Seismology, volcanology, marine ecology, and oceanic conditions are key to understanding the future of our planet. The EllaLink GeoLab initiative aims to provide the scientific community with real-time, accurate and relevant data on seabed conditions along the EllaLink cable route. EllaLink is the first telecoms submarine cable in the world to integrate SMART cable concepts into their design.
The EllaLink cable runs across the Atlantic from Brazil to Portugal with branches to Madeira and Cabo Verde with future extensions to Canary Islands, French Guyana, Mauritania, Morocco and Southern Brazil. This route provides an excellent opportunity to use advanced in-fibre technologies to monitor both threats to the cable itself and provide valuable data on the wider ocean environment.
EllaLink GeoLab will be capable of supporting a range of sensing technologies, like Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS). Such a technology will turn the fibre optic cable into a sensor in its own right. This will allow the monitoring of integrity threats to the subsea cable and associated infrastructure. These can come from:
- Trawling activities
- Anchor drops
- Dredging activities
- Vortex induced vibration
In addition, technologies such as DAS can detect earthquakes and measure oceanographic conditions such as;
- Ocean currents
- Seabed rockslides etc.
- Monitoring mammal activities
DAS is a coherent OTDR technique where phase modulations of the reflected signal are measured. Any change in fibre strain results in an optical phase delay of light propagating in the strained section of the fibre. Therefore, DAS represents a technique for dynamic monitoring of strain distribution along an optical fibre. These technologies have been tested in-field over short periods and have demonstrated the ability to detect passing large vessels tens of kilometres away and trawler activity more than a kilometre away. In areas of low environmental noise DAS has the potential to detect micro-earthquakes which may provide early warnings of under-sea earthquakes and landslips that generate Tsunami risks.
The first phase of the deployment will be in Funchal, Madeira with further implementations possible at other EllaLink landing points.
The project is a collaboration between EMACOM, FCT and GÉANT to support the global R&E community.
“The commitment of EllaLink and EMACOM to making GeoLab data available to the global scientific community opens up new opportunities for earth observation science. Here at GÉANT, we are excited about the opportunities which this project provides to science and ultimately, the contribution to our understanding of the planet we live on.”
Chris Atherton, Research Engagement Officer, GÉANT