“The Underwater Web: Cabling the Seas” – Smithsonian Library Exhibition

April 21, 2008

In 2001, the Smithsonian Institution sponsored an exhibit on undersea cables, tracing the history of international communications from 1851. At first, these cables carried telegraph messages, subsequently telephone traffic, and now internet data. The subtitle of the exhibition, “How the Old Become New and Other Seeming Contradictions” refers to the “rebirth” of undersea cabling in the form of fiber-optic cables. Now these cables, still predominantly hidden and disregarded in a “wireless age” despite the fact that they channel much of the international communications traffic.

The online version of the exhibition gives an excellent history of the establishment of these cable lines, their inventors, and the technologies that support underwater communication. What is the relationship between underwater media and media in the air? There seems to be an interesting dynamic between the two.

A site of undersea cable maps