Update 5:23 p.m.: It is safe to swim in the Black Sea (we think). As Salon's Katie McDonough points out, a report from the Ukraine asserts that none of the country's military dolphins are on the loose. McDonough writes, "the unnamed 'expert' was actually a disgruntled museum employee, and that all of the Ukraine’s military dolphins (yes, they apparently have those if you believe reports like this) are safe and accounted for, knife-faces and all" and the original report adds that the story of the dolphins busting loose actually came from a fake memo.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is denying the report that they've restarted their Cold War-era dolphin-training program and that three of their prized "killer" dolphins have escaped in search of sex. But if you were bulding a secret marine army of mammals trained to kill enemy swimmers, wouldn't you be saying the same thing?
A gang of three randy, killer Ukrainian dolphins could be swimming in the Black Sea right now and looking for mates—at least according to a report from Russia's Ria Novosti news agency. They're dubbed "killers" because the dolphins are allegedly part of a covert defense program (which dates back to 1973) that used the mammals and bomb carriers and spy hunters. A military source in Sevastopol, Ukraine, not far from where the dolphins reportedly escaped, told the Russian news outlet that the "Ukrainian navy had restarted training dolphins to attack enemy combat swimmers and detect mines. The killer-dolphins would be trained to attack enemy combat swimmers using special knives or pistols fixed to their heads." (Why not laser beams?)
These days, exactly who wants to invade the Ukraine by way of combat swimmers is beyond us. (Wanna press your luck Bulgaria?). But, you know what, if anyone did have plans to send their combat swimmers into Ukrainian waters they'll probably think twice now.
If you're still shaking your head over the idea of a clandestine program of military-trained marine mammals, the Ukraine was not alone. The U.S. has actually used trained dolphins for military purposes too. In January of 2012, retired Admiral Tim Keating revealed that the Navy had used toothed whales to sniff out mines during the invasion of Iraq:
KEATING: They are astounding in their ability to detect underwater objects.
NPR's TOM BOWMAN: Dolphins were sent to the Persian Gulf as part of the American invasion force in Iraq.
KEATING: I'd rather not talk about whether we used them or not. They were present in theater.
BOWMAN: But you can't say whether you used them or not.
KEATING: I'd rather not.
And in 2010, The Seattle Times reported that the Navy was housing 80 bottlenose dolphins and 30 California sea lions in San Diego Bay. So, yeah, military-trained dolphins don't seem as silly now, right?
"The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has described reports that three military dolphins escaped as a 'fabrication' and a 'gross provocation'," reports Radio Free Europe, but didn't exactly deny that the trained dolphins might exist.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.