The U.S. military has trained a group of dolphins to detect mines placed in sea water. The dolphins find mines and drop transponders near them. These small wireless devices emit a sound human divers can hear and use to find the locations of the mines, and then proceed to detonate them so they don’t damage ships.
The dolphins natural sonar capability is so effective, dolphins can tell the difference between human-made and natural objects, so they are very good at detecting mines, amongst other things.
The point of sending the dolphins to Iran is to have them ready in the event Iran begins placing mines in the Strait of Hormuz, which is a very important stretch of water for oil tankers leaving the Persian Gulf bound for foreign ports. In 2011, about 14 oil tankers each day traveled through the strait. Much of the oil passing through this site goes to Asian countries.
Recent news reports about Iran have confirmed it is possible they could close the strait thereby increasing oil prices for various countries and impacting their economies.
“Iran has never laid mines at the Strait of Hormuz, but it has placed mines inside the Persian Gulf. During its war with Iraq in the 1980s, a U.S. Navy ship hit a mine and was damaged. The U.S. responded by attacking Iranian aircraft and ships. The U.S. has several options if Iran tries to close the Strait of Hormuz now,” NPR reporter Tom Bowman explained.
Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations Mohammad Khazaee said on the Charlie Rose Show, “There is no decision to block and close the Strait of Hormuz unless Iran is threatened seriously and somebody wants to tighten the noose.” (Source: BusinessWeek)
Many people find the use of dolphins by the military offensive, to the say the least. Reportedly, no figures on military dolphin mortalities are available, but they are vulnerable to accidental mine detonations by their own closeness to them while conducting surveillance, and being attacked by enemy troops. There is also a possibility that native wild dolphins in a conflict zone might be mistaken by enemy troops as agents of their opponents and attacked.
Image Credit: NASA, Public Domain Wiki Commons