The World of Deep-Sea Electronics

Currently our oceans cover more than seventy percent of the Earth’s surface and despite the billions of humans scattered around the planet, most life on earth is aquatic. For many people, the ocean is associated with beach holidays and relaxing swims. However, the reality is much more than that. According to National Geographic, we have only explored about 5% of the world’s oceans. Most oceans we have already explored are either scenic holiday destinations, transportation routes (cruises, cargo ships etc), habitat management areas, cabling or renewable energy sources. Within this article, I will guide you through how deep-sea electronics contribute to a safer, environmentally friendly and more connected world.

Climate Change Analysis

Climate change is a huge topic nowadays. According to WIRED, extreme weather is driving up demand for energy. Carbon emissions from global energy use jumped two per cent in 2018, according to BP’s annual world energy study. This was the fastest growth in seven years and is roughly the carbon equivalent to increasing the number of passenger cars worldwide by a third. We measure carbon emissions by infrared gas sensors. The sensors measure carbon dioxide based on its characteristic absorption spectra and are used to evaluate the air-sea flux of the gas. When C02 is pumped into the atmosphere, the ocean would soak up the carbon dioxide. Subsea electronics are a great way to detect climate change and predict abnormal changes / events.

Renewable Energy

There are five kinds of sea-based renewable energy sources: wave power, tidal power, marine current power, ocean thermal energy and osmotic power. The best-known renewable energy source within the sea would most likely be wave power. It works like this – machines called wave energy converters (WECs) are deposited on the seabed and convert wave energy into power. The power generated is then transferred to power lines through cabling. These are a great way to contribute to a greener planet and use less fossil fuels.

Pipelines and Cabling

Subsea cables have developed tremendously over the decades. According to Ultra Map, the first transatlantic communications cable was completed in the summer of 1858, running under the ocean between Ireland and Newfoundland. That cable took four years to build and lasted for less than a month. It took another six years before another line was set up so telegraph messages could cross the Atlantic again. However, calculated in 20217, there were over 428 subsea cables in service scattered around the world and spanning over 1.1 million kilometres. According to NEC, the deepest part of the submarine cable between Japan and the U.S. is about 8,000 meters below sea level (in the Japan Trench). That’s almost as deep as Mount Everest is high.

Subsea cabling are large cables which are laid on the seabed and carries telecommunication signals. The cables are laid down by specially modified ships which plant the cables on the seabed. According to Independent, cable ships can do anywhere from 100-150km of cable laying per day. Newer ships and ploughs now do about 200km of cable laying per day. The advanced electronics we have nowadays means we can precisely lay the cables and have a successful result.

Transportation Routes

Electronics in the ocean are useful for transportation routes. For example, sensors on ships are used to track nearby debris, possible danger, navigation and passing transport. There are technical electronics such as ECDIS on ships which is used for navigation. ECDIS provides an accurate, as-live account of their position and surroundings. This eliminates the risk of misreading a map or losing the plotted route. According to Cruise 1st, sensors fitted aboard the ships have been carefully placed to provide a comprehensive insight into the movement of the ship – which helps navigators judge suitable turning rates, allowable drafts and other manoeuvrability factors.

Aquatic Welfare

A little while back, there was a documentary called ‘Dolphins: Spy in the Pod’, where robots were disguised as aquatic animals in order to seek insight on how the specific species survive and thrive. There were 13 species manufactured – including squid, tuna, turtles and squid and distributed into the ocean. The bots were successful at accessing information on how the aquatic creatures thrive and what can be done to protect them. The technology used for this experiment would have been sensor based to establish water temperature, transportation routes and proximity to other species.

Tracking marine life is a great way to access what underwater life really is like and how we can protect their population. Understanding and predicting animal movement using the latest technology is a strenuous task due to many factors. What if the electronic device malfunctions or accidently harms aquatic life? What if it becomes lost in the ocean bed? According to National Geographic, Dan Costa and colleagues summarized new insights in the migrations of large pelagic marine animals arising using electronic tagging (acoustic and satellite telemetry). Costa and colleagues reviewed how tagging studies are permitting scientists to understand how movements and habitat use are influenced by environmental (e.g. temperature, chlorophyll) and biological variables (e.g. prey availability). Overall, electronics are a great way to access aquatic data due to the sheer accuracy and performance.

Marine Warfare Technology

Marine subsea technology is extremely important for the protection and safety of countries and organisations. Subsea electronics such as naval mines are located deep in the oceans and is a self-contained explosive device. They were used in WW1 to damage and destroy ships and submarines. According to Popsci, in the lead-up to the cancelled invasion of the home islands of Japan in World War II, the U.S. Navy dumped close to 25,000 mines in the water as part of 1945’s Operation Starvation.

Submarines are also used in the marine warfare. According to Wikipedia, there are three major types of submarines in the United States Navy: ballistic missile submarines, attack submarines, and cruise missile submarines. Submarines travel deep in the ocean and are equipped with the most technical electronics which include advanced sensors and powerful cameras. According to Soft Schools, many submarines can carry up to 100 people and can spend three months underwater thanks to the advanced electronics that comes with it.

Historical Uncovering’s – Titanic

For those who don’t know, Titanic was a British White Star Line ship which collided with an iceberg in the early hours of April 15th, 1912 and sunk. The large ship remains at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, around 12,500 feet below sea level. It is said that there were 2,224 passengers and crew – more than 1,500 of which died. Despite the wreckage being so deep in the ocean, the latest technology means we can physically view the Titanic and uncover its lost parts. Knorr, a large ship, has travelled thousands of miles to conduct ocean research. The Research Vessel Knorr is owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution under charter agreement for the American ocean research community. Argo, the system of television cameras and sonars that helped find the Titanic, was named by Titanic expedition leader Robert Ballard. DSV Alvin was another electronic device used to research the titanic. Alvin was ideal as divers and researchers could physically travel down to see Titanic. A typical eight-hour dive takes two scientists and a pilot as deep as 4,500 meters (14,764 feet) in this device. Thanks to these advanced electronic devices – we are able to explore the wreckage remains and educate ourselves on the ship itself.

By Amy Leary, Marketing Manager at

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