NASA Experiment - A Dolphin Was Supposed To Learn To Talk But Instead Committed Suicide!
In the early 1960s in the United States, NASA decided to investigate whether interspecies communication was possible. The aim of the experiment was to teach the dolphin the English language, and this task was entrusted to 23-year-old Margaret Howe Lovatt. The young woman and the sea animal shared a strong bond, which in time became the cause of a huge tragedy. When the research was stopped, the dolphin committed suicide without its keeper and the controversial background of the experiment came to light. It turned out that Lovatt literally fell in love with the dolphin and their relationship spiraled out of control. How was it possible that they were brought together by an intimate relationship? Did the animal actually learn to talk, as initially assumed? Learn the shocking details of one of the craziest experiments in the history of science.
The space race between the US and the USSR, the search for alien civilizations, crazy experimentation with narcotics - in the 1960s, a lot was really happening. It was a time of intensive development of many fields of science and research, which even today may arouse disbelief. The originator of one of them was Dr. John C. Lilly, an eccentric neuroscientist and member of the SETI group (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), dealing with the search for evidence of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations. The scientist propounded the theory that dolphins could communicate with humans, and that research into their language would be very helpful in deciphering signals sent by visitors from other planets. He wrote a best-selling book, Man and Dolphin, and the subject of interspecies communication interested NASA so much that it funded a remarkable project headed by Dr. Lilly. However, no one realized what a scandal it would end up being, as you will read about on the next page…
Funds from the Space Agency were used to build the Dolphin Point research facility on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas. There, in 1963, began an experiment to build a bridge of communication between humans and animals. The facility housed a laboratory and enclosures for three dolphins, named Peter, Pamela, and Sissy. Dolphin Point was designed so that researchers would have unrestricted access to the animals and also teach them to make human-like sounds. This task was assigned to Margaret Howe Lovatt, who became part of the experiment by sheer chance and did not even have a scientific background.
How did Margaret Howe Lovatt get her job?
Margaret Lovatt was 23 years old when she heard about the dolphin research facility at the east end of the island. She lived quite near there so she went there out of sheer curiosity. The director, Gregory Bateson, opened the door. He was so impressed by the confident woman who offered her help with the animals on the first day that he invited her in. Despite her inexperience, Lovatt proved to be an astute observer and it only took a moment for her to establish a very good rapport with the animals. The director did not think long about offering her a position in the laboratory and her task was to teach the dolphins English.
Lovatt becomes a researcher
Margaret was a very diligent worker. She spent every waking moment in the dolphin pool conducting lessons, while Bateson conducted scientific research. She was so committed that she found it very difficult to leave the facility in the evenings, claiming that there was still so much to do. She came to the conclusion that the animals were very unwell during the night hours when no one was looking after them and offered to live in the laboratory. Spending the whole day with the dolphins was, she thought, going to help with success and clear progress in the experiment. The bosses gave their approval and Lovatt was to live in isolation with the dolphin for the next six weeks.
Dolphins are smart & social - can they be taught to speak? This question was the heart of John Lilly's controversial 1960's study. Watch the full documentary, The Girl Who Talked to Dolphins, online: https://t.co/6cuBqYR8Rapic.twitter.com/3nNn3uW0Py— Smithsonian Channel (@SmithsonianChan) November 29, 2017
Lovatt moved in with a dolphin
A special room was created for Margaret to stay with her charge. In the lower part there was a swimming pool, and above it on a platform a bed for sleeping and a desk where the caregiver was to make reports. One of the dolphins, Peter, was assigned to her care because he was the only one in the facility "without any human-like sound training”. He lived in isolation from the others and was only allowed to play with the other animals once a week, in a separate pool. All other times he spent with Margaret learning English. The caregiver provided him with games, made sure he was fed, and even played television shows. The entire study was meticulously documented and recorded, and the animal, after many speech lessons and voice training, actually began to make human-like sounds. But there was also a dark side to the experiment, as the dolphin became extremely interested in the anatomy of its keeper. How did it end? Read on…
oh Melanie you absolutely have to google “The Girl Who Talked To Dolphins” immediately it’s WILD ? pic.twitter.com/eJUw4ypxp0— alice ✨ (@bossybigeyes) June 28, 2020
Intimate contacts with the dolphin
The dolphin repeatedly observed his teacher closely. A particular object of his interest were her knees, to which he often swam when Margaret sat with her legs submerged in water. He eagerly sought physical contact, so he rubbed himself against various parts of the caretaker's body, who sensed that he was developing a sexual urge. At first she thought that in such situations it would be good to move Pater to the pool with females, but when she noticed that the transport was bad for the research she decided to try to help herself. She began sexually satisfying the dolphin with her hand, and when this was leaked to the media, the public went wild. They wrote that an unnatural bond had been formed between man and animal. Lovatt wanted to clarify the situation and said that there was nothing sexual about her close relationship with Peter. However, this was not the end of the controversy.
Dolphins under the influence of LSD
An inspection was carried out at Dolphin Point so as to check the progress of the dolphins. The results were not satisfactory. At that point, however, it was not decided to close the experiment, and in addition, a new avenue for research had emerged. Dr. Lilly, the originator of the whole project, was one of the few scientists authorized by the government to conduct research on LSD, and he had the crazy idea to test its effects precisely on dolphins in the laboratory. So, in addition to the fact that language lessons were still being taught there, the animals were also administered narcotics. It turned out to have little effect on their behavior, but when NASA learned of the doings at the center it withdrew funding, fearing for its own reputation. The experiment ended in 1966, and this led to tragedy.
The Dolphin Point facility was closed and the dolphins were taken to a facility in Miami. The new home was much worse - it was in an abandoned building with smaller pools and the animals were severely affected by the difference. They had less access to sunlight and started to get sick, and Peter additionally experienced very hard separation from his caretaker. It came to the point that Lovatt received a phone call a few weeks later with the sad news - the dolphin had committed suicide! How could this be? Well, dolphins do not breathe like humans and the process of taking in and releasing air is not automatic for them, each breath is a conscious decision. So it can happen that they dive under the water and hold it until they suffocate. This is what happened in the case of Peter, who apparently, without Margaret lost the will to live.
Lovatt still lives in the lab
Lovatt was deeply affected by the dolphin's death. Her fondness for the place where she trained and researched him for weeks was so great that she bought the abandoned laboratory. Inside, after remodeling, a family home was created, where the woman still lives today with her husband and three daughters. For many years after the controversial experiment ended, she refused to talk about it with the media. It took almost 50 decades for her to give an interview about it, which was used in the documentary film "The Girl Who Talked to Dolphins".
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Margaret Howe ran one of the most audacious science experiments of the 1960s when she lived with a dolphin while teaching it to speak.— Smithsonian Channel Aviation Nation (@AVNationSC) August 21, 2019
Hear about Howe's work—and what went wrong—on The Girl Who Talked to Dolphins: https://t.co/Jwk6A7xh8Ipic.twitter.com/Ze9vJqoa27