U.S. enlists dolphins to aid war effort
25th March 2003
UMM QASR, Iraq
Forget precision bombs, unmanned spy-planes and high-tech weaponry, the U.S. army is about to unveil its most unlikely mine detector -- all the way from San Diego, California, the Atlantic Bottle-Nosed Dolphin.
At the southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr, secured by U.S and British forces after days of fighting, soldiers made last-minute preparations on Tuesday for the imminent arrival of a team of specially trained dolphins to help divers ensure the coastline is free of danger before humanitarian aid shipments can dock.
U.S. Navy Captain Mike Tillotson told reporters that three or four dolphins would work from Umm Qasr, using their natural sonar abilities to seek out mines or other explosive devices which Iraqi forces may have planted on the seabed.
"They were flown over on a military animal transporter in fleece-lined slings," Tillotson said. "We keep them in a certain amount of water. They travel very well."
"They will be given restaurant quality food and vitamins, and they will work out of wells which we've set up here."
Tillotson said the dolphins were trained not to swim up to mines, but to place a marker a small distance away, minimizing any danger to themselves.
Several mines were discovered last week on the back of ships along the Faw peninsula, but teams of divers searching around Umm Qasr port since Monday have not found any embedded mines.
Dolphins find mine-clearing role - 31st March 2001