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On Dolphins and the First Torpedoes

Kevin O’Brien is gone, but his Weaponsman Blog is still available.  It was a great source of information when I was trying to come to grips comparing the design accomplishments of Arno Lahti with those of John Moses Browning – but this article describes the development of the first torpedoes, powered only by a heavy flywheel and the discovery of one by US Navy dolphins.

That’s right – Navy dolphins, definitely not to be confused with Navy Seals.  The article is at weaponsman.com. It’s well researched, entertaining, and worth reading.

Here’s the original torpedo boat, launching one of these original torpedoes:

US Stiletto – sometime around 1890.  “The limited range and speed stemmed from the Howell’s mechanism: it had no on-board motor per se, simply a flywheel that was spun up to 10,000 RPM by shipboard equipment. The flywheel (F in the blueprint at this article’s end) weighed 132 lbs. — more than the torp’s warhead.  It was, practically, a clockwork torpedo.”

Check the link out – it includes links to articles on the Navy’s Dolphin project that describe their accomplishments.  While the old articles suggest the dolphins would be phased out, replaced with machines, this article suggests the machinery still comes in second compared to Flipper:

“Dolphins are remarkably intelligent creatures, with the most sophisticated sonar known to science. They send out focused, high-frequency clicking and buzzing sounds that bounce off objects. The returning sound waves can then be picked up by the dolphins’ inner ears, generating information that’s transmitted to the brain and interpreted. With sonar, dolphins can essentially “see” across sizable distances underwater, even in murky visibility. Couple this superpower with their speed and agility, and it’s easy to see why the Navy thought they would make great companions.”

Click it – it’s a fun read for a wintery day or evening.

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