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Hector’s dolphins looking for WWII underwater mines

Hector’s dolphins looking for WWII underwater mines

Leading New Zealand tourism operator Black Cat Cruises is working with the New Zealand Navy who are training Hector’s dolphins to look for old World War II underwater mines off the Canterbury coast.

A spokesperson for the navy said that Hector’s dolphins were highly intelligent and were proving very easy to train to locate potentially dangerous underwater mines left over from World War II.

“The US Navy has been working with dolphins since the late 1950's,” he said. “Research was geared towards analysing the dolphin’s hydrodynamics and sonar and the US Navy carried out a wide variety of experiments to determine whether dolphins could be trained to locate and retrieve ‘lost’ objects from the seabed using its sonar. They were successful in using dolphins to replace expensive electronic equipment and human divers and things have evolved since then.”

The New Zealand Navy is conscious that a number of underwater mines may potentially still be on the sea floor off the coast of Canterbury, having been laid there at the height of tensions in World War II.

After contacted the US Navy and exploring options regarding their work with dolphins the NZ Navy decided training local Hector’s dolphins was the best, most cost effective solution to look for the dangerous mines.

Black Cat Cruises Managing Director Paul Bingham said his company was ‘very excited’ to be working with the New Zealand Navy on what he called a ‘ground breaking project.’

It’s a proven fact that dolphins possess intelligence second only to man's and they have the ability to learn tasks quickly and efficiently,” he said.

“Our local Hector’s dolphins have done us proud. They have picked things up way faster than expected and a number of mines have already been found.”

Bingham said the navy had access to Black Cat Cruises vessels, staff and knowledge of the local area and its research on Hector’s dolphins.


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