Thank God. Coalition forces have finally found a use for dolphins.
Down in San Diego, there’s a water park like no other. It’s not Sea World, a place where killer whales playfully spray children, walruses cavort on stage and kiddies of all ages can pet anything from sea urchins to starfish.
There’s none of that here.
Instead, this is the home of the Navy Marine Mammal Program, established in the early ’60s at Point Mugu, California, which adapts Mother Nature’s designs for human needs. Since its inception, the program has expanded and now calls Point Loma in San Diego home. The Navy took particular interest in the hydrodynamics of the dolphin, as well as its sonar capabilities, which still beat the pants off any sonar system humans have developed.
The dolphins form Marine Mammal Systems, and work as either mine sweepers or guard dogs for coalition ships. For the mines, the dolphins swim down and attach an electronic tag, which allows for a diving crew to go down and clear the mines.
When I was younger, a dolphin at Sea World bit me. No sooner had I slipped the last fish in my bucket into the creature’s mouth did it chomp down on my hand with its tiny, vicious teeth. I never forgave the creature, and have never had much sympathy for their greedy kind ever since, but apparently there are plenty of people upset about the Marine Mammal Program.
In the late 1980s, the Progressive Animal Welfare Society didn’t take to kindly to the whole program and tried suing the Navy in an attempt to keep the dolphins from swimming off to war. Animal rights activists claim that dolphins don’t react very well to the drastic changes in water temperature that come with a mobile naval lifestyle. Some of the dolphins seem to get a bit stressed in their naval outfit, which is understandable – sticking your nose on a deadly device while your human masters wait safely above the water line is a pretty stressful activity.
Dolphins can take comfort in the fact that they’re not the only marine mammals doing the dirty work. The Navy also uses sea lions for similar activities, training them to patrol around boats and harbors looking for dastardly divers and swimmers out to do harm to coalition forces. The sea lions, which have outstanding low-light vision, attach restraining devices and homing sensors onto the trespassers so the good guys can easily find and detain them. If the chase takes to land, the sea lion can blubber along at near-human speeds.
Forget the nonstop news coverage of coalition forces bombing Iraqi and obnoxious reporters riding on top of tanks; I want to see an amorous sea lion tackle an Iraqi trooper. The U.S. could broadcast the footage over and over again in Iraqi with a message saying, “Surrender or else!”
It would shock and awe the hell out of anyone.
Sea lions and dolphins have a short history working in the Navy, starting active duty in the 1970s as patrols for boats stationed around Vietnam. Marine mammals are also no strangers to Iraq, as they were used for surveillance in the Persian Gulf in the late 1980s. They’re also not the only mammals to work for the government.
During the 1960s, according to documents published in the Atlantic Monthly, the CIA did extensive testing on the ability of cats to act as spies. The felines had an electronic listening devices implanted in their bellies and an antennae run up their tails. The outcome? Not so good. The cats worked just great until they either got hungry or bored and walked away.
There’s probably a moral somewhere in all of this. War is bad. Think of the animals. Humans have no regard for nature.
Search me. Like I said, I never cared much for dolphins.
Steven Ruszczycky is the Daily Nexus Opinion editor.