Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction....
Armed and dangerous - Flipper the firing dolphin let loose by Katrina
by Mark Townsend Houston
Sunday September 25, 2005
may be the oddest tale to emerge from the aftermath of Hurricane
Katrina. Armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot terrorists
and pinpoint spies underwater, may be missing in the Gulf of Mexico.
who have studied the US navy's cetacean training exercises claim the 36
mammals could be carrying 'toxic dart' guns. Divers and surfers risk
attack, they claim, from a species considered to be among the planet's
smartest. The US navy admits it has been training dolphins for military
purposes, but has refused to confirm that any are missing.
have been trained in attack-and-kill missions since the Cold War. The
US Atlantic bottlenose dolphins have apparently been taught to shoot
terrorists attacking military vessels. Their coastal compound was
breached during the storm, sweeping them out to sea. But those who have
studied the controversial use of dolphins in the US defence programme
claim it is vital they are caught quickly.
Sheridan, 72, a respected accident investigator who has worked for
government and industry, said he had received intelligence from sources
close to the US government's marine fisheries service confirming
dolphins had escaped.
concern is that they have learnt to shoot at divers in wetsuits who
have simulated terrorists in exercises. If divers or windsurfers are
mistaken for a spy or suicide bomber and if equipped with special
harnesses carrying toxic darts, they could fire,' he said. 'The darts
are designed to put the target to sleep so they can be interrogated
later, but what happens if the victim is not found for hours?'
dolphins were controlled via signals transmitted through a neck
harness. 'The question is, were these dolphins made secure before
Katrina struck?' said Sheridan.
mystery surfaced when a separate group of dolphins was washed from a
commercial oceanarium on the Mississippi coast during Katrina. Eight
were found with the navy's help, but the dolphins were not returned
until US navy scientists had examined them.
is convinced the scientists were keen to ensure the dolphins were not
the navy's, understood to be kept in training ponds in a sound in
Louisiana, close to Lake Pontchartrain, whose waters devastated New
navy launched the classified Cetacean Intelligence Mission in San Diego
in 1989, where dolphins, fitted with harnesses and small electrodes
planted under their skin, were taught to patrol and protect Trident
submarines in harbour and stationary warships at sea.
from animal rights groups ensured the use of dolphins became more
secretive. But the project gained impetus after the Yemen terror attack
on the USS Cole in 2000. Dolphins have also been used to detect mines
near an Iraqi port.