"THE Royal Navy killed three whales after mistaking them for enemy submarines during the Falklands War. Two were killed by torpedoes fired from the anti-submarine frigate HMS Brilliant, and the third was attacked by one of the ship’s helicopters.
The previously undisclosed incidents are taken from the diaries of the ship’s crew, which have been published online by hmsbrilliant.com, a website commemorating the ship’s role in the 1982 war.
Brilliant’s job was to help defend HMS Invincible, one of two British aircraft carriers deployed in the south Atlantic, against Argentine submarine and missile attack.
On board, the mood was tense. Recording the first incident, one crew member wrote of a “small sonar contact” that prompted the launch of two torpedoes, each of which hit a whale. He notes drily: “Whale oil sighted by Sea King [helicopter] . . . I think I’ll join Greenpeace".
Later that day, a Sea King helicopter depth-charged one more suspected "submarine", only to find that it, too, had killed a whale.
The Ministry of Defence said the sonar equipment of the time could be easily confused by whale signals, but that modern-day equipment was far more discerning.
A spokesman for Whale and Dolphin Conservation said: "Navies have a duty of care, and we wouldn't expect our own to deliberately choose to blow-up whales."