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Navy Trained Dolphins Discover Rare Torpedo

Update Date: May 21, 2013 02:22 PM EDT
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Animals, ranging from dogs to dolphins, have shown incredible levels of intelligence. These animals can be trained by humans to help sniff out bombs, drugs and many other items that a human cannot. In the latest exhibition of extraordinary performance, two navy trained dolphins helped researchers locate a rare 19th century torpedo near the San Diego Coast in California. This torpedo, with 50 of its kind made, will be put on display at the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington.

"It was the first torpedo that could be released into the ocean and follow a track," commented an official at the warfare systems center. These torpedoes were one of the first ones made with the capability of propelling itself. The particular one that the dolphins found, called the Howell, is an 11-feet long brass gem. Although it is inoperable, there are only a few of these torpedoes in museums for people to look at and admire. The Howell is estimated to be around 130 years old.

"We've never found anything like this," said the head of the Navy's marine mammal program. "Never."

The Howell was discovered after two navy dolphins, Ten and Spetz, were out on a mine-hunting exercise. The Space and Naval Warfare System Center Pacific conducted the exercise. During this training exercise, the dolphins started to indicate to the scientists that something was in the water.

"Dolphins naturally possess the most sophisticated sonar known to man," explains a specialist at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific. "

"When there's an object of interest discovered, the dolphin comes over and touches the side of the boat in a manner that indicates a positive contact or a negative contact," explained Chris Harris, operations supervisor for the Navy's Marine Mammal Program. "In this case, the dolphins came over and indicated to the handlers on the boat, 'We found something, this is interesting, you're gonna want to check this out.'"

The Howell will be put on display after it is cleaned. 

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