Flipper Must Die!
Science Fiction Becomes Science Fact as Navies Explore Novel Ways to Defend Against Enemy Divers
Between imagination and reality, a shadow flickers in the gloom. Your eyes and brain strain for another glimpse. Great white? Enemy diver? Killer whale? In a flash, the living torpedo races in, and a man-made mechanism attached to its head promises agony and death.
In the split-second left, you swing the gun against the water and fire. The monster explodes into a chaotic mist of blood and ragged chunks of flesh. Almost instantly, sharks fight each other to clean the water. And, the monster? The smiling, chirping porpoise of television and movies has morphed into a porpoise with a perverse purpose.
Anyone who follows weapons development knows this is not science fiction. While we thrilled to “Flipper,” 1960s navies, ours and theirs, trained intelligent sea life to serve often deadly purposes, one of the first being attacking hostile divers.
To counter these malicious mammals, or enemy frogmen, friendly divers had few options—single-shot spear guns were really suitable only for hunting fish, although a lucky hit might kill or incapacitate an unprotected diver. Most propelled their spears with large, elastic bands. While freakish guns might attain 30 feet of range, most guns barely managed a dozen feet.
In the 1970s, divers got the Shark Dart. This was a long-handled needle that emptied a cartridge of compressed carbon dioxide into the target. The concept promised a fantastic leap forward; the internal explosion of CO2 would instantly halt the attack and send the sushi flying for the surface. Even better, the CO2 would freeze the point of entry so there would be no cloud of blood and guts to attract predators. In reality, the blast, while incapacitating the fish, usually caused …read more
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