February 13, 2007

Marine Mammals Reloaded

Well, it's not exactly sharks with fricken' laser beams attached to their fricken' heads, but still very cool.


Anti-terrorist Dolphins and Sea Lions:

Dozens of dolphins and sea lions trained to detect and apprehend waterborne attackers could be sent to patrol a military base in Washington state, the Navy said Monday. In a notice published in this week's Federal Register, the Navy said it needs to bolster security at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, on the Puget Sound close to Seattle.

The base is home to submarines, ships and laboratories and is potentially vulnerable to attack by terrorist swimmers and scuba divers, the notice states.

Several options are under consideration, but the preferred plan would be to send as many as 30 California sea lions and Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins from the Navy's Marine Mammal Program, based in San Diego.

"These animals have the capabilities for what needs to be done for this particular mission," said Tom LaPuzza, a spokesman for the Marine Mammal Program.

LaPuzza said that because of their astonishing sonar abilities, dolphins are excellent at patrolling for swimmers and divers. When a Navy dolphin detects a person in the water, it drops a beacon. This tells a human interception team where to find the suspicious swimmer.

Dolphins also are trained to detect underwater mines; they were sent to do this in the Iraqi harbor of Umm Qasr in 2003. The last time the animals were used operationally in San Diego was in 1996, when they patrolled the bay during the Republican National Convention.

Sea lions can carry in their mouths special cuffs attached to long ropes. If the animal finds a rogue swimmer, it can clamp the cuff around the person's leg. The individual can then be reeled in for questioning.

Details at the official Navy website. Sweet.

Yips! from Robbo: Whew! When I saw the post title, I thought this was going to be some kind of Ricky Williams snark.

Posted by Gary at February 13, 2007 08:54 AM | TrackBack

It's all well and good now, but just wait for the Day of the Dolphin.

Posted by: rbj at February 13, 2007 09:24 AM

The dolphins are also trained to pull the air hoses off of scuba equipment, forcing a diver to surface. There is no way a human is agile enough in the water to come out first in the game of keep away.

One Navy UDT diver of my acquaintance used to train with them. He never won. His usual comment about dolphins was limited to: "damn fish".

Posted by: John at February 13, 2007 10:00 AM

My hunch is this is already operational. Big news back in the Mystic area was how all the dolphins went on "sabbatical" right after 9/11, replaced by sea lions in the daily show.

Posted by: Steve the LLamabutcher at February 13, 2007 10:01 AM

Steve - the dolphins never came back, and one of the sea lions happens to be a retired Navy animal. Coincidence?

Posted by: John at February 13, 2007 10:48 AM