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A Pod of Russian Military Dolphins Have Gone AWOL
Conscientious cetacean objectors.
In the near future (or what was the near future in 1993), humanity strips the Earth’s surface of usable resources. The planet is in shambles and our species has taken to scraping the seafloor for useful materials. The United Earth Oceans Organization (UEO) operates an advanced underwater habitat called SeaQuest DSV (short for deep-submergence vehicle, and streaming now on Peacock).
SeaQuest housed a diverse crew of persons including a Dolphin named Darwin who, through the use of advanced peripheral technologies, could communicate verbally with the human crew members. The existence of Darwin might feel like asking too much of the suspension of disbelief, but it’s actually built on a very real foundation of world militaries putting dolphins to work. Recently, a group of specially trained military dolphins enlisted by the Russian military escaped their pens and are believed to have gone AWOL.
A Pod of Russian Military Dolphins Are on the Loose!
On November 27, an intense storm cut through the Black Sea, a marginal sea nestled between Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine, and Russia. The storm brought powerful winds and waves which damaged coastal regions including some Russian military installations. In particular, it broke open the pens holding the Russian military dolphins in Crimea’s Sevastopol harbor.
Analyzing images of the area, journalist and intelligence analyst H.I. Sutton suggests the pens were destroyed and the dolphins likely on the loose. The Russian navy has been using dolphins for a number of years and have deployed them multiple times, most recently during the ongoing conflict with Ukraine.
In fact, Russia apparently called in a few flippered reinforcements, increasing the number of trained military dolphins from three or four to six or seven earlier this year, according to Naval News. Among their activities, the dolphins are used to deter special forces divers attempting to make landfall.
Imagining Ukrainian special forces getting into underwater dustups with military dolphins is almost stranger than fiction. It’s the sort of thing which, if you saw it on screen, might take you out of the story. Adding dolphins, it seems, is a reliable way to jump the shark. Despite the ridiculousness of the notion, it is all too real. Not only that, but the Russians are far from the only military force enlisting dolphins and other cetaceans to do their dirty work.
The United States has been enlisting dolphins for decades. Though the Marine Mammal Program was only declassified in the ‘90s, dolphins and whales have been fighting our underwater battles for us for at least 70 years. In addition to defending coastal borders from swimming spies, military marine mammals are used to seek out mines and do surveillance patrols. They are so good at these tasks that our technology (drones, ROVs, etc.) pale in comparison. Unfortunately, that means dolphins and whales are unlikely to be allowed to retire from service anytime soon.
In the meantime, there is some concern about the recently escaped dolphins. Like their human veteran counterparts, military skills often don’t translate well to the civilian world. While visions of dolphins breaking ranks and making for open water might sound like cause for celebration, Sutton notes the dolphins might not fare well in the wild. They were raised in captivity, trained to carry out specific tasks atypical to wild dolphins, and cared for by humans. It’s unclear how well they’ll be able to fend for themselves. However, there is a subspecies of dolphin which lives in the Black Sea; we can hold out hope.