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HAIS Cable for Operation Pluto - English Channel

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Development of HAIS Underwater Cable

Cable ship for Operation Pluto
Photo is a still from from Universal Studios Newsreel June 4, 1945, Victory Pipeline and shows a laying vessel beached at low tide, while laying the shore end line of the cross-channel pipeline at Cherbourg. The line was eventually extended inland through a network of pipes and pumps.

Once it had been determined to lay a fuel line under the English Channel to supply the WWII Allied forces in their attack at Normandy, the problem of finding an adequate pipeline was tackled. It needed to be flexible, yet strong enough to withstand enough pressure on the inside to pump the fuel, and to stand up to the outside water pressure at the bottom of the English Channel. Two types were eventually used; HAIS cable and HAMEL steel pipe.

Underwater telegraph cable was used as a model for the first type, and developed with a hollow lead-pipe in the center by Hartley of Anglo-Iranian, and Siemens Co. whose combined initials gave it the name HAIS cable. Insulation and armor was added for additional protection. It was decided to use multiple lines of 3" cable to accommodate the amount of fuel that would be needed.

Successful tests on HAIS cable were made in the Bristol Channel, where continuous pumping was done fore several months. A bomb dropped near the cable by a German air raid allowed the developers to check how the cable would hold up to depth-charges, which it did quite well.1

Laying the HAIS cable across the English Channel

It was determined that the cable could be laid across the Channel using cable-laying ships and converted cargo ships which would pay out the line as they traveled the distance between France and England. The ends of the lines were marked by buoys at a point where the shallow water depth prohibited the larger ship from continuing. Smaller ships or barges connected shore end cable at low tide and continued the line to land at high tide.

The first successful HAIS cable was laid on September 22, 1944, between Sandown on the Isle of Wight and Cherbourg, France after an unsuccessful line was laid on August 10. It took approximately 10 hours to lay this 70 mile line. When Boulogne fell to the Allies on September 25, 1944, HAIS cable was laid the 31 miles2 across the Strait of Dover, to Boulogne, France.

HAIS Cable and HAMEL Steel Pipe

Because of a projected shortage of lead and as a possible backup if the cable did not test well, an alternative material was sought. Steel pipes were developed and tested that would meet the requirements of an undersea fuel line. The steel pipes were laid along side the HAIS cable at both locations mentioned above, but the steel pipe, called HAMEL, required a novel method be developed in order to be laid across the Channel.

Eventually two HAIS cables and six HAMEL pipes were laid to the Cherbourg location and eleven HAIS and six HAMEL lines were laid to the Boulogne location.

1Adrian Searle, PLUTO, Pipe-Line Under the Ocean. Isle of Wight: Shanklin Chine, 1995. p.29.

2ARNOLD KRAMMER, "Operation PLUTO: A Wartime Partnership for Petroleum", Technology and Culture, Vol. 33, No. 3 (Jul., 1992). p.462.