Sea Technology

SEP 2013

The industry's recognized authority for design, engineering and application of equipment and services in the global ocean community

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US Navy Howell Torpedo Discovered by Dolphins Trained Mammals Find 19th-Century Weapon Offshore San Diego By Blair Atcheson I n March 2013, during a routine training exercise, dolphins in the U.S. Navy's Marine Mammal Program made a surprising discovery: a rare 19th-century torpedo. While working off the coast of San Diego, California, two dolphins indicated the presence of an unknown buried object. Subsequently investigated and recovered by Navy divers, the object turned out to be a 110-year-old Howell torpedo developed by the U.S. Navy. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacifc (SSC Pac) contacted the Naval History & Heritage Command's (NHHC) Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) about the discovery. Shortly thereafter, arrangements were made to transport the artifact to NHHC's Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory in Washington, D.C., for stabilization and conservation treatment. (Photo Credit: MC2 David Cothran) Discovery The U.S. Navy has worked with dolphins for many years and established an entire program, aptly named the Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP), dedicated to the study, training and care of marine mammals, under the direction of the Biosciences Division at SSC Pac. Through NMMP, bottlenose dolphins are trained to search for, detect and mark underwater objects, some of which may pose a threat to Navy divers, vessels and the general public. The Navy recognized that not only are dolphins capable of making repeated deep dives, they also have highly sophisticated biological sonar capable of fnding underwater objects that are acoustically diffcult to detect even by the most modern equipment. Dolphins, and other marine mammals like the California sea lion, are uniquely effective at locating sea mines so they can be avoided or removed. When training or hunting for sea mines, a dolphin is given a specifc search area and, once completed, reports back to its handler with a specifc response if a target has or has not been detected. In this case, these skills led to an important and unexpected discovery in the feld of underwater archaeology. (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy, MC2 David Cothran) (Top) Howell torpedo No. 24 arrives May 30, 2013 at the Naval History & Heritage Command's Archaeology & Conservation Lab, located at the Washington Navy Yard. (Bottom) Naval History & Heritage Command underwater archaeologists and conservators prepare the midsection of Howell torpedo No. 24 for stabilization and conservation treatment. During what began as a daily training exercise, dolphins detected the presence of an unidentifed mine-like object. Handlers were not aware of any known object in the area, but instructed the dolphin to mark the object's position on the seafoor. Navy divers investigated the site and recovered September 2013 / st 17

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