Dolphins Branch Out into Underwater Archaeology
Navy SEALs get a lot of accolades, but Navy dolphins are nothing to sneeze at, either. In April, a pair of U.S. Navy–trained bottlenoses succeeded in making an amazing undersea find off Coronado Island, California: a rare torpedo relic from the 19th century.
The Howell torpedo represented the cutting edge of weapon technology in the 1880s; it was the first torpedo capable of tracking a target without leaving a telltale wake. The 11-foot, flywheel-driven brass torpedo sped at 25 knots to a range of 400 yards. Though it was a milestone invention, the Howell was surpassed by another company’s torpedo that managed not only to replicate but improve on the Howell’s breakthrough innovations.
Until the recent dolphin discovery, only two of the historically important yet extremely scarce Howell torpedoes were believed to still be in existence—one at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Washington, the other at the Naval War College Museum in Newport, Rhode Island.