Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Is There Anything Animals Can't Do?

I was going to wait until my consultant for all things that are water had gotten back to me before I went ahead with this post, but I couldn't wait. This needed to be addressed NOW.

Apparently, there is a Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. Clearly, it's a US Navy Naval Base. Not so clear is where it's located, but I learned it was across Puget Sound by Seattle. The Navy feels the need to have the waters around the Naval Base patrolled. That sounds reasonable to me. Now, being as how it is a Naval Base I assumed that it would be the (stay with me here) Navy that did the patrolling. Not so. Not so. The Navy, the one that I thought would do all of the patrolling and protecting, has a different idea. They feel that the waterfront should be patrolled and guarded by (wait for it).....dolphins and sea lions. Wait. By dolp...and...what? WTF?

Oh! It gets better! Trust me! They're going to have a meeting in February to discuss this. Yes. It's actually up for discussion to have Flipper and Friends keep our country safe! According to the unbelievable article over there at the Kitsap Sun, "The Navy is considering five options: California sea lions and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins; just sea lions; combat swimmers; remotely operated vehicles; and no change. The sea lions-only option was added after the public suggested it in 2007, said Navy spokeswoman Sheila Murray." The "sea lions only option was added after the public suggested it"?!?! This is why you don't leave things open to the general public to just throw out ideas! We all know the public is chock full of morons! They'll say anything! "Sea lions" "Sea lions ONLY!" "What about Shamu? Is he available?" "Get the big seahorse that Aquaman rides on!" "Get Aquaman!" What the hell is the US Navy doing listening to the public anyway? Good Lord, we're doomed.

Apparently, not doing anything "...wouldn’t comply with terrorism-related requirements". They don't specify what those requirements are, but I'm guessing that they're something along the lines of "Do Something." And that works for me, really. Well, it did. Until I learned that "something" included "dolphins and sea lions" being in charge. But I'm just slow, I guess because "The Navy’s preferred alternative is dolphins and sea lions. It has used them for 40 years." Um, it's the Navy's preferred alternative to what? People?! I'm sorry, I didn't realize that there was an alternative to people. And I certainly didn't realize that it meant animals. (Though they could be a suitable alternative for bloggers. No one would notice, really.)

But get this...get what they say these animals can do. Ready? You're not. Trust me. I wasn't. I'm still all a-boggle over this. First the dolphins.
  • "If they found an intruder, they would swim back to the boat and alert the handler, who would place a strobe light on one of the dolphin’s noses. The dolphin would race back and bump the intruder’s back, knocking the light off. The light would float to the surface, marking the spot. The dolphin would swim back to the boat, join the handler, and they would clear out. Security guards would race to the strobe to subdue the intruder."

Oh, my God. What?!? Now hold on before you go getting all a-boggled as well. While stunningly fascinating, the sea lions dealio will really floor you. The sea lions:

  • Sea lions can carry in their mouths special cuffs attached to long ropes. If they found a suspicious swimmer, they would clamp the cuff around the person’s leg. The intruder can then be reeled in for questioning.

They can DO that?!?! Really?! Since when? I want to see that! I want to see that now! I thought they were limited to that beach ball on the nose trick! (And quite frankly, that gets old after about the second time around. For me and for the sea lion, I would imagine.) I'd much rather see this!! Holy crap! Special cuffs. In their sea lion-y little mouths. Which clamp! Which they, the sea lion, clamp! Onto an intruder-y leg! Wow!

"The Navy likes the marine mammal option because the dolphins’ biosonar is better than any man has made and they’re best for covering ground in open water." The best as compared to what though? Large boats and ships that the US Navy uses? I'm not feeling quite so safe and secure as I was just about 20 minutes ago before I read this story. (Hey, I'm on a coast! It's relevant! Ah, who am I kidding? I have the attention span of a gnat. I'll forget all about this probably before I...hey! A quarter!)

As for the sea lions, well their "...sonar range isn’t as good, but they can see and hear better underwater and are better for shallower work around piers. They are reliable, available, less expensive". I'm glad that the US Navy checked to make sure that the sea lions were "available". That was considerate of them to not impose upon the daily routine of said sea lions. Very accommodating to have the sea lions check their schedule and see if they were busy or when they could squeeze in a little coastal protection duty for the Navy. I'm guessing it was probably between "swim on back while eating fish" and "lie on rock after eating fish". Boy, that's a busy day right there if you're a sea lion. And they are less expensive than say, oh, a person who might want to be paid for such a job. That's true! Sea lions almost never demand payment or sue you for back pay and wages. Rarely does that ever happen. Rarely.

So, seriously, where do I go to see the sea lion put the leg clamp on a bad guy? That's the coolest thing I've heard all year. I know it's only January, but it's going to be hard to top! The article says that there is a public comment period that runs until March 1, 2009. I'm thinking I might have to drop those folks a line and ask them where I can see this for myself. They'd have to admit that it's pretty amazing, don't you think? They'd understand why I feel the need to witness this myself. It's not classified or anything (though I'm wondering why in the world it isn't. You have these creatures that you've just plucked out of the ocean and put to work for the US Navy. That's not exactly something I'd think you'd want everyone to know...especially the evil doers. I guess it might not matter, though, because are the evil doers really going to believe it? Not until Flipper is hurling a beacon at his little dinghy would he start thinking that the United State and her mammals mean business!).

I think that I've heard of all of this before, but I don't know that I took it all too seriously. There are a lot of stories floating around out there that don't necessarily pan out into much. Lone gunman. Geometry. Lots of stuff. I guess I just figured this was one of those. Apparently not. I would still like to know when it was that we decided we were on such good terms with the ocean denizens that we could just put them to work for us. (We kind of tried that once before but in another capacity in this country. That didn't go so well.) And if I think about it, I guess I'm not surprised that the Navy would rather have the animals doing this stuff than humans. Humans are morons, so I'm kinda relieved they went with the water mammals instead. On the other hand, I am just fascinated by the fact that we can train these creatures to do this for us. And they do! I mean, I've gotta say, if it were me? I'm not so sure I'd be quite so willing. What's in it for me? Fish? Again? Hmmm. How much fish? Oh! Really? Huh. Lemme think about it. I'll get back to you.

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