Categorized | Featured, Sci-Tech

Cable linking Tahiti to Hawaii lands in Kawaihae

Dignitaries, workers and representatives from Tahiti and Hawaii commemorate the undersea cable Honotua with a group photo at Spencer Beach Park. Photography by Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7.

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Contributing Editor

Edouard Fritch, vice president of the government of French Polynesia (left) talks to Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi (center) and Hawaii State Senator Kalani English.

The links between Tahiti and Hawaii stretch back further than recorded history. On Monday, March 1, the connection entered the 21st century.

Mayor Billy Kenoi and dignitaries from Tahiti marked the landing of a submarine cable linking the two countries. It is the first Polynesian submarine cable linking French Polynesia (Tahiti) and the U.S.

Sen. Kalani English said the cable symbolizes the two country’s shared past and best future.

English noted the connection used to take weeks in canoes or hours in air travel, but the cable now means communication will move at the speed of light.

The total length of the cable between French Polynesia and its landing spot at Spencer Beach, adjacent to Kawaihae Harbor, is 3,107 miles (5,000 km). At its deepest, the cable lies 19,500 feet (6,000 meters) below the ocean.

The name of the $110 million cable is Honotua.

“Hono translates to ‘link’ and Tua translates to ‘backbone, horizon at sea,'” said Francois Voirin, chairman of the board of Office des Postes et Telecommunications (OPT). “Hawaiians and Tahitians have established links through voyaging canoes long before European explorers. Honotua reestablishes this connection positioning both countries for improved communication technology entirely relevant for the information age.”

Kenoi said the cable is more than just infrastructure, it’s a connection of culture and people.

“The first ancestors of the Hawaiian people arrived from the South Pacific, more specifically from Tahiti. It is an honor for our island to welcome this cable, Honotua, a physical link with our cousins,” he said. “One people, one community, one Pacific.”

The cable also serves as a reminder of where we’ve come from and the responsibilities we have today, Kenoi said.

The Alcatel-Lucent cable laying ship Ile de Ré offshore Spencer Beach Park as an excavator sits on the beach ready to dig a path for the fiber optic cable connected to Tahiti.

Office des Postes and Telecommunications, (Public Service Provider in Postal Services and Telecommunications of French Polynesia, Tahiti), Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Cable Systems, Wavecom Solutions are the key providers.

The cable will allow economic exchange with High Speed Internet Connectivity between French Polynesia and Hawaii, the United States mainland and the rest of world. It will dramatically improve communication services throughout the islands of French Polynesia, and allow more affordable international broadband internet connectivity.

“The possibilities for scientific research, distance learning, cultural exchange and telemedicine are among the opportunities for this region as a result of this historic landing,” said Edouard Fritch, vice president of the government of French Polynesia.

With half the population under the age of 18, Tahiti welcomes the opportunity for this generation to share its creativity and culture.

Testing of the final cable connection begins Tuesday, March 2, with live operation expected in July.

The Honotua project began five years ago. Cable laying started Nov. 24, 2009 on the island of Bora Bora for the domestic link with the French Polynesian Islands of Bora Bora, Raiatea, Huahine, Moorea and Tahiti. The international link began Dec. 19, 2009.

A cultural ceremony and other festivities celebrated the historic event at Puukohola Heiau National Historic Park and Spencer Beach.

During the ceremony, Kenoi accepted a buoy named Kealakahiki (Hawaiian for “the way to Tahiti”) to mark the end of the cable project and the beginning of a new era.

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