|Admiral Sir John Jellicoe
During the First World War, German U-boats were sinking tons of British merchant shipping. Captain Woodward was sure that Jellicoe and his under-water colleagues could help. Sea-lions have excellent underwater vision and hearing; can swim 25 mph (40 kph); dive repeatedly to a depth of 1,000 feet - 300 metres; and are as intelligent as dogs. The British ‘Board of Invention and Research’ agreed it was worth a try. Trials were undertaken first in an outdoor swimming pool, and then in Lake Bala in Wales. Captain Woodward’s idea was that Jellicoe would track the sound of a U-boat engine -however deep it was in the ocean- and swim towards it with a float attached to a cord. The Navy would follow the floats, and know that a U-boat was underneath. The first trick was to encourage them to track U-boats, and not fish. All went well, until they were put to work in the actual sea off Southampton. Despite wearing muzzles, they ignored the Royal Navy submarine, and went straight for the fish. The sea-lions returned home but after yet more training, in 1917 the experiment was abandoned. However, it was agreed that important developments in 'hydrophone science' had been made. Jellicoe and his comrades were demobilized and returned to civilian life. But Jellicoe’s career was not over. Hailed as "the actual Admiralty U-boat hunting sea-lion", he continued to perform in theatres such as The Hippodrome in London.
|The Other Jellicoe
|Birmingham Mail January 14, 1921.
A year later Merlin Bruce went to Dartmouth Royal Naval College from where he became commander of an early aircraft carrier and was later awarded an OBE for defusing bombs.
|Merlin Bruce RN, circa 1930
Since the 1960s, the US Navy has been training California sea-lions to locate sea-mines and lost divers, and even attach leg-cuffs to suspected saboteurs who can then be hauled to the surface. Sea-lions can also film live videos of the ocean floor with cameras attached to specially-designed harnesses. So far, the US Navy has not admitted to training them to drive motorcycles, with or without sidecars.