You often hear about dolphins being intelligent and trained to help humans, but the United States Navy takes it to the next level. The military branch currently trains them to protect a quarter of the entire U.S. nuclear stockpile.
Yes, you read that correctly. Twenty miles from Seattle lies Naval Base Kitsap. Besides serving as a base, it also functions as the first line of defense for the Navy’s dolphins and sea lions. Military.com reports the Navy has actually been training them since 1967 for military applications. These include mine clearing, force protection, and recovery missions. As it happens, Bangor Washington contains the biggest single nuclear weapons site in the world and what better way to protect it than dolphins.
As stated, the dolphins protect the stockpile from a multitude of threats. For example, when protecting the harbor and ships from mines, they use their innate biological sonar. This allows them to detect danger, whether it’s on the seafloor or even under sediment. Once they discover a mine, they return to their handlers who give them a buoy to mark the location on the water’s surface. Ships passing by then know to avoid the marker while the Navy investigates.
When it comes to enemy divers, dolphins will swim up to the intruder and bump into them. While doing this, they place a buoy on their back or a limb using their mouth. This drags the diver to the surface for capture. Sea lions do something similar, but with a kind of handcuff with their mouths.
The Navy states Bangor needs protection from all sides, including the sea, making dolphins crucial allies.
UK Dolphins Aid Rescuers and Find a Missing Man More Than 2 Miles Off the Coast
While training dolphins is standard practice in the United States, the UK may want to adopt a similar policy. Last year, dolphins helped save a man 2 miles off the Irish coast.
According to BBC, a swimmer off the Irish coast went missing for nearly 12 hours. The outlook initially proved grim, but a lifeboat crew’s attention soon turned to a pod of dolphins. Among them, RNLI volunteers spotted the exhausted swimmer among them.
“At 20:30, the volunteer lifeboat crew with Fenit RNLI spotted a pod of dolphins and a head above the water about two-and-a-half miles off Castlegregory beach,” the RNLI reported. “The casualty was conscious and immediately recovered onto the lifeboat and brought Fenit Harbour to be taken to hospital.”
As it turns out, this same dolphin pod has frequently been seen off the Irish coast since 2019. Included in the group is a dolphin scientists named Spirtle, who survived a terrible sunburn while being stranded on mudflats in 2016.
Perhaps she was simply returning the favor by saving a human after being saved herself.