Margaret Lovatt was part of a Nasa-funded project to communicate with dolphins. Soon she was living with ‘Peter’ 24 hours a day in a flooded house
by Christopher Riley  /  8 Jun 2014

“Like most children, Margaret Howe Lovatt grew up with stories of talking animals. “There was this book that my mother gave to me called Miss Kelly,” she remembers with a twinkle in her eye. “It was a story about a cat who could talk and understand humans and it just stuck with me that maybe there is this possibility.” Unlike most children, Lovatt didn’t leave these tales of talking animals behind her as she grew up. In her early 20s, living on the Caribbean island of St Thomas, they took on a new significance. During Christmas 1963, her brother-in-law mentioned a secret laboratory at the eastern end of the island where they were working with dolphins. She decided to pay the lab a visit early the following year. “I was curious,” Lovatt recalls. “I drove out there, down a muddy hill, and at the bottom was a cliff with a big white building.”

Lovatt was met by a tall man with tousled hair, wearing an open shirt and smoking a cigarette. His name was Gregory Bateson, a great intellectual of the 20th century and the director of the lab. “Why did you come here?” he asked Lovatt. “Well, I heard you had dolphins,” she replied, “and I thought I’d come and see if there was anything I could do or any way I could help…” Unused to unannounced visitors and impressed by her bravado, Bateson invited her to meet the animals and asked her to watch them for a while and write down what she saw. Despite her lack of scientific training, Lovatt turned out to be an intuitive observer of animal behaviour and Bateson told her she could come back whenever she wanted. “There were three dolphins,” remembers Lovatt. “Peter, Pamela and Sissy. Sissy was the biggest. Pushy, loud, she sort of ran the show. Pamela was very shy and fearful. And Peter was a young guy. He was sexually coming of age and a bit naughty.”

The lab’s upper floors overhung a sea pool that housed the animals. It was cleaned by the tide through openings at each end. The facility had been designed to bring humans and dolphins into closer proximity and was the brainchild of an American neuroscientist, Dr John Lilly. Here, Lilly hoped to commune with the creatures, nurturing their ability to make human-like sounds through their blow holes. Lilly had been interested in connecting with cetaceans since coming face to face with a beached pilot whale on the coast near his home in Massachusetts in 1949. The young medic couldn’t quite believe the size of the animal’s brain – and began to imagine just how intelligent the creature must have been, explains Graham Burnett, professor of the history of science at Princeton and author of The Sounding of the Whale. “You are talking about a time in science when everybody’s thinking about a correlation between brain size and what the brain can do. And in this period, researchers were like: ‘Whoa… big brain huh… cool!'” At every opportunity in the years that followed, John Lilly and his first wife, Mary, would charter sailboats and cruise the Caribbean, looking for other big-brained marine mammals to observe. It was on just such a trip in the late 1950s that the Lillys came across Marine Studios in Miami – the first place to keep the bottlenose dolphin in captivity.

Up until this time, fishermen on America’s east coast, who were in direct competition with dolphins for fish, had considered the animals vermin. “They were know as ‘herring hogs’ in most of the seafaring towns in the US,” says Burnett. But here, in the tanks of Marine Studios, the dolphins’ playful nature was endearingly on show and their ability to learn tricks quickly made it hard to dislike them. Here, for the first time, Lilly had the chance to study the brains of live dolphins, mapping their cerebral cortex using fine probes, which he’d first developed for his work on the brains of rhesus monkeys.

“Dr John Lilly started experimenting with LSD during the project”

Unable to sedate dolphins, as they stop breathing under anaesthetic, the brain-mapping work wasn’t easy for either animals or scientists, and the research didn’t always end well for the marine mammals. But on one occasion in 1957, the research would take a different course which would change his and Mary’s lives for ever. Now aged 97, Mary still remembers the day very clearly. “I came in at the top of the operating theatre and heard John talking and the dolphin would go: ‘Wuh… wuh… wuh’ like John, and then Alice, his assistant, would reply in a high tone of voice and the dolphin would imitate her voice. I went down to where they were operating and told them that this was going on and they were quite startled.” Perhaps, John reasoned, this behaviour indicated an ambition on the dolphins’ part to communicate with the humans around them. If so, here were exciting new opportunities for interspecies communication. Lilly published his theory in a book in 1961 called Man and Dolphin. The idea of talking dolphins, eager to tell us something, captured the public’s imagination and the book became a bestseller. Man and Dolphin extrapolated Mary Lilly’s initial observations of dolphins mimicking human voices, right through to teaching them to speak English and on ultimately to a Cetacean Chair at the United Nations, where all marine mammals would have an enlightening input into world affairs, widening our perspectives on everything from science to history, economics and current affairs.

Lilly’s theory had special significance for another group of scientists – astronomers. “I’d read his book and was very impressed,” says Frank Drake, who had just completed the first experiment to detect signals from extraterrestrial civilisations using a radio telescope at Green Bank in West Virginia. “It was a very exciting book because it had these new ideas about creatures as intelligent and sophisticated as us and yet living in a far different milieu.” He immediately saw parallels with Lilly’s work, “because we [both] wanted to understand as much as we could about the challenges of communicating with other intelligent species.” This interest helped Lilly win financial backing from Nasa and other government agencies, and Lilly opened his new lab in the Caribbean in 1963, with the aim of nurturing closer relationships between man and dolphin.

A few months later, in early 1964, Lovatt arrived. Through her naturally empathetic nature she quickly connected with the three animals and, eager to embrace John Lilly’s vision for building an interspecies communication bridge, she threw herself into his work, spending as much time as possible with the dolphins and carrying out a programme of daily lessons to encourage them to make human-like sounds. While the lab’s director, Gregory Bateson, concentrated on animal-to-animal communication, Lovatt was left alone to pursue Lilly’s dream to teach the dolphins to speak English. But even at a state-of-the-art facility like the Dolphin House, barriers remained. “Every night we would all get in our cars and pull the garage door down and drive away,” remembers Lovatt. “And I thought: ‘Well there’s this big brain floating around all night.’ It amazed me that everybody kept leaving and I just thought it was wrong.”

Lovatt reasoned that if she could live with a dolphin around the clock, nurturing its interest in making human-like sounds, like a mother teaching a child to speak, they’d have more success. “Maybe it was because I was living so close to the lab. It just seemed so simple. Why let the water get in the way?” she says. “So I said to John Lilly: ‘I want to plaster everything and fill this place with water. I want to live here.'” The radical nature of Lovatt’s idea appealed to Lilly and he went for it. She began completely waterproofing the upper floors of the lab, so that she could actually flood the indoor rooms and an outdoor balcony with a couple of feet of water. This would allow a dolphin to live comfortably in the building with her for three months.

“Margaret Lovatt at the Dolphin House on St Thomas (Lilly Estate)”

Lovatt selected the young male dolphin called Peter for her live-in experiment. “I chose to work with Peter because he had not had any human-like sound training and the other two had,” she explains. Lovatt would attempt to live in isolation with him six days a week, sleeping on a makeshift bed on the elevator platform in the middle of the room and doing her paperwork on a desk suspended from the ceiling and hanging over the water. On the seventh day Peter would return to the sea pool downstairs to spend time with the two female dolphins at the lab – Pamela and Sissy.

By the summer of 1965, Lovatt’s domestic dolphinarium was ready for use. Lying in bed, surrounded by water that first night and listening to the pumps gurgling away, she remembers questioning what she was doing. “Human people were out there having dinner or whatever and here I am. There’s moonlight reflecting on the water, this fin and this bright eye looking at you and I thought: ‘Wow, why am I here?’ But then you get back into it and it never occurred to me not to do it. What I was doing there was trying to find out what Peter was doing there and what we could do together. That was the whole point and nobody had done that.”

Audio recordings of Lovatt’s progress, meticulously archived on quarter-inch tapes at the time, capture the energy that Lovatt brought to the experiment – doggedly documenting Peter’s progress with her twice-daily lessons and repeatedly encouraging him to greet her with the phrase ‘Hello Margaret’. “‘M’ was very difficult,” she remembers. “My name. Hello ‘M’argaret. I worked on the ‘M’ sound and he eventually rolled over to bubble it through the water. That ‘M’, he worked on so hard.” For Lovatt, though, it often wasn’t these formal speech lessons that were the most productive. It was just being together which taught her the most about what made Peter tick. “When we had nothing to do was when we did the most,” she reflects. “He was very, very interested in my anatomy. If I was sitting here and my legs were in the water, he would come up and look at the back of my knee for a long time. He wanted to know how that thing worked and I was so charmed by it.”

“The dolphinarium on St Thomas”

Carl Sagan, one of the young astronomers at Green Bank, paid a visit to report back on progress to Frank Drake. “We thought that it was important to have the dolphins teach us ‘Dolphinese‘, if there is such a thing,” recalls Drake. “For example we suggested two dolphins in each tank not able to see each other – and he should teach one dolphin a procedure to obtain food – and then see if it could tell the other dolphin how to do the same thing in its tank. That was really the prime experiment to be done, but Lilly never seemed able to do it.” Instead, he encouraged Lovatt to press on with teaching Peter English. But there was something getting in the way of the lessons. “Dolphins get sexual urges,” says the vet Andy Williamson, who looked after the animals’ health at Dolphin House. “I’m sure Peter had plenty of thoughts along those lines.”

“Peter liked to be with me,” explains Lovatt. “He would rub himself on my knee, or my foot, or my hand. And at first I would put him downstairs with the girls,” she says. But transporting Peter downstairs proved so disruptive to the lessons that, faced with his frequent arousals, it just seemed easier for Lovatt to relieve his urges herself manually. “I allowed that,” she says. “I wasn’t uncomfortable with it, as long as it wasn’t rough. It would just become part of what was going on, like an itch – just get rid of it, scratch it and move on. And that’s how it seemed to work out. It wasn’t private. People could observe it.”

For Lovatt it was a precious thing, which was always carried out with great respect. “Peter was right there and he knew that I was right there,” she continues. “It wasn’t sexual on my part. Sensuous perhaps. It seemed to me that it made the bond closer. Not because of the sexual activity, but because of the lack of having to keep breaking. And that’s really all it was. I was there to get to know Peter. That was part of Peter.” Innocent as they were, Lovatt’s sexual encounters with Peter would ultimately overshadow the whole experiment when a story about them appeared in Hustler magazine in the late 1970s. “I’d never even heard of Hustler,” says Lovatt. “I think there were two magazine stores on the island at the time. And I went to one and looked and I found this story with my name and Peter, and a drawing.” Lovatt bought up all the copies she could find, but the story was out there and continues to circulate to this day on the web. “It’s a bit uncomfortable,” she acknowledges. “The worst experiment in the world, I’ve read somewhere, was me and Peter. That’s fine, I don’t mind. But that was not the point of it, nor the result of it. So I just ignore it.”

“from Hustler magazine in the late 1970s”

Something else began to interrupt the study. Lilly had been researching the mind-altering powers of the drug LSD since the early 1960s. The wife of Ivan Tors, the producer of the dolphin movie Flipper, had first introduced him to it at a party in Hollywood. “John and Ivan Tors were really good friends,” says Ric O’Barry of the Dolphin Project (an organisation that aims to stop dolphin slaughter and exploitation around the world) and a friend of Lilly’s at the time. “Ivan was financing some of the work on St Thomas. I saw John go from a scientist with a white coat to a full blown hippy,” he remembers. For the actor Jeff Bridges, who was introduced to Lilly by his father Lloyd, Lilly’s self-experimentation with LSD was just part of who he was. “John Lilly was above all an explorer of the brain and the mind, and all those drugs that expand our consciousness,” reflects Bridges. “There weren’t too many people with his expertise and his scientific background doing that kind of work.” In the 1960s a small selection of neuroscientists like John Lilly were licensed to research LSD by the American government, convinced that the drug had medicinal qualities that could be used to treat mental-health patients. As part of this research, the drug was sometimes injected into animals and Lilly had been using it on his dolphins since 1964, curious about the effect it would have on them.

Much to Lilly’s annoyance, nothing happened. Despite his various attempts to get the dolphins to respond to the drug, it didn’t seem to have any effect on them, remembers Lovatt. “Different species react to different pharmaceuticals in different ways,” explains the vet, Andy Williamson. “A tranquilliser made for horses might induce a state of excitement in a dog. Playing with pharmaceuticals is a tricky business to say the least.” Injecting the dolphins with LSD was not something Lovatt was in favour of and she insisted that the drug was not given to Peter, which Lilly agreed to. But it was his lab, and they were his animals, she recalls. And as a young woman in her 20s she felt powerless to stop him giving LSD to the other two dolphins. While Lilly’s experimentation with the drug continued, Lovatt persevered with Peter’s vocalisation lessons and grew steadily closer to him. “That relationship of having to be together sort of turned into really enjoying being together, and wanting to be together, and missing him when he wasn’t there,” she reflects. “I did have a very close encounter with – I can’t even say a dolphin again – with Peter.” By autumn 1966, Lilly’s interest in the speaking-dolphin experiment was dwindling. “It didn’t have the zing to it that LSD did at that time,” recalls Lovatt of Lilly’s attitude towards her progress with Peter. “And in the end the zing won.”

Lilly’s cavalier attitude to the dolphins’ welfare would eventually be his downfall, driving away the lab’s director, Gregory Bateson, and eventually causing the funding to be cut. Just as Lovatt and Peter’s six-month live-in experiment was concluding, it was announced that the lab would be closed. Without funding, the fate of the dolphins was in question. “I couldn’t keep Peter,” says Lovatt, wistfully. “If he’d been a cat or a dog, then maybe. But not a dolphin.” Lovatt’s new job soon became the decommissioning of the lab and she prepared to ship the dolphins away to Lilly’s other lab, in a disused bank building in Miami. It was a far cry from the relative freedom and comfortable surroundings of Dolphin House.

At the Miami lab, held captive in smaller tanks with little or no sunlight, Peter quickly deteriorated, and after a few weeks Lovatt received news. “I got that phone call from John Lilly,” she recalls. “John called me himself to tell me. He said Peter had committed suicide.” Ric O’Barry corroborates the use of this word. “Dolphins are not automatic air-breathers like we are,” he explains. “Every breath is a conscious effort. If life becomes too unbearable, the dolphins just take a breath and they sink to the bottom. They don’t take the next breath.” Andy Williamson puts Peter’s death down to a broken heart, brought on by a separation from Lovatt that he didn’t understand. “Margaret could rationalise it, but when she left, could Peter? Here’s the love of his life gone.”

“I wasn’t terribly unhappy about it,” explains Lovatt, 50 years on. “I was more unhappy about him being in those conditions [at the Miami lab] than not being at all. Nobody was going to bother Peter, he wasn’t going to hurt, he wasn’t going to be unhappy, he was just gone. And that was OK. Odd, but that’s how it was.” In the decades which followed, John Lilly continued to study dolphin-human communications, exploring otherof trying to talk to them – some of it bizarrely mystical, employing telepathy, and some of it more scientific, using musical tones. No one else ever tried to teach dolphins to speak English again.

Instead, research has shifted to better understanding other species’ own languages. At the Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, founded by Frank Drake to continue his work on life beyond Earth, Drake’s colleague Laurance Doyle has attempted to quantify the complexity of animal language here on our home planet. “There is still this prejudice that humans have a language which is far and away above any other species’ qualitatively,” says Doyle. “But by looking at the complexity of the relationship of dolphin signals to each other, we’ve discovered that they definitely have a very high communication intelligence. I think Lilly’s big insight was how intelligent dolphins really are.”

Margaret Howe Lovatt stayed on the island, marrying the photographer who’d captured pictures of the experiment. Together they moved back into Dolphin House, eventually converting it into a family home where they brought up three daughters. “It was a good place,” she remembers. “There was good feeling in that building all the time.” In the years that followed the house has fallen into disrepair, but the ambition of what went on there is still remembered. “Over the years I have received letters from people who are working with dolphins themselves,” she recalls. “They often say things like: ‘When I was seven I read about you living with a dolphin, and that’s what started it all for me.'” Peter is their “Miss Kelly”, she explains, remembering her own childhood book about talking animals. “Miss Kelly inspired me. And in turn the idea of my living with a dolphin inspired others. That’s fun. I like that.”

What We’ve Learned from Giving Dolphins LSD   /  Mar 2 2017

“In 1961, a handful of the world’s top scientists gathered at the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia, home to one of the most powerful radio telescopes in the world and the birthplace of the modern search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The meeting was held to decide whether scanning the cosmos for signs of alien life was a worthwhile idea. The group named itself the Order of the Dolphin in honor of John C Lilly, a neuroscientist who would spend the peak of his career taking LSD and trying to talk to dolphins.

Only a few years earlier, Lilly—trained as a neuroscientist—had expanded his research on consciousness and the brain to dolphins. Lilly noted that dolphins’ brains were about the same size as humans’. If they were as smart as humans, Lilly wondered, would we be able to communicate with them? To better study his subjects, Lilly opened the Communication Research Institute on the island of St. Thomas, where he and a small group of colleagues would pioneer the study of dolphin communications. Lilly’s early experiments, published in leading journals like Science, suggested that dolphins were capable of mimicking human speech patterns, and that inter-species communication was indeed possible.

But Lilly’s unorthodox methods may have had a significant influence on his results. As he detailed in a 1967 article, he had been administering 100 microgram doses of LSD to the dolphins, as one of the handful of researchers in the US who had been authorized to study the potentially therapeutic effects of the drug. Lilly noted that dolphins on LSD were far more vocal than usual. This was measured through a “duty cycle,” or the percentage of the time that a dolphin will spend vocalizing per minute. Without anxiety or stimulation, this duty cycle for sober dolphins can oscillate wildly from zero to 70 percent. With dolphins on LSD, the duty cycle “very frequently does not drop to zero at all.”

Lilly saw the real effect of LSD when a human or another dolphin entered the tank that contained the dolphin on LSD—this would cause the vocalization to rise to about a 70 percent duty cycle for about three full hours (during control sessions where the dolphin wasn’t on LSD, interactions with other people or dolphins only raised the duty cycle to about 10 percent). In other words, as soon as the dolphin on LSD had contact with another intelligent mammal, it wouldn’t shut up.

As Lilly goes on to describe in his article about LSD and dolphins, his work provided important insights into LSD and psychotherapy, even if he failed to prove that he could establish meaningful communication with his subjects. Instead, Lilly and the dolphins communicated in a “silent language,” that was made up of nonsense vocalizations and physical contact. “They will tell us when they don’t want us in the pool, they will tell us when they do want us to come in,” Lilly said. “They do this by gestures, by nudging, stroking, and all sorts of this non-verbal, non-vocal language. It is a very primitive level, but it is absolutely necessary to make progress on other levels.”

And what about the LSD? Lilly recalled a particularly amazing result of his experiments which involved a dolphin that had been rescued after being shot through the tail three times with a spear gun. The dolphin’s previous owners had enjoyed a close relationship with the dolphin until the traumatic incident occurred, but “after it happened she would not come near human beings at all.” This dolphin exhibited this very scared behavior, always staying on the far side of the pool whenever anyone else was in it. Two years after the incident, Lilly used this dolphin as one of his control subjects and injected her with 100 micrograms of LSD. “As the LSD effect came on, 40 minutes after the injection, the dolphin came over to me,” Lilly wrote. “She had not approached me before. She stayed still in the tank with one eye out of water looking me in the eye for ten minutes without moving. This was a completely new behavior. I moved around to see if there would be any effect from my movements [and] she followed me right around the edge of the tank. She will now come within five feet of me instead of staying 20 feet away.”

Although Lilly’s experiments into dolphin communication were in many ways an ethical and scientific failure, his work had a profound and positive impact on the way we think about drugs, psychology, and interspecies communication. Thanks in part to Lilly’s humanizing approach to dolphin intellect, they’re now recognized as one of the most intelligent creatures on Earth, which has prompted a number of large scale conservation efforts to protect them. Even researchers at the SETI institute, the California-based extra terrestrial research institute, are continuing Lilly’s legacy by investigating how dolphin and other animal communications can help them design a filter that will be able to determine whether a radio signal from space is extraterrestrial in origin.  Today, the field of human-dolphin communication is alive and well: There are now machine interfaces that are capable of “translating” dolphin vocalizations and other research has found that dolphins exhibit vocalization complexity that rivals that of human language (although the existence of a dolphin language, or dolphinese, is still a controversial subject).

Ultimately, however, much of Lilly’s work with dolphins and LSD occurs only at the limits of language, allowing for meaning even when words might fail. “The important thing for us with the LSD in the dolphin is that what we see has no meaning in the verbal sphere,” wrote Lilly. “The meaning resides completely in this non-verbal exchange. This is where our progress has been made. We are out of what you might call the rational exchange of complex ideas because we haven’t developed communication in that particular way as yet. We hope to eventually, [but] we accept communication on any level where we can reach it.”

Interview with John Lilly on Dolphin Communication / Jan 4, 2013

“Dr John Lilly (1915-2001) began his career as an orthodox government research scientist: a biophysicist, inventor, neuroscientist and physician. He ended as a guru of the scientific counter-culture. He is principally known for his work on interspecies communication with dolphins and trying to teach them human language. This inspired the film The Day of the Dolphin, where George C. Scott modeled his character pretty much on Lily’s personality. The movie Altered States (1980) was inspired by Lilly and his experiences in the sensory isolation tank, which he invented. Some of Lily’s most known books are: Man and Dolphin (1961) and The Mind of the Dolphin (1967), The Center of the Cyclone, and The This interview with Dr. John Lilly and Kutera Decosta  was conducted on March 19th, 1997 at Lily’s home on the Hawaiian island of Maui. My two guests were John C. Lilly and Kutera DecCosta, a Tantra teacher who would join John to take people for dolphin swims off the cost of Hawaii.”

Alan Steinfeld: John, you are pioneer in the fields of sensory deprivation and  dolphin communication. What was your work like prior to this?
John Lilly: Brain electrodes, neuro-anatomy, neuro-physiology high altitude testing.  I was once exposed to de-compression during World Was II, when I went from 8000 ft to 3,000 ft. In one thousandth of a second.  It felt so bad, like I was hit on the back.
AS: What happens when dolphins move to different elevations?
J: They have a special circulatory mechanism in the back of the lungs which is a collection of arteries filled with artero blood.  If they dive very deep and run out of oxygen this system contracts and sends freshly oxygenated blood to the brain.
AS: How did you come up the idea for a sensory deprivation tank?
J: I wondered what would happen to my mind if I freed myself from physical stimuli? Before this people thought if they stopped their sensory input they would go to sleep, but they don’t . They are more stimulated.
Kutera Decosta: What first sparked your interest in whales and dolphins?
J:  In 1954, I invented the isolation tank and I was floating around in it and having so much fun, I wondered if there wasn’t something that floated around 24 hours a day.  So Per Scholander told me to go to the Marine Studios, near St. Augustine, Florida So I went there, met the dolphin and got hooked. [Physiologist Scholander became well known for his field and experimental studies on both animals and plants, especially those living in extreme ecological conditions.]

AS: Why are people drawn to dolphins?
K: My experience is that when people get close to dolphins their energy immediately changes.  They get very happy.  I have seen this many times people getting transformed and healed. Dolphins usually travel together in pods, because they know how to live together n harmony. What I learned from the cetaceans is that they know how to be with each other without war, without jealousy and if we could learn more about this aspect of then the whole world would benefit.
AS: John, once you saw them floating around what was so interesting about them?
J: Their brain size is larger than ours and they have voluntary erection of their penis.  There was a Tahitian trainer, at the Marine studios, who took me over to the training tank where he blew a whistle and Algae, the dolphin, turned over and erected his penis in 7 seconds.
K:  I had an experience while I was swimming with a dolphin in the wild. A dolphin came up next to me and I started to touch him and stroke his belly.  Suddenly he had this erection and literally wrapped his penis around my knee, as a  way to hook on to me.  Then he started to undulate and I was on top of him and I thought, “My god, what is happening here.”  It was his way to hook on to me.  It was quite an experience.
J:  They will tow you around with their penis.

AS: So they don’t just use their erect penis just as a sexual tool, but for other functions as well?
J: How the hell would I know!
AS:  Do whales have voluntary penile erections?
J:  They all do.
AS: What have you learned about sexuality from dolphins?
K: They are certainly freer and more liberated than humans. Seeing dolphins undulate (the rhythmic motion of the pelvis and spine back and foreword) along with conscious breathing and bringing that undulation into the spine has given me greater pleasure and greater orgasms. As a teacher in Tantra, I show how to use breath consciously in order to bring up the energy.  Dolphins are conscious breathers. They use their breath consciously.  If you knock a dolphin unconscious they will drown. They need to know [when] to come up to the surface to get another breath.  The same as in Tantra, if you use your breath consciously, you start to become more aware of how you are being in your body and achieve a greater orgasm.
J: We had two dolphins, Elvar and Topol, a male and a female, in Coconut Grove, Florida. One day Alice Miller, who was my assistant, a virgin at the time, came running into my office and said, “Elvar and Topol  just died.”  I said, “What happened.”  She said, “they just smashed around on the surface and suddenly they both went to the bottom and stayed there.  I said, “Alice, you just witnessed sexual intercourse between two dolphins.”

AS: What did your research about the brain size of dolphins reveal?
J: I found Tursisops Trancatis, the Atlantic bottlenose, has a brain 40% larger than ours.  But the Orca or killer whale, the largest of the dolphins is three times the size of ours.
AS:  What is that extra brain matter for?
J: The larger the brain the gentler they are.
AS:  What else did you find out about the brain function of dolphins?
J:  We put electrodes in dolphins and found they have positive and negative re-enforcing systems.  We did the same thing with monkeys, but in monkeys we found  they would not stimulate the positive re–enforcement vocally, but the dolphins would do this instantly.
AS:  What does that demonstrate?
J:  That dolphins have voluntary control of their voice.

K: They also have separate voluntary functioning control over the left and right side of their brains.
J:  We had six graduate students in Miami, who watched dolphins 24 hours a day for 6 days, in as tank. They observed that they closed one eye for a few minutes and then the other eye.  So they sleep with half their brain at a time.
K:  Because they are conscious breathers.  There is part that is always has to be awake to breathe.
J: I devised an anesthesia machine so we can do surgery on them. They only have voluntary respiration.  They can’t breathe if they are unconscious.  So a respiratory mechanism was needed to keep them going.
AS:  How many hours a day do they sleep?
J:  Not very many, four or five.
AS:  Besides being larger, how do dolphin brains differ from human ones.
J:  They have a special telemic nucleus.  It is a circulatory nucleus that controls breathing through the neo-cortex.

AS: Is sexuality connected to brain size?
K:  Many people think that when they have an orgasm it is located just around their genitals, but orgasm happens in the brain.  So it’s very interesting sexually that dolphins and whales have a large brain.
AS:  Can you talk about the dolphin language?
J:  No. I can tell you about them trying to speak English. Aristotle, around 400 BC said, “the voice of the dolphin in air is like the voice of the human in pronouncing vowels and combination of vowels, but he can’t pronounce consonants.”  But we found that the consonants are the supersonic or ultra sonic frequencies, beyond human hearing.
K: Movement is a good communicator. You can communicate with dolphins  by mimicking them under water. You have to be a good swimmer, because they get board very fast.   But the more I can keep up with them like spiraling down and undulating, the more they really show an interest in checking me out.
J:  There is a scene in my film, Emerging Love Between Man and Dolphin, where I was doing the dog paddle [in the dolphin pool and Sissy is circling me doing the dog paddle too.
AS: After 40 years of being and studying dolphins what questions do you still have ?
J: I still want to talk to them.  That was part of problem and still is.
AS: What would you ask them?

J:  The history of the planet.  They’re been around for 25 million years and probably have teaching stories that go way back like the Masi in Africa do. [Masi Merra is a nomadic tribe in Narobi,Kenya, Africa]  When Richard Llewellyn stayed with the Masi, heard their stories, he went and [looked ] up a Greek historian who had gotten the teaching stories of the Masi 2000 years before and they were exactly the same. So there is an oral verbal tradition that can carry over years.
AS:  Did you find there was an oral tradition or continuity of sounds of dolphins and whales  coming from one generation to the next?
K:  Well, I only know about the whales. About 5 years ago, Raphael and I were doing an album and we needed some whale sounds;  some of their songs.  I asked Roger Payne, a researcher, at the at  the International Whale Commission for help.  He said, “you can check it out , but I can tell you that the happiest and most beautiful whale sounds are from the 60’s and 70’s.  After that they  changed dramatically.”  So we ended  up using the whale sounds of the ’60’s.
AS: How do dolphins make their sounds?
J:  There are 4 sound sources.  Dolphins have lost their sense of smell,  but they use their nasal cavity to blow air back and forth to make sounds..
AS:  Is there a difference in sound between the two?
J: Whales have more frequencies.  The Blue whale has frequencies down where the elephant ; 10 cycles per second.  Human hearing stops at 20 cycles per second.
AS: Do dolphins have songs like whales.
J:  Probably.  They love music.  In my St. Thomas research lab we had a switch for music connected to a bungee cord.  And Peter, the dolphin  would have to grab a ball on the end of it and swum in order to close the circuit and start the music.  The first day we had it up, he swam for 8 hours listening to music.
K:  After Raphael and I released our album, Angels of the Deep and played it for the first time in the ocean with underwater speakers, we were surrounded by whales coming to check us out.

AS: Do you feel love from the dolphins when you swim with them?
K: I feel love and I also feel they zap me.
J:  Yes, right.
AS:  What do you mean zap you?
K:  Well when they send out their sonar, you can feel that on your spine, like prickling energy.  I can’t explain it more scientifically.  The feeling is great.
AS: Do you feel better or worse afterwards?
K: I have never felt bad after swimming with dolphins.  I always feel up lifted, my spirit soars and I fee l very grateful for having had the experience.
J:  A friend of mine, Beale Allen, swam with sperm whales in the Indian Ocean and she got zapped and she felt totally changed, you don’t even know her now.
AS:  So they send sound frequencies through your body?
K:  When John and I take people out on a Whale adventure you go into the water and you not only hear the sounds of the whales and dolphins you literally feel it.  Because the sound penetrates your body.  It is like being in a sound chamber.  It is a very unique experience.
AS:  I remember one time I was out with John in a boat and a group o f us were in the water swimming around, when we saw 6 whales approaching us about a mile away.  Then suddenly they were right in front of us, very close. They interacted and swam with us for about a half of hour to an hour. And it seemed to me, well, we call it whale watching, but time it was human watching.  They came with their youngsters, as if to say “that’s how humans look.” It is a great experience to swim and look into the eye of a whale.  It  is very big and in there you look into eternity.  There you look into ancient, ancient knowledge.  In that moment everything stops and you connect with the eyes of the soul or the eyes of God.

AS: What is the reality they live in?
J: I don’t know, but I am sure they have holographic acoustic images as well as visual.
AS:  So they talk to each other in sound created images as well as a language?
K  When John and I take people out for a dolphin/whale adventure we get the whole group  together to meditate and come up with one symbol. Then when we go out  in the ocean and dive down we focus on that one symbol and send it out like an image to the dolphins and whales.  Because I believe one way to communicate with them is telepathically.
J: Right, in visual images,  There was a trainer in New Zealand who use to swim besides dolphins and [he would just] visualize what he wanted them to do and they would do it.
AS:  Do you think it is ever really going to be possible to communicate with whales and dolphins.
J:  Oh yes.  I was taking LSD for years when it was still legally to do so.  Then I got a letter from Sandoz saying I was to return what I had left.  So before I sent back 150 milligrams of what I had left, I took a sailing trip in the British Virgin islands.  The captain on board suddenly said, “whale” and so we went along side these fin back.  She was 60feet long and our boat was only 40 feet.  She had a baby with her and she turned and fixed me with her eye and so much information passed it was incredible.
AS:  What kind of information?
J:  Beyond words.
AS:  How else does your work with dolphins relate to your experiences with hallucinogenic drugs?
J: You mean psychedelic chemicals.
AS: Yes,  psychedelic chemicals.
J:  In one of my books it says ECCO, the Earth Coincident Control Office, said two things to me.  One, we should try to communicate with dolphins and two, they gave us LSD.

AS:  What did they give us LSD for?
J:  To increase our consciousness of the universe. All my LSD [research] work,  was  in St. Thomas,  in an isolation tank above the dolphin pool and had some far out experiences there.  Then in California, at the Marineland,{ Africa-USA}. I had an isolation and beside the dolphin pool and I took Ketamine and they took me in to the dolphin group mind. I said, “hey, wait a minute, I can’t even experience one dolphin much less the group mind.”  So they went back to one.
AS:  What did you experience.
J:  I can’t say, its beyond words.
AS:  Did you ever give dolphins LSD ?
J:  Oh yes.  Six of them.  They all had wonderful trips.
AS:  How do you know that?
J:  Well, they would swim along the surface, then they suddenly turn their beaks down and turn on their sonar.  Then I remembered my first trip on LSD, the floor disappeared and bang I fell to the floor because I saw stars through the earth.  So what they were doing with their sonar it seems [to me] was like they were apparently seeing right through the earth the way I did.
AS:  Any thing else happened?
J:  Well Pam, the dolphin, had been traumatized, because she was spear gunned three times in a Flipper movies.  She  was given to us by Ivan Tors and she always stayed away from humans.  When we gave her LSD , she climbed all over us.  So LSD is effective.

Q: What would you like to do for the cetaceans on the planet?
J:  Get them a representative at the United Nations.  Patricia Forcanna, of the Humane Society of America has volunteered to be the first representative.  71% of the planet water belongs to the Cetacean Nation.  Maui is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean which is 50% , so the secretariat should be here.
AS:  Has this been proposed to the UN?
J:  No, but Michael Bennet has written it up.  It is on my home page:
AS: Do you know what is happening with the whale protection policies among the countries of the world.
J:  The last conference of the International Whale Commission met in Puerto Veratta, Mexico where a whale sanctuary was established around the Antarctica continent.  The year before they established a sanctuary for the Sperm whale in the Indian Ocean.
AS:  But whales are still being hunted else where?
K:  Yes, because whale meat in Japan is considered a delicacy.  It brings in lots of money.
AS:  And what is happening the drift netting threat to dolphins?
K:  There has been a stop to all drift netting, because it not only hurts dolphins, but other ocean life as well. But we really don’t know [ if it has really stopped].  the oceans are so vast is hard to cover even a piece of it. But there are some guardians of the ocean trying to protect the rights of whales and dolphins, like the Sea Shepherd and other organizations. But the oceans are the most unknown territory to humans , yet that is where the food chain starts,  If the whales and dolphins don’t survive , I believe we will not survive either.  So its best to take care now and be aware of the environment.
J:  Then Sperm whale eats the Giant squid and they have to dive thousands of fathoms to get them.  Sometimes their lower jaw gets caught in cables when they are sweeping  the bottom of the ocean.  They have found skeletons of Sperm whales tied up in these cables.

AS: Do we have evidence of the species that pre-date the cetaceans return to the ocean
J:  They didn’t return. [They evolved in the sea].  Pectiosoris were 4 paddle reptiles that lived in the seas.  They evolved into the proto-dolphin and their blow hole were nostrils that gradually evolved to the top of the head in later generations.
AS:  Oh, so there were two lines of mammalian evolution.  One that became land animals and another that became sea animals.
J:  Right.  Every so often you find dolphins that have lumps where the hind flippers were.  Some young ones have them too.
AS:   I’ve always thought  man and dolphin had a common mammalian origin, but you are saying you have to go back to a common reptilian origin.
J:  You have to go beyond that to the DNA and the ocean.
AS:  So do dolphins breast feed?
J:  Yes [and ] the mother [must propel the new born to the surface for its first breath.
AS: What do you feel have been some of your greatest discoveries about dolphins?
J: They are compassionate.  They like us, [humans].  They like being with us.  They get sexually excited in our presence.  And they [have] never hurt anybody.

AS: There are a lot of stories about saving people from drowning.
J:  A friend of mine was swimming at a beach on a little island off the coast of Georgia, and this dolphin came along  and pushed him back to shore three times,  So he went up the beach to talk to a local fisherman and he said, ” well, we have hammerhead sharks out there.”
AS: There does seem to be a long history of dolphins helping out humans.
J:  Aristotle told a story of a boy and dolphin making friends and when the boy drowned, the dolphin committed suicide. In Coconut Grove we had 8 dolphins in captivity.  One day I just decided to let them all go and 5 of them committed suicide the next day, by not breathing.  So we quickly had to let the last 3 go before they could commit suicide.  One was an old  bottle nose and there ware two young ones,  We knew the old one would take care of the young ones.  When we let them go in a lap basin, the young ones kept jumping up and the old one kept keeping down,  Finally, he took them out to sea.
AS: So they didn’t want to leave their captivity.
J:  That’s right.  We went out in Biscayne Bay and put a long net around 30   dolphins. Just before we closed the net all of them left except 6.
AS:  So they were your volunteers!   But Kutera, what do you have to say about the captivity of dolphins?
K: Most of my time with dolphins has been spent swimming with the wild ones rather than captive dolphins. But maybe we need them to teach  people that these are mammals, not fish and to teach our children that these are highly intelligent beings.
K:  For me its always a great privilege to swim with dolphins and whales.  The first time I got interested in dolphins was many years ago I was on  a sailing boat.  And we saw two bottle nose dolphins coming towards us, I was so excited. And I just wanted to be with them that I didn’t care at all and jumped over board, but because it was a sailing boat it kept going.  As soon as I was in the water I realized what a stupid thing I did, but these two dolphins came up and circles me the whole time It was a wonderful experience.  As soon as the boat sighted me and turned around to pick me up, they left.

K: There is something else I think people should know.  There have been studies done with autistic children in Florida at a dolphin research center. It seems they are having great improvement due to their interaction with dolphins.
J:  When Per Scholander brought autistic children to a tank I had of dolphins in Coconut Grove.  He said it made his children come out of their autism as soon as they got near the dolphins.
AS:  Permanently?
J:  Just when they were around the dolphins.
K:   Another researcher in England, Horis Dobbs studied dolphins and people with very deep depression.  He found out that if people, who have never seen a dolphin or had contact with a dolphin, but did a meditation with the sounds of the dolphins it helped lift depression faster than any medication.
AS: In closing what do you want to tell people the most about cetaceans?
J: Get acquainted. Swim with them.  Work with them and have fun with them. The more young people that get acquainted with them, will be how we will solve the communication problem.”

Software performs real-time translation of dolphin whistle
by Hal Hodson  /  26 March 2014

“It was late August 2013 and Denise Herzing was swimming in the Caribbean. The dolphin pod she had been tracking for the past 25 years was playing around her boat. Suddenly, she heard one of them say, ‘Sargassum’. “I was like whoa! We have a match. I was stunned,” says Herzing, who is the director of the Wild Dolphin Project.

She was wearing a prototype dolphin translator called Cetacean Hearing and Telemetry (CHAT) and it had just translated a live dolphin whistle for the first time. It detected a whistle for sargassum, or seaweed, which she and her team had invented to use when playing with the dolphin pod. They hoped the dolphins would adopt the whistles, which are easy to distinguish from their own natural whistles – and they were not disappointed. When the computer picked up the sargassum whistle, Herzing heard her own recorded voice saying the word into her ear.

As well as boosting our understanding of animal behaviour, the moment hints at the potential for using algorithms to analyse any activity where information is transmitted – including our daily activities (see “Scripts for life“). “It sounds like a fabulous observation, one you almost have to resist speculating on. It’s provocative,” says Michael Coen, a biostatistician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Herzing is quick to acknowledge potential problems with the sargassum whistle. It is just one instance and so far hasn’t been repeated. Its audio profile looks different from the whistle they taught the dolphins – it has the same shape but came in at a higher frequency. Brenda McCowan of the University of California, Davis, says her experience with dolphin vocalisations matches that observation. Thad Starner at the Georgia Institute of Technology and technical lead on the wearable computer Google Glass, built CHAT for Herzing with a team of graduate students. Starner and Herzing are using pattern-discovery algorithms, designed to analyse dolphin whistles and extract meaningful features that a person might miss or not think to look for. As well as listening out for invented whistles, the team hopes to start trying to figure out what the dolphins’ natural communication means, too.

McCowan says it’s an exciting time for the whole field of animal communication. With better information-processing tools, researchers can analyse huge data sets of animal behaviour for patterns. Coen is already doing something like this with white-cheeked gibbons. Using similar machine-learning techniques to those used by Starner and McCowan, he has found 27 different fundamental units in gibbon calls. McCowan, meanwhile, has recently modelled the behaviour of rhesus macaques at the National Primate Research Center in California. The idea is to predict when the macaques would descend into the violent social unrest known as “cage war” that often leads to the death of the alpha family. Her team started collecting data, making 37,000 observations of key signs of dominance, subordination and affiliation over three years. Among other things, their analysis showed that cage stability improved if new young adult males were introduced now and again as they seemed to grow into “policing” roles. “You had to look at the data,” McCowan says. “It wasn’t something a human could see.”

Terrence Deacon, an anthropologist and neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley, explains that some pattern of repetition is a basic requirement when information is transmitted. In other words, if Herzing’s dolphins or McCowan’s macaques are exchanging information, if their behaviour is not just random, meaningless noise, then there must be some discoverable patterns. Information theory can find out what those pattern are, which parts of a whistle are important, helping behaviourists figure out what animals are communicating. The first results from Starner and Herzing’s work on dolphin communication-processing are due to be presented at the speech and signal processing conference in Florence, Italy, in May. Last summer’s work was cut short because the team lost the dolphin pod, but they did make some progress. Starner’s algorithms discovered eight different components in a sample of 73 whistles. It’s still preliminary, but they were able to match certain strings of those components with mother-calf interactions, for instance. The work has let them plan for the coming summer when they want to confirm two-way communication between humans and dolphins. Deacon is excited to see if such work can lead to a better understanding of animal cultures. He suspects much animal communication will turn out to be basic pointing or signposting rather than more complex language. But humans often communicate on a basic level too. “I don’t see a fundamental white line that distinguishes us from other animals,” he says.”



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