WTF Fun Fact 13179 – Military Dolphins

Dolphins’ intelligence and biological sonar make them a valuable asset to many of the world’s military organizations, including the U.S. In fact, Naval Base Kitsap uses military dolphins to protect roughly 25% of the country’s nuclear stockpile.

What are U.S. military dolphins?

The dolphins are part of the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program, which used dolphins for the first time during Vietnam. The details of the program are secret. But we do know that both dolphins and sea lions are trained for different types of tasks. They’re used for recovery missions, defense tasks, and mine clearing.

At Naval Base Kitsap, the dolphins protect the harbor from weapons tethered to the ocean floor or buried beneath the sediment. Their innate sonar helps them detect these objects. They’ve been trained to return to their handler with a warning signal when they find one. Even more impressive is the fact that the trainer then gives the dolphin a tool (a buoy) to mark the spot where the weapon was found. That way, passing ships can avoid it, and Navy divers can dismantle it.

And when the threat is a human diver who means harm to the base, dolphins are trained to use their mouths to attach the buoy to them, which pulls them to the surface for capture.

Washington state’s nuclear dolphin protection

According to (cited below), “Since Bangor, Washington, now houses the largest single nuclear weapons site in the world, it needs protection from all sides, including the seaward side. That’s where the Navy’s dolphin pods and sea lions come in. Navy spokesman Chris Haley says the animals have been defending the waters around the stockpile, holding roughly 25% of the United States’ 9,962 nuclear warheads, since 2010.

The former Soviet Union is believed to have trained dolphins for military purposes as well. The program is suspected to be ongoing in some sense. However, it’s also thought that much of it was sold to Iran during the fall Soviet regime.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Militarized Dolphins Protect Almost a Quarter of the US Nuclear Stockpile” —

WTF Fun Fact 12651 – The Military Researchers Who Turned a Cat Into a Phone

Have you ever wanted to turn a cat into a telephone? We haven’t either. But in 1929, two Princeton University researchers gave it a go anyway. Apparently, they weren’t cat lovers.

Professor Ernest Glen Wever and his research assistant Charles William Bray performed the experiment that involved a live but unconscious (thankfully!) cat in order to see how the auditory nerve perceives sound.

That’s a fancy way of saying they sedated a cat, opened its skull, accessed its auditory nerve, and attached a telephone wire to it. The other end of the wire was connected to a telephone receiver.

While many of us may turn up our noses at the thought of animal research, it has saved and improved many human lives. Bray and Wever weren’t even interested in making a cat into a telephone for any practical purpose (not that we could even think of one anyway). Instead, they were interested in the research methods used to run the tests, which paved the way for more sophisticated research on human hearing and made contributions to devices called cochlear implants that convert sound vibrations into electrical signals in the brain for deaf people.

Despite not caring much about creating a cat phone, the experiment did work, and Bray was able to speak into the cat’s ears while Wever listened through the receiver 50 feet away in a soundproof room.

Princeton’s Mudd Manuscript Library wrote a blog describing it in more detail. They say:

“The common notion during this time was that the frequency of the response of a sensory nerve is correlated to the intensity of the stimulus. In the case of the auditory nerve, as a sound becomes louder, the frequency or pitch of the sound received by the ear should be higher. When Bray made a sound with a certain frequency, Wever heard the sound from the receiver at the same frequency. As Bray increased the pitch of the sound, the frequency of the sound Wever heard also increased. This experiment proved that the frequency of the response in the auditory nerve is correlated to the frequency of the sound.”

Wever and Bray received the first Howard Crosby Warren Medal of Society by the Society of Experimental Psychologists in 1936 for the experiment.

Later, both men entered military research. Bray became the Associate Research Director of the U.S. Air Force Human Resources Research and then served on the civilian psychological research team for the National Defense Research Council and the Navy. Wever became a consultant to the National Research Council on anti-submarine warfare.

And cats worldwide likely rejoiced that they found other things to do. – WTF fun facts

Source: “The Cat Telephone” — Mudd Manuscript Library Blog