Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Post-modern warfare

Unsurprisingly, the British television coverage of the war only occasionally shows what the Australian contingent are doing. For one thing, the Australian contingent isn't all that large, and for another, the British coverage has understandably focused more on the British contingent. However, yesterday they showed some Australian divers diving into the water at Umm Qasr as part of the operation to remove mines from the water so that the port can be reopened and used for supplying troops and humanitarian aid. With these divers, they showed that "specially trained dolphins" were using their sonar to aid the search for mines. What the report didn't saw was whether these dolphins were part of the Australian team, or had come from somewhere else. It would make me proud to know that Australia's dolphins are helping out.

Update: Several people have pointed out that these are US naval dolphins based in San Diego. I also read in the Times today that a dolphin named Takoma has swum off into the waters of the Persian Gulf.

Takoma, the Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphin, had been in Iraq for 48 hours when he went missing on his first operation to snoop out mines.

His handler, Petty Officer Taylor Whitaker, had proudly showed off Takoma’s skills and told how the 22-year-old dolphin was among the most pampered creatures in the American military.

Takoma and his fellow mine hunters have a special diet, regular medical checks and their own sleeping quarters, which is more than can be said for the vast majority of the military whose domestic arrangements are basic, to say the least.

The wayward Takoma set out on the first mission with his comrade, Makai, watched by the cameras as the pair of dolphins somersaulted over the inflatable dinghy carrying their handlers.

Takoma’s role was to sweep the way clear for the arrival of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Sir Galahad. US officials had said that dolphins, first used in Vietnam, were a far better bet than all the technology on board the flotilla of ships.

Petty Officer Whitaker had tempted fate by saying: “Why would they go missing when they have the best food and daily spruce-ups and health checks?” Two hours later Takoma had gone Awol. “Twenty-four hours is not unusual,” a nervous Petty Officer Whitaker said. “After all, he may meet some local company.”

Takoma has now been missing for 48 hours and the solitary figure of Petty Officer Whitaker could be seen yesterday patting the water, calling his name and offering his favourite fish, but there was no response.

I don't know about him, but I think I might have waited until I was back in San Diego, as swimming off into the Pacific somehow seems more appealing. On the other hand, perhaps Takoma got depressed because he had no idea how long the war would go for, and swam off while he could.

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