Did this love story between a human and an animal go way too far or can you accept the woman rationalizing this for the sake of science? Margaret Howe actually admits to having a "sexual relationship" with a dolphin. Is this inappropriate or is this an experiment that needed to take a bizarre twist? Whatever you may call this, you'll have to agree that admitting you felt your encounter with a dolphin was "sensuous" is probably not something you would reveal to your friends over coffee.
The story has love, abandonment and ultimately suicide, much like you'd expect from a paperback that will never make the best seller list. This wasn't a paperback novel, this was a 10-week marine science experiment back in the 1960s. The woman who was at the center of this experiment with a dolphin is the subject of a new BBC documentary, "The Girl Who Talked to Dolphins," according to the New York Post on June 10.
Apparently there was a little more than talking going on, but starting from the beginning, Margaret Howe and Peter the dolphin were introduced in 1965 for a NASA experiment. The experiment would entail the two living, eating and sleeping together for 10 weeks while Howe taught Peter to talk through his blow-hole. The setting was St. Thomas, where a section of the beach was flooded with 22 inches of seawater for Peter to navigate through and Howe to live above, reports the International Business Times today.
Howe was set up with a desk suspended from the ceiling and a hanging bed, which consisted of a mattress covered by a shower curtain. This was designed by Dr. John C. Lilly, the leader of the NASA experiment. The dolphin and the young woman went to work immediately with Howe teaching Peter to greet her in the morning by saying "Hello Margaret." Peter had trouble making the sound of the letter "M," but something else popped up that first needed to be addressed.
Peter was sexually aroused by Margaret and his mind was on other things besides forming words with his blow hole. He displayed all the mating behaviors including jamming himself against Margaret's leg frequently. He nibbled at her and his excitement would get in the way of his attitude around learning to talk.
Margaret admits there was a flip side to this, as she was enjoying this attention and she did feel it was a bit sensual at times. She admits to having a "very close encounter" with Peter, but stopped short of giving the details. She did however share that his sexual excitement got in the way of their work, Margaret did something in the name of science to get Peter back on track to concentrate on the work.
Howe explains how she would "masturbate" Peter to keep him focused. She talks about this in the trailer released for the documentary, which can be viewed above. Howe said, "
“It was just easier to incorporate that and let it happen. It was very precious, it was very gentle. Peter knew I was right there, Peter was right there … again it was sexual on his part, it was not sexual on mine — sensuous perhaps,” she said.
Howe also admits that the relationship turned into a close bond for both saying:
“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."
Howe said the masturbation became part of the routine, it was like an itch that you scratched to get rid of and then you moved on. While many might debate that scratching an itch and masturbating a horny six-year-old dolphin coming into its sexual prime are just a bit different, Howe considered it part of their daily time together.
The experiment ended after the 10 weeks and the lab closed. Peter was shipped back to a lab that Dr. Lilly had in Miami. It is not known just how much Peter learned to say, but that will come out in this new documentary. Howe and Peter never saw each other again.
Right after Peter was shipped back to Lilly's lab, his health went downhill rapidly. "Peter committed suicide." The veterinarian attending to Peter documented that the dolphin's cause of death was "a broken heart." Howe was the love of his life and once she left, Peter the dolphin didn't want to live without her.
This part of the story is sad and you can't help feel bad for the dolphin, but you have to admit some of this was a bit bizarre. The documentary "The Girl Who Talked to Dolphins" is set to air on BBC next week so check your local channel line up from your cable or satellite provider for the date and time that the documentary airs if you are interested in seeing this.