SAN DIEGO – The Navy says a trained dolphin has found a 130-year-old torpedo off the San Diego coast.
U-T San Diego reported that the 19th-century Howell torpedo was found in March near Hotel del Coronado as the dolphin was being trained by the Navy to find undersea objects, including mines, that not even billion-dollar technology can detect.
“Dolphins naturally possess the most sophisticated sonar known to man,” Braden Duryee, an official at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific told reporters after the surprising discovery.
While not as well-known as the Gatling gun and the Sherman tank, the Howell torpedo was hailed as a breakthrough when the U.S. was in heavy competition for dominance on the high seas. It was the first torpedo that could truly follow a track without leaving a wake and then smash a target, according to Navy officials.
The Howell was the Navy’s first self-propelled torpedo. The 11-foot-long brass weapon was driven by a flywheel and contained 100 pounds of explosive. Fifty were made in the 1870s and 1880s. The Navy says only two have ever been recovered.
The newly discovered torpedo’s tail and midsection were found, but not the warhead. The torpedo pieces were lifted to the surface and taken to a Navy base for cleaning and to await shipment to the Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard.
It’s unclear how this one wound up off San Diego.