Conflict in Iraq - Dolphins join the coalition
25th March 2003
The U.S. Navy is enlisting dolphins to scour to the sea around Umm Qasr for mines. The animals -- which were flown in from Florida -- are trained to mark mines and detect enemy divers and mine-layers. A multinational unit of frogmen led by an Australian commander is working with the dolphins.
The U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program began in 1959, with researches hoping to improve ship designs by studying dolphins' hydrodynamics. The program was expanded as the Navy recognized a couple advantages -- not only was the dolphins' biological sonar better than mechanical sonar, but the animals could keep making deep dives without suffering "the bends" like human divers. Today, there are four Marine Mammal Systems in use (three with dolphins, one with sea lions) and a high-tech system has been developed to capture even more data on their underwater searches.