Original Article from and credit to ISP Review: https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2020/08/snorkelling-engineer-reconnects-broken-subsea-fibre-in-scotland.html
It’s not often that you see a lone Openreach broadband engineer, stood atop a ladder and surrounded by water some 30 metres off the shore. But that’s exactly what John McConnell found himself doing after a tiny island in the middle of Loch Lomond (Scotland) was cut off, which needed an awkward cable to be fixed.
The 1 mile long Inchfad Island is currently home to just two premises and they’re connected via a subsea fibre cable that links back to the mainland about 700-800 metres away via the beach at Balmaha. Sadly, this service was recently disrupted after a group of campers, who were staying on that same beach, tugged up the cable and broke the connection.
Luckily one of Openreach’s local engineers, John McConnell, also happened to be a member of the Dumbarton sub-aqua club and came up with a way of using those additional skills to solve the problem. In short, this meant swimming out to where the damage had occurred (he had to find that in murky water) and then hauling the cable up over his ladder in order to repair it.
“Donning his dry suit, snorkel and flins under the watchful eye of his engineering buddy Gary Lamb, John carried out a full risk assessment and underwater survey. Then, to the amazement of local fishermen, he anchored his ladder to use as a table to repair the damage above water, as his red toolbox floated alongside,” said a suitably proud Openreach spokesperson.
John, 62, from Dumbarton, said:
“I’ve been with Openreach for 40 years and a diver for 10 – and this was my most unusual assignment yet. The households on the island are very isolated and finding where the damage lay was vital to get their services restored quickly. At one point two fishermen pulled alongside in their boat to see what was going on. They were amazed to see an engineer standing on a ladder 30 metres from the shore. Visibility wasn’t great under the water, but I’d seen enough to know they weren’t going to catch any fish there!”
The armoured subsea cable has now been secured with underwater concrete blocks, which should help to reduce the chances of such damage happening again in the future.