Bionic Dolphins And Whale Waldoes

The Bionic Dolphin is a remarkable submersible hydrofoil that can cruise across open water at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. Underwater? No problem for the NoLand Bionic Dolphin, which can travel underwater at speeds of 40 miles per hour. It's starting to look like science fiction writer David Brin's whale waldoes might be possible.


(Bionic Dolphin at NextFest 2006)

I saw the Bionic Dolphin at NextFest 2006, a technology exposition hosted by Wired magazine in NYC's Javits Center. Surprisingly compact, the device is powered by a 425-horsepower Corvette engine (pictured below).


(This "dolphin" has a 425-hp engine under the hood)

The Bionic Dolphin is built to withstand rough seas; it's skin and structure are built of a composite of materials including Kevlar, used in bulletproof vests. The custom-built vehicle cost about $350,000 to build, but two-seater versions would probably sell for about $120,000 in production. Its inventor, Thomas "Doc" Rowe, hopes to place the vehicle in resorts by 2007.

If you are looking for even more extreme concepts for water gear, look no further than David Brin's whale waldo, from his 1979 novel Sundiver:

With a half muttered prayer to the Dreamer, he touched a switch releasing the amplifiers on both Makakai's waldo and his own, then cautiously turned his arms to set the fins into motion. He flexed his legs, the massive flukes thrust back jerkily in response, and his machine immediately rolled over and sank.

Jacob tried to correct but overcompensated, making the waldo tumble even worse. The beating of his fins momentarily made the area around him a churning mass of bubbles, until patiently, by trial and error, he got himself righted.

He pushed off again, carefully, to get some headway, then arched his back and kicked out. The waldo responded with a great tail-slashing leap into the air.
(Read more about Brin's whale waldoes)

Be sure to read the article about Robert Heinlein's waldo, the science-fictional origin of this real-world device.

If you are interested in unusual underwater vehicles, take a look at these:

Update 02-Jan-2017: Check out the Search for the Silver Whale, or Under the Ocean in the Electric Dolphin (1902). End update. Read more about the Bionic Dolphin. Thanks to reader Erik Nodacker for the story connection.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/29/2006)

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