Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Rare Howell Torpedo Recovered

US Navy dolphins recently found a rare Howell Torpedo off the coast of San Diego, California.  

From the local news:
"The dolphins were working off the coast of Coronado on mine-hunting training exercises in March when they recovered a 130-year-old Howell torpedo – one of the first self-propelled torpedoes developed and used by the U.S. Navy.

“There were only 50 Howell torpedoes made, and we discovered one of the two ever found,” said Braden Duryee, operations supervisor for the SSC Pacific Biosciences Division.

Within two weeks, two dolphins marked the object on the sea floor doing their regular daily training exercises.

The dolphins, named Ten and Spetz, followed procedure when an object of interest is discovered by surfacing and touching the side of a trailing boat in a certain manner.

Navy divers then went in and recovered it.

“It was puzzling and exciting,” said Chris Harris, Operations Supervisor for Navy Marine Mammals Program.

It’s so old, the divers actually Google'd information to identify it."
USS Stiletto firing a Howell Torpedo.

The Howell Automobile Torpedo was the first self-propelled torpedo used by the navy, from 1870 to 1889. The torpedo was propelled by a flywheel and was intended to be a cheaper alternative to the Whitehead torpedo. It had a top speed of 25 knots, a range of 400 yards, and carried a warhead filled with 100 pounds of wet guncotton.

One one example was known to exist, located on display at the navy's Naval Undersea Museum. This newly recovered torpedo will be restored and put on display at the Naval History and Heritage Command, in Washington D.C.

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