Marine Mammals and the Navy

Today we would like to focus on animals who serve with the US Navy.

The Navy currently trains, cares for, and relies on two fellow mammals: the bottle-nosed dolphin and the California Sea Lion. These species have been selected for the US Naval Marine Mammal Program for 2 important reasons: 1.) Their sensory capabilities and 2.) their diving capabilities. Dolphins possess the most sophisticated sonar on the planet and sea lions ahve exceptional vision in low light and underwater directional hearing capabilities. Both are able to dive to great depths without suffering the ill-effects which would be endured bu their human counterparts.

They are trained to support sailors in several ways: mine hunting, protection, and object recovery. In mine hunting, the dolphins are used to detect and mark the location of sea mines tethered to the ocean floor or buried in sediment. This helps to clear a safe path for troops and equipment. When it comes to protection on land, it is tough to beat a patrol dog, but dolphins and sea lions are the sentries of the sea. They are trained to protect piers, ships, harbors, and anchorages. Specially trained sea lions can locate in-water intruders and suspicious objects. In object recovery, sea lions are used to locate and attach recovery hardware to an object (such as an unarmed test rocket) launched from a ship. Many of these devices are equipped with a “pinger” which sends out an auditory signal that the sea lion is able to follow.

These marine mamals have been deployed all over the world and have served in North America, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Australia.

A dolphin marks a mine simulator
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A sea lion on patrol
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Source: http://www.spawar.navy.mil/sandiego/technology/mammals/index.html


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