Chalk one up for the mammals.
Navy dolphins found an underwater surveillance device that went astray during a military exercise last week in Thimble Shoals Channel, the Navy announced Monday.
The device, known as an unmanned underwater vehicle, or UUV, was one of four that lost contact with its operators.
The Navy uses the robotic devices to search for underwater explosives. Some commentators have predicted they’ll one day replace the specially trained dolphins that have had that duty for decades.
The 5-foot-long, 80-pound torpedo-shaped vehicles, which cost $250,000 each, are equipped with side-scanning sonar and camera equipment. They transmit data back to shore to be analyzed.
When the four went missing, the Navy launched a broad search, using other UUVs, teams of searchers on shore and spotters in the air. Four minehunting dolphins from San Diego here to participate in the same exercise, called Frontier Sentinel, also were put on the case.
In the end, mammals succeeded where computers failed. Navy divers retrieved the missing vehicle after a dolphin located it, said Lt. Cmdr. Susan Henson, a spokeswoman for the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command.The search for the other three vehicles has been called off, Henson said, but it’s still possible they could turn up. The vehicles should not be handled – if any are spotted, the finder should call (619) 921-6782.