3600km across the ocean to a quiet Rarotonga beach

Thursday January 09, 2020 Written by Published in National
(From left to right) Lightweight cable for deep water (19mm); double steel armoured cable for inshore/lagoon (30mm). 20010817. (From left to right) Lightweight cable for deep water (19mm); double steel armoured cable for inshore/lagoon (30mm). 20010817.

Cook Islands is now hooked up to the world through a 3600km undersea cable just 19mm thick – barely the breadth of an adult’s thumb.

Faster and “cheaper” internet in the Cook Islands is a step closer to reality after the landing of the Manatua submarine cable at Rutaki yesterday.

The fibre optic cable was brought ashore from specialist cable laying vessel SubCom Reliance, anchored just outside of Rutaki lagoon. Earlier, they had brought shore another  length of the cable at Aitutaki.

Workers from local contractor T&M Heather Limited and the mainly Malaysian crew from the vessel, including divers, guided the cable ashore. Two excavators helped drag it in through the Rutaki passage.

It was then taken into a manhole and pulled through to a cable landing facility in Aroa.

The cable, as it runs through the Rutaki passage and up the beach, is double steel-armoured and about 30mm thick, to resist damage by fishing boats and other threats.

But the lightweight cable running across the bottom of the Pacific Ocean is half the diameter: 19mm thick, barely the breadth of an adult’s thumb.

Rarotonga is the fourth landing of the Manatua One Polynesia cable system and follows landings in Aitutaki, Samoa, and Niue.  The next landing will see the cable come ashore in Bora Bora and Tahiti in French Polynesia – and only after that can it be switched on.

As Ranulf Scarbrough said: “You’re not going to be watch high-speed streaming movies quite yet!”

Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown and Scarbrough, chief executive of local cable provider Avaroa Cable Ltd, were among the guests who received the fibre optic cable in Rutaki yesterday.

Brown said the cable landing was a milestone moment for the Cook Islands.

“This is three to four years of planning, negotiations, discussions and financing to get to this point where the cable is landing now. It’s a hugely exciting moment for us and it’s actually very timely because it coincides with our graduation as well. This month is exceptional for the Cook Islands,” Brown said.

Scarbrough said the Manatua cable project was a huge engineering exercise.

It is an international collaboration of four nations Cook Islands, Samoa, Niue and French Polynesia and its operators, he said.

“This is a complicated project not just in terms of the engineering but also in terms of contracting and collaboration. This is the first time this sort of collaboration has ever been done in the Pacific, none of those countries could have achieved on their own,” he said.

“By working together we have built a fantastic system that will be transformational for Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and French Polynesia. I think it’s a great model and one to be celebrated and replicated in other projects.”

The Cook Islands portion of the Manatua cable project is funded by the government, New Zealand Aid and Asian Development Bank.

Leave a comment