NEPTUNE makes repair

A team on the Global Sentinel back in Victoria after repairing a faulty connection that caused a complete network shutdown on Sept. 20.

When there’s a power failure in our neighbourhoods we know that hydro crews will find and repair the problem as quickly as possible. But what happens when there’s a massive power outage on the world’s largest subsea cabled network?

How do you fix something that extends hundreds of kilometres into the deep ocean?

Chalk up another world-first for the NEPTUNE Canada cabled observatory network. Earlier this week a team on the cable ship Global Sentinel arrived back in Victoria after successfully repairing a faulty connection that caused a complete network shutdown on Sept. 20.

Within 24 hours of the shutdown, engineers from NEPTUNE Canada and equipment provider Alcatel-Lucent had traced the problem to the Folger node site near Bamfield where instruments monitor coastal processes.

They then rerouted power and data from the rest of the network to flow in the opposite direction around the 800-km loop while arrangements were made to get a ship to the Folger site.

The mission confirmed the initial diagnosis—a faulty branching unit, which was replaced using a remotely operated vehicle. The estimated $1-million cost of the repair is covered under NEPTUNE Canada’s maintenance budget.

“Faults such as this are to be expected on subsea cable networks and they underscore the pioneer nature of our work,” says Dr. Kate Moran, director of NEPTUNE Canada.

“Experience gained from this repair will be shared with builders of similar systems all over the world, in particular by researchers in the U.S. who have just completed the first phase of installing a complementary subsea system scheduled to go online by 2014.”

Throughout the repair there was no loss to NEPTUNE Canada’s data archives and all instruments on the network are now back online.

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