The Navy and Kamikaze Dolphins Part 3

About the rumors that the United States Navy trained dolphins to operate combat and kamikaze missions, about the abilities that would be beneificial to the Navy.

Deep Diving. Without getting the bends, a dolphin can dive to depths 3 times deeper than a human can. A human diver, even at shallow depths, must stop at underwater stages and go through pressurized "locks' to avoid getting "the bends," an illness caused by bubbles of nitrogen that collect in the tissues. A mammal, the dolphin breathes air, yet it does not get the bends. Researchers have recently discovered why. When dolphins dive, their lungs completely collapse so no exchange of gases can take place; also, at great depths they get energy from fuel stored in muscle tissue rather than from oxygen in the lungs. By studying the dolphin, we might be able to discover ways to make diving safer for human beings.

Dolphin Communication. Dr. John Lilly, an offbeat but highly qualified neurophysiologist, spent many years trying to teach dolphins to speak and understand English. In 1968, claiming partial success with his experiments, he freed his dolphins with the statement: "I felt I had no right to hold dolphins in concentration camps for my convenience." Lilly, who has experimented with LSD and has an extreme interest in other forms of awareness, feels that dolphins have a higher form of consciousness than we do and that their language and view of life are based on nonhuman, but highly intelligent, logic.

Navy personnel studied the "Margit and Peter" tapes resulting from Lilly' experiments. In these tapes a human female and a dolphin male are supposedly communicating with each other in English. One navy scientist, having heard nothing that resembles English from the dolphin on the 1st run-through of the tapes, took a glass of sherry to fortify himself and played them again. Still nothing. He claims to be fascinated with Lilly's work, but says, "I like Dr. Seuss, too."

Dr. D. Batteau, a Tufts University professor who does work for the Navy, has invented an electric "translator" that transforms human vocalizations into dolphin whistles. Using an artificial language, sailors can radio commands to dolphins working underwater.

Underwater Workers. Given all his abilities and a way of communicating with him, the uses to which a dolphin can be put underwater seem infinite. Equipped with a harness containing a radio receiver, dolphins will, after training, "home" in response to an acoustic signal. Through other radio signals, commands are given.

During Navy Sealab operations, dolphins brought tools and messages to the aquanauts. They also were trained to rescue lost divers: The diver signaled with a tin cricket, and the dolphin responded by taking a line from a rescue reel and bringing it to him. The dolphins used by Sealab were able to recognize individual divers in wet suits and face masks.

In a 1972 program nicknamed "Deep Ops," pilot whales were trained to locate a lost object (missile or whatever) by following the "ping" sound of sonar. After reaching the target, the animal would press a grabber claw to the object, activating a hydrazine system in the process. That is, detached from the whale's mouthpiece, the claw would inflate a gas balloon to carry the object to the surface.

During another navy program, a dolphin named Tuffy located 7 lost missile-launching cradles valued at $4,700 each. He also matched the record of navy divers in finding "lost" dummy mines dropped off Santa Barbara Island in a mine fleet test.

There is no doubt that dolphins are valuable in peaceful military operations: They retrieve lost weapons, locate missing bombs and submarines, save frogmen who are lost or in trouble.

The Navy is pragmatic. People like Lilly are more "humanistic." Is the dolphin just another animal useful to people--a kind of living submarine, as one navy scientist put it--or is it, as Lilly claims, a truly intelligent, alien being of such a high form of consciousness that attempts by humans to use it for military purposes are immoral acts?

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