rarely knew what — damaged the 13,000-mile fiber optic cable connecting Kitaibaraki, Japan, and Point Arena, California. Alarms went off; calls were made; and the next day, Hirai was sailing out of the port in Yokohama to fix it.

The repair was now nearly done. All that remained was to rebury the cable on the seafloor, which they were doing using a bulldozer-sized remotely operated submersible named Marcas — and, of course, the paperwork.

Suddenly,…

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