There’s no land in sight, just blue water turned white around the sub’s wake, a tall BPS-16 military radar spinning in front of us, and a family of dolphins jumping out of the surf in front of the 377-foot boat.
Apparently it’s typical. Where subs travel in the southern Atlantic, dolphins tend to tag along, eager to say hi to their large, silent playmate. “Dolphins like to sing,” notes Petty Officer Joshua Bardelon, a 32-year old from Pascagoula, the site of the Mississippi’s destination, who supervises the boat’s sonar systems.
Those systems are part of why Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is eager to take possession of his newest Virginia-class submarine when it formally joins the fleet on June 2. As much time as it spends listening to dolphin symphonies, the Mississippi is everything from a weapon to destroy other ships to an electronic-attack system to a stealthy transport for Navy commandos.