View Full Version : OT: Rare 19th C Howell torpedo discovered off the coast of Coronado, Calif

05-19-2013, 02:42 PM
by dolphins, no less:

SAN DIEGO In the ocean off Coronado, a Navy team has discovered a relic worthy of display in a military museum: a torpedo of the kind deployed in the late 19th century, considered a technological marvel in its day.

But don't look for the primary discoverers to get a promotion or an invitation to meet the admirals at the Pentagon although they might get an extra fish for dinner or maybe a pat on the snout.

The so-called Howell torpedo was discovered by bottlenose dolphins being trained by the Navy to find undersea objects, including mines, that not even billion-dollar technology can detect.

"Dolphins naturally possess the most sophisticated sonar known to man," Braden Duryee, an official at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific said after the surprising discovery.

While not as well known as the Gatling gun and the Sherman tank, the Howell torpedo was hailed as a breakthrough when the U.S. was in heavy competition for dominance on the high seas. It was the first torpedo that could truly follow a track without leaving a wake and then smash a target, according to Navy officials.

Only 50 were made between 1870 and 1889 by a Rhode Island company before a rival copied and surpassed the Howell's capability.

Until recently only one Howell torpedo was known to exist, on display at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Wash. Now a second has been discovered, not far from the Hotel del Coronado.
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Paul Alciatore
05-19-2013, 04:57 PM
Very neat find.

I would love to see the mechanism they used to spin that flywheel up to 10K RPM. They say "large winches". OK, but how did they get that speed? Step up gearing? And what did they power it with? Humans?

05-20-2013, 01:44 AM
Whitehead was a popular manufacturer of torpedoes back around the early 1900's/ Frank

05-20-2013, 01:51 AM
I rabbit trailed from wiki to wiki. It was amazing to see that the Mark 14 version of that torpedo was developed in 1930 and not really tested until WWII. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_14_torpedo )

On the positive side, I learned a new word; Torpex. :)