In January of this year no less than five internet cables were cut in the Middle East and Europe, causing considerable disruption to traffic through the region’s important call centre industry.
We were told that at least one of these lines was cut by a drifting anchor, and even saw photos of the culprit being pulled out of the water. Whilst one must suppose that a 6 ton anchor can drift across a cable and break it, which did not explain the fate of the other four.
There have been various explanations for the cuts, including sharks (who are apparently attracted to the sounds the cables make) and earthquakes. There were no significant earthquakes in the region when the first set of cables were broken and many articles speculated on the possibility of sabotage.
Less than a year later another three cables are damaged and again the cause is unknown. Repair crews have now reached the damaged cables, but the repairs are not expected to be completed until the end of December. Meanwhile, traffic is being redirected, but this is expected to put a strain on other areas, which may experience a slower than usual performance.
A spokesperson for Interoute said, “It is incredibly rare to experience a dual-break where both cables are down simultaneously,” Louis-Michel Aymard, a spokesman for France Telecom stated, “The cables might have got caught up in trawlers’ nets or there may have been an underwater landslide”
According to one report, problems like this happen to single cables “typically once a year” However, two of the recent cuts are reportedly on cables near Alexandria in Egypt, which oddly enough was the location of two cables (alongside each other) that were first affected in January.
Obviously, such incidents are not as rare as we are led to believe, but what does that mean? Are the cables breaking because of their poor quality, are there more anchors near Egypt than in other areas, are sharks more attracted to the traffic that flows in Mediterranean cables, or has the Loch Ness Monster moved to warmer climates?
With the disruption that these “breaks” cause, it is no wonder that some are concerned that these incidents are not accidents. One can only imagine the chaos a dozen cut cables would bring to world communications and how this might help a possible military attack in the most affected region. Is some unknown power putting this to the test, or is there a more rational explanation for what is happening?