The meeting of Peter, a six-year-old bottlenose dolphin and Margaret Howe, a 23-year-old research assistant, was bizarre to say the least. It was during a NASA experiment dating back to the 1960s that the dolphin first came into contact with Margaret. The ultimate goal of the experiment is to understand how humans can talk to aliens.
Peter the dolphin had to learn to understand human speech and if possible imitate it. A sprawling water-flooded complex called “the House of the Dolphins” has been created. Peter and Margaret were supposed to live there for 10 weeks. “Margaret spent all her time in 22-inch-deep seawater with Peter, except when she could climb onto a dry bed or desk hanging from the ceiling, hidden behind shower curtains.”
“live, sleep, wash, eat and play with the dolphin”
According to Dr. John C Lilly who supervised the experiment, Peter might be able to mimic human speech “in a decade or two.” But against all odds, Peter fell madly in love with Margaret, as his own vet had described. It was from the fourth week of the experiment that Margaret noticed Peter’s behavior. The dolphin was starting to get sexually aroused around her, nibbling her and rubbing against her legs.
Margaret began to pleasures the dolphin to help him focus so much of the latter’s impulses were becoming more and more lascivious. For her, it was not sexual, but rather sensual. Due to lack of funding, the House of the Dolphins was closed and Peter removed from Margaret. It is 1000km from her, in the laboratory of Dr. John C Lilly in Florida that Peter “committed suicide by refusing to breathe”.
Peter, the dolphin and Margaret © BBC