Dolphins in the Navy

Since I live in Hawaii, news about dolphins always catches my eye. I’ve seen them many times here in the wild. Once I was alone meditating on the cliffs on the ocean at Honaunau, a sacred spot, when an entire pod swam up to the cliff shore directly underneath me. They looked up at me as if to say, hello, did you call? It was both exhilarating and eerie.

Last week I noticed the Navy released information about their program using dolphins and sea lions to patrol military bases. Trained Navy dolphins can drop a beacon if they detect a person in the water; they can also detect underwater mines. Dolphins were used for this in Iraq in 2003. They also patrolled the bay in San Diego during the Republican National Convention in 1996.

The U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program explains dolphins are useful for their echolocation, or biological sonar, which enables them to locate mines or other objects underwater. The Navy also lists a page of FAQs about their program, to explain questions such as why they use marine mammals (they also employ sea lions and whales), and whether they use them for offensive warfare. They claim they do not train them to attack, yet after Hurricane Katrina there were reports that three dozen U.S. military dolphins, which had been trained and fitted with toxic darts, had been washed away and were missing. They were supposedly accounted for soon after, and the Pentagon denied they were ever trained to attack. Perhaps the fear mongers and rumor mill at work; perhaps the truth is still secret.

The history of the use of marine mammals by the military can be found at PBS. Begun in 1960, the program was originally classified. Rumors still abound that dolphins were used to attack and kill enemy swimmers in Vietnam. By the 1990s, with the Cold War over, much (but not all) of the program was declassified and many of the dolphins were retired. Some still claim dolphins were used to attack and kill; many animal rights organizations object to their employment, and I found a petition online objecting to the Navy’s use of dolphins.

Many people believe dolphins are particularly special, beyond their incredible intelligence. I’ve seen many spiritual books and websites devoted to them. John Lilly was a scientist who was responsible for much of the early research involving dolphins and their means of communication, providing the basis for the movie “Day of the Dolphin” and the enactment of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. He also contributed to research involving psychology and human consciousness, including use of the isolation tank (forming the basis for the movie “Altered States”), and is often discussed alongside people like Aldous Huxley. His work was cited in an article by Steve Hammons, who also responded to the recent news about dolphins in the Navy. Hammons noted that the recently declassified information about Project Stargate includes a 1987 report called “A Remote Action Investigation with Marine Animals” regarding research conducted by SRI International into anomalous cognition. In other words, the Pentagon is looking into remote viewing, telepathy and other ESP phenomena relating to dolphins and our means to communicate with them.