Navy Dolphins Make Amazing Torpedo Find
Discover rare 19th-century device; only 2 now in existence
By John Johnson, Newser Staff | Suggested by JoeQ
Posted May 19, 2013 6:26 AM CDT
Updated May 19, 2013 8:30 AM CDT
File image of wild dolphins.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – The discovery itself is notable enough: Navy specialists found a rare torpedo off the San Diego coast, an 11-foot brass gem called the Howell that dates back 130 years or so and was one of the first torpedoes to propel itself, reports dvids. Only 50 were made, and only one other one still exists. But what makes the story even better is that the Navy specialists who found it were trained dolphins, reports the Los Angeles Times. "Dolphins naturally possess the most sophisticated sonar known to man," explains a specialist at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific. "We've never found anything like this," says the head of the Navy's marine mammal program. "Never."

Give credit to dolphins Ten and Spetz for finding the torpedo, stamped "USN No. 24," and then directing human divers to the spot. The torpedo, rendered inoperable by its long stay in the ocean, is now being cleaned and readied for display at the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington. “It was the first torpedo that could be released into the ocean and follow a track," says another SSC official, and that made it a state-of-the-art weapon in its day.

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Showing 3 of 26 comments
JoeQ
May 19, 2013 10:11 PM CDT
Yeah, isn't that something? An "132-pound flywheel that was spun to 10,000 rpm" ... they used that rotational kinetic energy to store the translational kinetic energy for the short trip, but only "a range of 400 yards and a speed of 25 knots and a warhead filled with 100 pounds of gun cotton." I'm surprised they didn't use a wind-up spring. http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/350414
Veets
May 19, 2013 8:51 PM CDT
I'm kind of amazed that there were self-propelled torpedos back in 1883? Not long before, in the Civil War, a 'torpedo' meant a stationary naval mine. Apparently it didn't even have an engine, it ran on a cranked-up flywheel.
JERZJOE
May 19, 2013 7:59 PM CDT
JUST REMEMBER THE MOVIE " THE DAY OF THE DOLPHIN" !! SEE IT!! AND YOU'LL SEE WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS!!