A woman who had close relationships with one of the most clever mammals in the world spoke out about her relationships with the dolphin in the 1960s.
Margaret Howe Lovatt took part in an unprecedented Nasa-funded experiment on the US Virgin Islands. She together with a neurologist, Dr John C. Lilly, tried to teach a six-year-old dolphin, Peter, how to speak English.
Margaret and Peter spent at least ten weeks together eating, bathing and sleeping together in a villa which first floor was flooded with seawater on the island of St Thomas. Although the animal did not really succeed in language learning he developed strong and intimate relationships with Margaret.
Both of them lived in water and only at night the woman lifted herself onto a hanging mattress, protected from Peter’s splashings by a shower curtain. The woman was constantly wearing swimming costume and ate tinned food, so the couple was fully isolated. And finally Peter did fall in love — sexual and romantic love — with his teacher.
In the fourth week of experiment, an alarming development occurred. Margaret confided to her diary: “Peter has become sexually aroused several times during the week. I find that his desires are hindering our relationship. He jams himself again and again against my legs, circles around me, is inclined to nibble and is generally so excited that he cannot control his attitude toward me. He presented his tummy and genital area for stroking. Perhaps this is his way of involving me in some form of sex play without scaring me away.“
The relationships, however, ended while funding was stopped. After a few weeks of a separation Peter had committed suicide by refusing to breathe, and sinking to the bottom of his tank. After Peter’s death Margaret married the project’s photographer, John Lovatt. Dr Lilly continued his researches into communication between humans and dolphins this time without Margaret’s participation.
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