Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
The Military

Military Dolphins Discover 1800s Torpedo 112

First time accepted submitter The0retical writes "A couple of mine-sweeping dolphins dredged up what is known as a 'Howell torpedo' dating from 1870 to 1889. Only 50 were ever produced, this being the second example known to exist. The 11-foot-long brass torpedo had a maximum range and speed of 400 yards at 25 knots. The new example will be displayed at Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Wash. alongside the only other example."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Military Dolphins Discover 1800s Torpedo

Comments Filter:
  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @07:13PM (#43770055) Homepage

    What was left unsaid (by the dolphins) was how many times the critters have found 'unintended' things and not told their handlers about it, but instead squirreled it away to their underwater hideout, planning for the eventual overthrow of human kind. They just felt that since this was so old and unusable, there was no harm in telling the Navy guys.

    Besides, they were hungry and wanted a snack.

  • by Fluffeh ( 1273756 ) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @07:14PM (#43770059)

    From the LA times [latimes.com].

    Serious editors, that link is even provided at the bottom of the crappy summary article you folks pointed to - and it is MUCH more in-depth.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      When they said that nobody reads TFA, they really meant it:
      NOBODY reads TFA! Not even the editors.

      And if you were wondering why the summaries are so bad... ;)

      • by jonfr ( 888673 ) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @09:35PM (#43770677) Homepage

        You are mistaken, there are no editors on Slashdot.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Somebody said that we should get Bucket, Cleverbot, Dante, A.L.I.C.E, ELIZA, Dr. Sbaitso, and all the other chat bots together and make out own site, used, controlled and ruled by chat bots.
          Somebody else said that already happened. And the submissions were the best he’d ever seen.

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Somebody said that we should get Bucket, Cleverbot, Dante, A.L.I.C.E, ELIZA, Dr. Sbaitso, and all the other chat bots together and make out own site, used, controlled and ruled by chat bots.

            But we already have Reddit.

      • by zipn00b ( 868192 )
        Slashdot isn't about TFA - it's about the commentary!
        If you're going to read TFA then you don't need slashdot...............
    • We heard you like summaries, so we summarized your summery.

      I guess even the editors are in on the meme.
    • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @08:45PM (#43770425) Journal

      Meant to be launched from above the water or submerged torpedo tubes, the Howell torpedo was made of brass, 11 feet long, driven by a 132-pound flywheel spun to 10,000 rpm before launch. It had a range of 400 yards and a speed of 25 knots.

      Clever design. The energy in the flywheel was used for propulsion, but it also created a gyroscopic effect that helped it track in a straight line.

      • by adolf ( 21054 ) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Sunday May 19, 2013 @10:55PM (#43771011) Journal

        Perhaps only clever in modern parlance; there was a time where flywheels were very, very common for energy storage. (And no, I don't mean the one between the engine in your car and the transmission.)

        That said: It spun at 10k RPM before launch, which also seems mighty nifty for the time until one realizes that the bearings only have to work once...

    • Thanks for that. It's an engineering work of art. Very impressive.

  • Wait, dolphins? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quinn_Inuit ( 760445 ) <Quinn_InuitNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Sunday May 19, 2013 @07:31PM (#43770127)
    We have mine-sweeping dolphins that actually find stuff? That strikes me as way more important than the torpedo. It's not that the torpedo is unimportant, but we've got one of those already.
    • Re: Wait, dolphins? (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheGreenNuke ( 1612943 ) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @07:57PM (#43770225)
      They operate as part of the US Navy Marine Mammal Program [navy.mil] In the early days of the program, various marine mammal species were considered including: killer whales, pilot whales, belugas (white whales), Steller sea lions, grey seals and fur seals. Other animals were used in various studies pertaining to locating personnel from downed aircraft and creating effective shark deterrents to protect them until they could be rescued.
      • by funky49 ( 182835 )

        "creating effective shark deterrents"

        Just say it... creating effecting shark repellents.

        • by zipn00b ( 868192 )
          Deterrent is probably a good way of putting it since dolphins typically take advantage of an opportunity to attack a shark. I've seen some stories of divers "rescued" by dolphins in what may have been more of a "Oh look! A SHARK!!! I HATE those things!!" than a "Oh look! A human in trouble! I must rescue them!" situation. And sharks may be just intelligent enough to not want to attempt to attack somebody with a dolphin swimming around them.
        • They had a whole range of them - Barracuda, Whale, Manta-ray and Shark repellent.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJlHjf_E--4 [youtube.com]

      • creating effective shark deterrents

        The project failed because they couldn't find an effective way to counter the laser beam.

    • I was surprised to hear this as well. I knew they could train dolphins to do various things, but I thought it was more of a parlor trick and less something genuinely useful could come of it.

    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      The Soviet dolphin paratroopers mentioned in an article linked to by this one sound cooler to me though :).

    • We have mine-sweeping dolphins that actually find stuff? .

      The navy also has special units of seals, I heard.
      I guess they're switching to dolphins because they're just as cute but less smelly.

  • So pissed. Soooo pissed.
  • You can listen to an NPR piece where the dolphin are interviewed. [npr.org]

  • by gmhowell ( 26755 ) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Sunday May 19, 2013 @08:06PM (#43770249) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, I've got a 'Howell torpedo' myself. Banned by the Geneva Convention as a weapon of mass destruction.


  • Redundancy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 19, 2013 @08:22PM (#43770303)

    Seriously - there are only two in existence, so they're displayed side by side in the same museum?

    How wasteful is that? The US Navy has like a dozen museums, scattered all over the country. Why not share the bounty about a bit?

    • Seriously - there are only two in existence, so they're displayed side by side in the same museum?

      The summary makes that claim, but the linked article does not, stating only that it "will likely be displayed in a museum as well."

    • If you were the last of yout kind, would you want to be alone? Oh, wait, that doesn't make sense...
  • False positives? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kwyj1b0 ( 2757125 ) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @08:36PM (#43770389)

    The LA times report mentions that another dolphin had alerted them a few days ago, but the operator didn't send anyone to check it out because they didn't expect to find anything. Does the system have a large number of false positives?

    • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Monday May 20, 2013 @01:32AM (#43771545) Homepage Journal

      I don't read that as indicating any percentage of false positives. The operator was simply looking for something specific, within a definite area. He KNEW that certain items had been deposited within strictly defined areas. Because this item was found outside of those areas, he wasn't interested enough to investigate. Apparently he recorded and reported the "hit" because days later when another "hit" was made, it was investigated.

      In effect, "They've found something, but I don't think it's what we're looking for."

    • by HKSJoe ( 247147 ) *

      Not typically. MK7 dolphins are trained to discern a mine-like object from junk on the bottom.

  • The new example will be displayed at Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Wash. alongside the only other example

    Oh good. So if you want to see a Howell Torpedo, you're not going to get confused about where to go. These are definitely the people training dolphins to perform military operations.

    "No, ma'am. No dipshit"

    .. William Shatner as Kirk in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

    • by afidel ( 530433 )

      I was kinda thinking the same thing, why not ship this second one off to the naval museum in D.C. so people on the east coast can access one without flying 3,000+ miles?

  • Reminds me how Ali G was wondering why ATF are using dogs, instead of dolphins, who are much smarter.
  • Makes no Sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by craigminah ( 1885846 ) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @09:26PM (#43770629)
    So only two are known to exist? Why display them both at the same location? Do people who see one need to see the other or can you share your rare discovery with more than one museum? I'd think having the only two torpedoes of a type at the same location would risk losing them both if something were to happen to that facility (e.g. fire).
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      From TFA: "The newly discovered Howell will likely be displayed in a museum as well.". In other words: it will likely not be displayed in the same museum.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      At a guess the same people that restored the other one can get to work on this one. Restoring stuff that has been underwater for some time to the point where it can safely go on display for years without falling apart is not trivial. For instance a cannon recovered from the sea bed needed a few years in a chemical bath before it could withstand being exposed to air and humidity without the diffused sodium ions within corroding it at a rapid rate.
  • The article links to several articles about bizarre and creative uses for dolphins. I guess those hours spent playing Red Alert 2 taught me more about reality than just the fact that women named Tanya are hot.
  • ...is the sound of the entire steampunk community collectively jizzing its pants.

  • Maybe these dolphins could be used to locate the the missing Mark 15 nuclear bomb? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1958_Tybee_Island_mid-air_collision [wikipedia.org]
    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      I think the Dolphins already found that one and are keeping it hidden away. Just in case they don't get their fish bonus. The navy better not hold out on them.

    • On a trip to Savannah last year, as we were passing Tybee Island, I told my wife about this. She had absolutely zero idea that this had ever happened, and couldn't believe that there isn't more being done to find the bomb. Frankly, I'm in the same boat as her, though Charleston would at least be out of the initial blast radius!

      • by Isaac-Lew ( 623 )
        I would think that the detonators would have been long corroded by now, & that a bigger issue would be radiation leaking from the bomb.
        • Actually, the entirety of the bomb casing is completely water and airtight, so the detonators would be included within that casing, and would not be susceptible to corrosion, had they been inserted into the casing. The official testimony on this is that the nuclear capsule was not inserted into the bomb itself, thus, it could not be detonated as a nuclear weapon. Of course, if the high explosives were to detonate, it would still be a 'dirty bomb' of sorts.

          The most important part of this is that if the bom

  • I highly recommend the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Washington. (Well only if you are into technology) There is a fair bit of history on display there. More than just weapons. http://www.navalunderseamuseum.org/ [navalunderseamuseum.org]
  • I thought the US Navy had stopped with the use of Dolphins for military purposes. From what I heard they weren't quite reliable and prone to mind their own business and games, even swimming away when they fancied. And I even heard about some incidents in which dolphins and seals brought (fake) explosives to their handlers, which would have been fatal in a real case. Far from a good use for the citizen's taxes.

    Reading between the lines what I see here is an attempt of putting a controversial project into a p

  • The site seeing vessel named 'The Minnow' has been sunk shortly after leaving Hawaii when it was hit by a Howell torpedo. Missing presumed dead are Captain Jonas Grumby, first mate Willie Gilligan, the movie star Ginger Grant, a professor named Roy Hinkley, a farm girl named Mary Ann Summers, as well as Eunice Wentworth Howell, and the owner of the Howell Torpedo company Thurston Howell the 3rd. The company has said that in light of the accident they will no longer be selling the torpedoes. Though they s

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen