I was reading an article in the press this week about a project to lay an undersea cable across the Tasman Sea. The ship had had to return to port for repairs and return to complete the job later.

This got me wondering: how does the ship secure the end of the laid cable, and how does it retrieve the cable to continue the cable-laying operation?

In this instance it was a fibre-optic cable for telecoms use - would there be differences for other cable types?

Similarly, I imagine that very long cable runs (e.g. trans-Pacific) would need to be laid in more than one piece. Would similar techniques be used, or would some different approach be used for planned breaks?

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    $\begingroup$ The technology for retrieving cables hasn't changed much since the first cables were laid 150 years ago. You drag a grappling hook over the sea bed, and when it catches on something you haul it up and see if you caught what you were looking for. Of course with modern GPS navigation, it's a lot easier to know exactly where you are when doing this than it used to be. There are specialized ships used only for retrieving and repairing damaged cables rather than laying new ones, since the repair ship doesn't need to carry a long cable on board and therefore can be smaller and more manoeuverable. $\endgroup$ – alephzero Jan 16 '17 at 2:16
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    $\begingroup$ If you don't lose the end accidentally you can simplify the process with a line and a buoy. $\endgroup$ – Brian Drummond Jan 16 '17 at 11:57
  • $\begingroup$ Or you could try to rent the USS Jimmy Carter :-) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Jimmy_Carter $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Jan 16 '17 at 14:52

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