Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SPAWAR) reported that one of its Navy dolphins discovered an old torpedo last month just off the shore of the Hotel Del Coronado, during a mine-hunting training exercise.
Members of SSC Pacific, based at Naval Base Point Loma, study and train marine mammals in counter-terrorism, helping guard ports, personnel, and military vessels as well as doing underwater mine-hunting work.
During the recent training, a dolphin searching a specific area reported to its handler that an object was detected and another dolphin was sent to confirm and mark its location so that Navy divers could recover it.
The recovered torpedo, designed by Lt. Cmdr. John A. Howell, was used between 1870 and 1889 by U.S. Navy battleships and torpedo boats. This Howell torpedo was an 11-foot-long, 580-pound brass torpedo driven by a large flywheel spun to 10,000 rpm prior to launch. It had a range of 400 yards, a speed of 25 knots, and a warhead filled with 100 pounds of gun cotton.
The Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Washington, houses the only other known Howell torpedo in existence, and the latest find will soon be shipped by air to the Naval History and Heritage Command located at the Washington Navy Yard unless the City of Coronado and its large population of Navy retirees, military veterans, and active-duty Navy men express an interest in keeping the find for the Coronado Historical Association & Museum or possibly the Maritime Museum of San Diego.