MAREA might be the biggest and baddest cable, but it follows the FIRST Transatlantic Cable by roughly 150 years. MAREA (Spanish for tide) will be co-funded by Facebook and Microsoft. These two innovative companies will follow in the footsteps of Cyrus West Field, Victorian Era entrepreneur and visionary. It was Field’s company that laid the first permanent Transatlantic Cable on July 27, 1866.
MAREA, the state-of-the-art, 4,000 mile long subsea cable across the Atlantic floor will have eight fiber pairs and an estimated capacity of 160 Tbps. Translation: MAREA will be capable of transmitting about 35,000 DVDs per second.
The Transatlantic Cable was a critical part of the Second Industrial Revolution. It dramatically increased the flow of ideas across continents. That exchange fueled the the Great Age of Inventions. Hopefully, MAREA will fuel more than just “binge watching” and a tsunami of selfies.
Cyrus West Field was a self-made millionaire from the paper industry who became obsessed with wiring the world. Never mind that he had no knowledge of submarine cables or deep-sea ventures.
1854: Cyrus West Field invested a considerable sum of his own money and raised funds from investors. He formed The Atlantic Telegraph Company and secured a charter to lay a line across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.
1857: Cyrus West Field and his company began the first of four unsuccessful attempts to lay the great cable.
July, 1858: Four great British and American ships met in the middle of the Atlantic, each with a load of cable. The ships were the Niagra, the Agamemnon, the Gorgon and the Valorous.
August 5, 1858: 2,000 miles of cable were successfully laid across the Atlantic at depths up to two miles.
August 16, 1858: Queen Victoria sent a message of approximately 100 words to U.S. President James Buchanan. It took nearly seventeen hours.
The shorter reply from Buchanan back to the Queen took only ten hours.
September, 1858: The first transatlantic cable failed.
1858-66: Cyrus West Field continued his efforts towards completion of the Transatlantic Cable.
July 27, 1866: The largest ship in the world, the Great Eastern, succeeded in laying the first permanent telegraph line across the Atlantic Ocean.
Cyrus West Field continued his quest to connect the world with telegraph lines from Hawaii to Asia and Australia.
From the language of the joint press release from Facebook and Microsoft, you would almost believe that MAREA was a brand new idea. MAREA will be “the first to connect the United States to southern Europe, from the data hub of Northern Virginia to Bilbao, Spain and then to network hubs in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.”
Okay, the route might be a little different, but it’s still following in some big 150-year-old footsteps.
In an era of cell towers and satellites and wi-fi, why drag a super cable across the bottom of the ocean? It seems our appetite for data storage is out of control and the cloud is ready to burst.
All forms of communication are vulnerable to attack or just plain old-fashioned disaster, so it’s best to diversify. As it turns out, the existing transatlantic cables are more vulnerable than we think. One perfectly positioned earthquake, nuclear bomb or even an anchor or shark could be disastrous to the flow of ideas around the world. What would we do without all those selfies?
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