clock menu more-arrow no yes

Thin underwater cables hold the internet. See a map of them all.

We think the internet’s in the cloud. But really, it’s in the ocean.

These thin underwater cables are the circulatory system of the global internet — while we get our GIFs and videos from fiber optic cables and cellphone towers, high-speed international information is transferred almost entirely under the sea.

For all the talk of a wireless world, fiber optic cables are still the fastest way to move large amounts of information. Even though covering the ocean floor with cables is a complex, laborious task, it’s worth it for the gains in international communication speed.

It’s these cables that distribute 99 percent of international data and drive everything from high-frequency trading (around the Arctic) to a range of high-tech consumer internet services.

It’s not a new idea, either — undersea cables have been around since the telegraph, with the first trans-Atlantic cable laid in 1858. Ever since we first developed electronic communication, we’ve sought new ways to shrink the time between two points. And the best and easiest way just happens to be underwater.

You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube. And if you’re interested in supporting our video journalism, you can become a member of the Vox Video Lab on YouTube.