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Military Dolphins Discover 1800s Torpedo

timothy posted about a year ago | from the dolphins-what-can't-they-do? dept.

The Military 112

First time accepted submitter The0retical writes "A couple of mine-sweeping dolphins dredged up what is known as a 'Howell torpedo' dating from 1870 to 1889. Only 50 were ever produced, this being the second example known to exist. The 11-foot-long brass torpedo had a maximum range and speed of 400 yards at 25 knots. The new example will be displayed at Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Wash. alongside the only other example."

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112 comments

Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43770033)

...where are the traces of the dolphins they used in the 19th century?

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43770099)

No, but the torpedo was attached to the remains of a shark.

The unwritten story (5, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#43770055)

What was left unsaid (by the dolphins) was how many times the critters have found 'unintended' things and not told their handlers about it, but instead squirreled it away to their underwater hideout, planning for the eventual overthrow of human kind. They just felt that since this was so old and unusable, there was no harm in telling the Navy guys.

Besides, they were hungry and wanted a snack.

Re:The unwritten story (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43770129)

but instead squirreled it away

The squirrels are in on it too? Aww, nuts!
-- posted from my radio tracking collar

Re:The unwritten story (1)

DiEx-15 (959602) | about a year ago | (#43774715)

Too late.

Squirrels are already suicide attacking power lines here. I can name at least three times where a squirrel took out the power after it killed itself by shorting out a substation.

Why should the US worry about domestic terrorists or Chinese hackers when we already have them in our backyards, literally?

Re:The unwritten story (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43770185)

"Sqeeeeek sqeAAAAK fffffZZZZZZZZZZZZZt ssssssssERK! click!"

"Now we just need to wait around until we evolve hands, then THEY'RE DONE FOR!"

Re:The unwritten story (2)

NetNinja (469346) | about a year ago | (#43770981)

So long and thanks for all the fish! If I had just one last wish, I would like a tasty fish. :)

Re:The unwritten story (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43771005)

What was left unsaid (by the dolphins) was how many times the critters have found 'unintended' things and not told their handlers about it, but instead squirreled it away to their underwater hideout, planning for the eventual overthrow of human kind. They just felt that since this was so old and unusable, there was no harm in telling the Navy guys.

Dolphins have a pretty incredible sexual appetite, so it's entirely possible that a dolphin kept a spare torpedo for anal stretching games.

A more informative article link (5, Informative)

Fluffeh (1273756) | about a year ago | (#43770059)

From the LA times [latimes.com] .

Serious editors, that link is even provided at the bottom of the crappy summary article you folks pointed to - and it is MUCH more in-depth.

Re:A more informative article link (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43770311)

When they said that nobody reads TFA, they really meant it:
NOBODY reads TFA! Not even the editors.

And if you were wondering why the summaries are so bad... ;)

Re:A more informative article link (4, Insightful)

jonfr (888673) | about a year ago | (#43770677)

You are mistaken, there are no editors on Slashdot.

Re:A more informative article link (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43771929)

Somebody said that we should get Bucket, Cleverbot, Dante, A.L.I.C.E, ELIZA, Dr. Sbaitso, and all the other chat bots together and make out own site, used, controlled and ruled by chat bots.
Somebody else said that already happened. And the submissions were the best he’d ever seen.

Re:A more informative article link (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43772599)

Somebody said that we should get Bucket, Cleverbot, Dante, A.L.I.C.E, ELIZA, Dr. Sbaitso, and all the other chat bots together and make out own site, used, controlled and ruled by chat bots.

But we already have Reddit.

Re:A more informative article link (1)

zipn00b (868192) | about a year ago | (#43776373)

Slashdot isn't about TFA - it's about the commentary!
If you're going to read TFA then you don't need slashdot...............

Re:A more informative article link (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | about a year ago | (#43770367)

We heard you like summaries, so we summarized your summery.

I guess even the editors are in on the meme.

Re:A more informative article link (5, Interesting)

Dan East (318230) | about a year ago | (#43770425)

Meant to be launched from above the water or submerged torpedo tubes, the Howell torpedo was made of brass, 11 feet long, driven by a 132-pound flywheel spun to 10,000 rpm before launch. It had a range of 400 yards and a speed of 25 knots.

Clever design. The energy in the flywheel was used for propulsion, but it also created a gyroscopic effect that helped it track in a straight line.

Re:A more informative article link (3, Informative)

adolf (21054) | about a year ago | (#43771011)

Perhaps only clever in modern parlance; there was a time where flywheels were very, very common for energy storage. (And no, I don't mean the one between the engine in your car and the transmission.)

That said: It spun at 10k RPM before launch, which also seems mighty nifty for the time until one realizes that the bearings only have to work once...

Re:A more informative article link (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43771367)

Sounds expensive. I wonder how many contemporary 1800s folk complained about those torpedos like we complain about the cost of fighter jets today :)

Re:A more informative article link (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year ago | (#43771539)

Sounds expensive. I wonder how many contemporary 1800s folk complained about those torpedos like we complain about the cost of fighter jets today :)

It was allegedly significantly cheaper than the competitor Whitehead torpedo, which had it's own little engine. The downside of this one was that it was difficult to spin up the flywheel.

Re:A more informative article link (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43773117)

Also significantly faster (25 kts) than Whitehead (7 kts).

Re:A more informative article link (1)

zipn00b (868192) | about a year ago | (#43776421)

Yeah in that time period the torpedoes were typically most effective against stationary targets since they were slower or about the same speed. The faster ones I was looking at info on a while back were typically in the 15 - 18 kt range so that thing would have been a speed demon for the time.
(Part of some "War of the Worlds" research I've done off and on over the past couple decades......)

Easier way. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43770083)

The dolphins themselves follow simple system for alerting the Navy of any found objects. They take a dive and, if they find nothing, touch the back of the boat with their snouts. If they find something, they touch the front of the boat.

yeah know, if they just gave dogs SCUBA gear, the dogs could bark, point, and wag their tails for different things.

Touching the boat with their snouts.

Government!

Re:Easier way. (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year ago | (#43770157)

Are you kidding? Dogs would be too busy trying to pee on everything to mark it, and chasing brightly colored fish around, they wouldn't get much work done. Yes I'm a dog owner lol.

Re:Easier way. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43770189)

Yes I'm a dog owner lol.

Seven puppies were harmed during the making of this post.

What happened during your first six experiments to answer this question that wasn't resolved until the seventh? Just wanted higher statistics?

Re:Easier way. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43770809)

Dogs would be too busy trying to pee on everything to mark it,

Dolphins pee on everything too, but they're sneakier about it.

Underwater patents. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43770121)

Only 50 were made between 1870 and 1889 by a Rhode Island company before a rival copied and surpassed the Howell's capability.

Apparently patents haven't been invented yet.

Re:Underwater patents. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43770205)

Only 50 were made between 1870 and 1889 by a Rhode Island company before a rival copied and surpassed the Howell's capability.

Apparently patents haven't been invented yet.

A patent explains how to build whatever you patent. I wouldn't do that with a superior weapon the enemy didn't know how to build.

Re:Underwater patents. (2)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year ago | (#43770253)

Actually IIRC there were several patents in WWII that were given out in secret by the government for tech that the government deemed to much of a risk to allow to be filed publicly, they kept those patents on ice until they were no longer cutting edge military tech and then allowed those that had secretly filed them to profit from those war time inventions. IIRC a lot of them were early computer designs and things to do with computers that they were afraid the Russians would be able to copy after the war.

Re:Underwater patents. (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#43771343)

There were also a bunch of patents seized by the government, and pulled from the archives
and its not at all clear that the original patent holder was adequately compensated.

In that day this was easy because the there were essentially only a one copy in existence
and the archives hadn't even been microfilmed yet.

Re:Underwater patents. (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year ago | (#43771549)

There was a lawsuit, but the other party was across the sea, making it tricky both from a travel standpoint and from a legal standpoint.

Re:Underwater patents. (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | about a year ago | (#43775587)

a rival copied and surpassed the Howell's capability.

Apparently patents haven't been invented yet.

It was the capability that is reported as copied and then surpassed, not necessarily the method of achieving that capability.

Say that you have a patent on killing mice using a machine-vision system, servos and an air pistol. Great fine and marvellous ; it kills mice.
I come along and think ... "kill mice", and design a method using squeak detectors per-room and a knee-high-to-a-mouse rotating laser system that chops them off at the patella (and elbow).

Have I violated your patent? The normal phrasing of a patent is "A method to achieve X."

Wait, dolphins? (4, Insightful)

Quinn_Inuit (760445) | about a year ago | (#43770127)

We have mine-sweeping dolphins that actually find stuff? That strikes me as way more important than the torpedo. It's not that the torpedo is unimportant, but we've got one of those already.

Re: Wait, dolphins? (5, Informative)

TheGreenNuke (1612943) | about a year ago | (#43770225)

They operate as part of the US Navy Marine Mammal Program [navy.mil] In the early days of the program, various marine mammal species were considered including: killer whales, pilot whales, belugas (white whales), Steller sea lions, grey seals and fur seals. Other animals were used in various studies pertaining to locating personnel from downed aircraft and creating effective shark deterrents to protect them until they could be rescued.

Re: Wait, dolphins? (1)

funky49 (182835) | about a year ago | (#43772453)

"creating effective shark deterrents"

Just say it... creating effecting shark repellents.

Re: Wait, dolphins? (1)

zipn00b (868192) | about a year ago | (#43776457)

Deterrent is probably a good way of putting it since dolphins typically take advantage of an opportunity to attack a shark. I've seen some stories of divers "rescued" by dolphins in what may have been more of a "Oh look! A SHARK!!! I HATE those things!!" than a "Oh look! A human in trouble! I must rescue them!" situation. And sharks may be just intelligent enough to not want to attempt to attack somebody with a dolphin swimming around them.

Re: Wait, dolphins? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43777147)

s/effecting/effective/ retard

Re: Wait, dolphins? (1)

steelfood (895457) | about a year ago | (#43776653)

creating effective shark deterrents

The project failed because they couldn't find an effective way to counter the laser beam.

Re:Wait, dolphins? (1)

flimflammer (956759) | about a year ago | (#43770401)

I was surprised to hear this as well. I knew they could train dolphins to do various things, but I thought it was more of a parlor trick and less something genuinely useful could come of it.

Re:Wait, dolphins? (2)

0123456 (636235) | about a year ago | (#43770835)

The Soviet dolphin paratroopers mentioned in an article linked to by this one sound cooler to me though :).

Dolphin tacos, anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43770247)

n/t

I've got one (4, Funny)

gmhowell (26755) | about a year ago | (#43770249)

Yeah, I've got a 'Howell torpedo' myself. Banned by the Geneva Convention as a weapon of mass destruction.

Re:I've got one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43770329)

Did they also make "Lovee" torpedos?

Re:I've got one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43771227)

Banned by the Geneva Convention as a weapon of mass destruction.

Ahh, so that explains the "world's funniest joke" secret files.

50 or 2? (0, Troll)

MavEtJu (241979) | about a year ago | (#43770289)

"Only 50 were ever produced, this being the second example known to exist."

If there are 50 produced, then there are 50 known to exist.

Re:50 or 2? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43770319)

"Only 50 were ever produced, this being the second example known to exist."

If there are 50 produced, then there are 50 known to exist.

There are 50 known to have existed, but many of them may no longer exist. See, torpedoes occasional blow themselves up, a minor design flaw that means they sometimes stop existing, at least in the form of a torpedo.

Re:50 or 2? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43770325)

Torpedoes tend to explode. Perhaps the other 48 hit targets and exploded? Or just missed and were lost? If lost, they aren't "known to exist" as they could also have exploded.

Re:50 or 2? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43770335)

"Only 50 were ever produced, this being the second example known to exist."

If there are 50 produced, then there are 50 known to exist.

Except for the ones that blew up. Because, you now. Torpedoes.

Redundancy (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43770303)

Seriously - there are only two in existence, so they're displayed side by side in the same museum?

How wasteful is that? The US Navy has like a dozen museums, scattered all over the country. Why not share the bounty about a bit?

Re:Redundancy (2)

el borak (263323) | about a year ago | (#43773959)

Seriously - there are only two in existence, so they're displayed side by side in the same museum?

The summary makes that claim, but the linked article does not, stating only that it "will likely be displayed in a museum as well."

False positives? (5, Insightful)

Kwyj1b0 (2757125) | about a year ago | (#43770389)

The LA times report mentions that another dolphin had alerted them a few days ago, but the operator didn't send anyone to check it out because they didn't expect to find anything. Does the system have a large number of false positives?

Re:False positives? (4, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#43771545)

I don't read that as indicating any percentage of false positives. The operator was simply looking for something specific, within a definite area. He KNEW that certain items had been deposited within strictly defined areas. Because this item was found outside of those areas, he wasn't interested enough to investigate. Apparently he recorded and reported the "hit" because days later when another "hit" was made, it was investigated.

In effect, "They've found something, but I don't think it's what we're looking for."

Re:False positives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43774203)

Which makes one wonder what they ARE looking for...

Re:False positives? (1)

HKSJoe (247147) | about a year ago | (#43773849)

Not typically. MK7 dolphins are trained to discern a mine-like object from junk on the bottom.

Just for the sake of convenience (1)

OhANameWhatName (2688401) | about a year ago | (#43770429)

The new example will be displayed at Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Wash. alongside the only other example

Oh good. So if you want to see a Howell Torpedo, you're not going to get confused about where to go. These are definitely the people training dolphins to perform military operations.

"No, ma'am. No dipshit"

.. William Shatner as Kirk in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Re:Just for the sake of convenience (1)

afidel (530433) | about a year ago | (#43771035)

I was kinda thinking the same thing, why not ship this second one off to the naval museum in D.C. so people on the east coast can access one without flying 3,000+ miles?

Dolphins vs Dogs (1)

ATAMAH (578546) | about a year ago | (#43770513)

Reminds me how Ali G was wondering why ATF are using dogs, instead of dolphins, who are much smarter.

Makes no Sense (5, Insightful)

craigminah (1885846) | about a year ago | (#43770629)

So only two are known to exist? Why display them both at the same location? Do people who see one need to see the other or can you share your rare discovery with more than one museum? I'd think having the only two torpedoes of a type at the same location would risk losing them both if something were to happen to that facility (e.g. fire).

Re:Makes no Sense (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43771837)

From TFA: "The newly discovered Howell will likely be displayed in a museum as well.". In other words: it will likely not be displayed in the same museum.

Re:Makes no Sense (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#43772373)

At a guess the same people that restored the other one can get to work on this one. Restoring stuff that has been underwater for some time to the point where it can safely go on display for years without falling apart is not trivial. For instance a cannon recovered from the sea bed needed a few years in a chemical bath before it could withstand being exposed to air and humidity without the diffused sodium ions within corroding it at a rapid rate.

Dolphins (1)

ChefJeff789 (2020526) | about a year ago | (#43770775)

The article links to several articles about bizarre and creative uses for dolphins. I guess those hours spent playing Red Alert 2 taught me more about reality than just the fact that women named Tanya are hot.

Fucku you wuharu! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43770931)

And FUCKU YOU DORIPHINU!

Missing H-bomb (3, Interesting)

approachingZero (1365381) | about a year ago | (#43771009)

Maybe these dolphins could be used to locate the the missing Mark 15 nuclear bomb? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1958_Tybee_Island_mid-air_collision [wikipedia.org]

Re:Missing H-bomb (2)

amiga3D (567632) | about a year ago | (#43771025)

I think the Dolphins already found that one and are keeping it hidden away. Just in case they don't get their fish bonus. The navy better not hold out on them.

Re:Missing H-bomb (1)

jacknifetoaswan (2618987) | about a year ago | (#43772743)

On a trip to Savannah last year, as we were passing Tybee Island, I told my wife about this. She had absolutely zero idea that this had ever happened, and couldn't believe that there isn't more being done to find the bomb. Frankly, I'm in the same boat as her, though Charleston would at least be out of the initial blast radius!

Re:Missing H-bomb (1)

Isaac-Lew (623) | about a year ago | (#43775221)

I would think that the detonators would have been long corroded by now, & that a bigger issue would be radiation leaking from the bomb.

Re:Missing H-bomb (1)

jacknifetoaswan (2618987) | about a year ago | (#43775491)

Actually, the entirety of the bomb casing is completely water and airtight, so the detonators would be included within that casing, and would not be susceptible to corrosion, had they been inserted into the casing. The official testimony on this is that the nuclear capsule was not inserted into the bomb itself, thus, it could not be detonated as a nuclear weapon. Of course, if the high explosives were to detonate, it would still be a 'dirty bomb' of sorts.

The most important part of this is that if the bomb were found, a large amount of knowledge could be gleaned about bomb design and warhead miniaturization. The Mark 15 bomb weighs about 7600 pounds, which is small enough that a rogue nation like Iran or North Korea could launch it a great distance with a 1.5 - 3.8 megaton nuclear yield. That's pretty important stuff.

1800s has a specific meaning. (0, Flamebait)

MartinD (7344) | about a year ago | (#43771331)

Saying the 1800s implies a date from 1800 to 1809. You should have said late 19th Century, or at least "from around the 1870s".

Re:1800s has a specific meaning. (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about a year ago | (#43773433)

I don't agree. Then again I have disagreements about the term "Next Tuesday" since a co-worker thinks that means this upcoming Tuesday while I believe it means the following-Tuesday (2 Tuesdays from now).

Since 2010... people have been using the term "2000's" to mean 2000 through 2009. Like for Music and such.

But prior to that, I heard (and used) the term 1900s and such to include anything from 1900 to 1999.

So it's probably a regional / preference thing.

Re:1800s has a specific meaning. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43773623)

I don't agree. Then again I have disagreements about the term "Next Tuesday" since a co-worker thinks that means this upcoming Tuesday while I believe it means the following-Tuesday (2 Tuesdays from now).

I generally avoid saying "next Tuesday" at all. But if I tell my dad I'll meet him on Tuesday, he inevitably replies, "Next Tuesday?" No, last Tuesday, Dad.

The GP is the first person I've encountered who thinks "the 1900s" refers to only ten years.

Re:1800s has a specific meaning. (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#43775193)

It's been my observation that people who tend to read widely and much also tend to have less confusion about a number of conversational conventions because they have a wider exposure to usage that helps them derive meaning from context.

That said, I suppose there may well be regional and age-cohort differences* in expression. FWIW, I've always taken "next Tuesday" to mean whichever Tuesday comes along next. If it's the Tuesday that's after the up-coming Tuesday then it's "the Tuesday after next" or either "A week from Tuesday" or also "A week Tuesday" after the British usage.

*I'm 66, have lived in six states, east, west and central, and overseas as a child, so YMMV. I still read a fair bit.

Re:1800s has a specific meaning. (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#43775211)

Ooops. Tuesdays belong to AC, below.

I haven't heard 'the 2000s much, mostly 'the oughts'. The convention of 'the 1800s' and 'the 1900s' meaning their respective centuries I've never seen anyone be confused over before now.

My Tax Dollars (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43771515)

This is fucking gay when millions of Americans are starving and are in poverty.

Let's glorify the military more. Fucking insanity. I'm sure those poor starving American children will appreciate tax dollars going to this.

Re:My Tax Dollars (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about a year ago | (#43773599)

I'm sure millions of Americans are malnourished, but the number of Americans who are involuntarily undernourished due to the inability to get enough food from their family's money, charity, or government handouts is very small. Literal starvation usually implies someone who is mentally defective, physically injured and isolated (an oldster who has broken a hip and can't reach a phone), or other situations where tax money won't make a bit of difference.

Or are you a member of a community none of whom, yourself included, will help a person in need?

Don't forget the museum in Keypoint (1)

AbrasiveCat (999190) | about a year ago | (#43771579)

I highly recommend the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Washington. (Well only if you are into technology) There is a fair bit of history on display there. More than just weapons. http://www.navalunderseamuseum.org/ [navalunderseamuseum.org]

Re:Don't forget the museum in Keypoint (2)

AbrasiveCat (999190) | about a year ago | (#43771589)

I highly recommend the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Washington. (Well only if you are into technology) There is a fair bit of history on display there. More than just weapons. http://www.navalunderseamuseum.org/ [navalunderseamuseum.org]

I forgot, here is write up on the Howell torpedo. http://www.navalunderseamuseum.org/media/6c06204b6731dd48ffff8332ffffe906.pdf [navalunderseamuseum.org]

Re:Don't forget the museum in Keypoint (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43772209)

If you are in the UK, the various naval museums in Portsmouth are worth a visit too. The submarine one at Gosport (across the water) has a number of interesting items including several submarines. Here is a link to their Whitehead torpedo:

http://www.submarine-museum.co.uk/what-we-have/our-favourite-objects/whitehead-torpedo

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