In his quest to find intelligence amid the animal kingdom, man has often employed unorthodox techniques. And while things might have toned down in the past few decades, some crazy stuff was going on back in the 1960s. Like dolphin handjobs and acid trips.
The year was 1964. Gas was 30 cents a gallon and Keanu Reeves had just been born. People were infatuated with invaders from outer space, a trend spawned by the decade’s general ‘far-outness’ and fueled by dreams of reaching the stars. Back then, NASA was rolling in dough and could afford to fund any zany projects centered on establishing meaningful communication between men and little green men.
It wasn’t long before someone turned on a TV and saw Flipper was running. Immediately, connections were made.
Hey, dolphins are smart and, unlike aliens, they’re also available. Let’s like, see if we can talk to them.”—1960s researcher
Thankfully, the ideal facility to run these experiments already existed: the Communication Research Institute in the Virgin Islands, run by inventor and psychonaut John C. Lilly, aka the man who came up with the isolation tank. If someone could make dolphins talk, it would have to be him.
One experiment aimed to find the impact of familiarity on dolphin-human communication. So they partially flooded a house and turned it into a home for researcher Margaret H. Lovatt and Peter, a young dolphin. They lived together, ate together, slept together for an entire week but it wasn’t enough for any breakthroughs to be made. So they extended the experiment for another 3 months. But as anyone who’s put a young woman and a horny dolphin under the same roof will tell you, things quickly tend to get fishy under such circumstances.
Lilly sure picked an interesting time to run the experiment. Peter the dolphin was just reaching sexual maturity and this process began interfering with their schedule. Whenever Lovatt would start classes, he’d just do the dolphin equivalent of rolling his eyes. Or hit on her. Sometimes he would caress her feet and hands and his advances were easily brushed off. But there were also episodes when his persistence culminated with Peter furiously wethumping (is that a thing?) his housemate’s leg or even becoming properly aggressive.
Lessons had to be suspended and Peter transported to another pool where he’d spend time with female dolphins and blow off some steam. Lovatt was aware that these interruptions would affect the quality of their study, or even compromise it altogether, so the next time Peter swam to woo her, she took matters into her own hands.
It was very precious. It was very gentle… Again it was sexual on his part, it was not sexual on mine. Sensuous perhaps. It would just become part of what was going on, like an itch. Just get rid of that. Scratch it and we’ll be done. Move on. And that’s really all it was.”
From then on, lessons ran a lot smoother and Peter became much more receptive. An intelligent creature’s ego needs to be fed and perhaps that is why Peter found no solace until the nice lady touched his peter. Giggity.
We have several dedicated women at our laboratory who give ‘tender loving care’ to dolphins under all sorts of conditions. I have rather an ideal ‘mother’ over at St. Thomas who is quite willing to live with them and to give them very close attention. She has spent several months working with what we now think is rather an unusual case.”—John C. Lilly
But despite taking their relationship to a whole new level, the duo failed to form extensive verbal pathways. It seemed sex wasn’t enough to make dolphins talk. What about drugs?
Lilly decided that two other dolphins (but not Peter, he had his flippers full) were to be administered 100-300 microgram doses LSD because that’s how they dealt with stuff back then. This had some interesting results.
One of the two dolphins was a female who had been physically abused by humans and normally kept her distance from the researchers. But on acid her anxiety diminished enough for her to float five feet away from Lilly. Having no emotional scars or underlying psychoses, the other dolphin simply tripped balls and appeared to enjoy it.
But not even altering their state of mind could make the dolphins speak. Maybe they just didn’t want to. Which is a shame, really, because who wouldn’t want to talk to the lil’ rascals?
“Boys, use sonar. Bring sunken treasure. Will pay you in handjobs and LSD.”
I’d be Scrooge McDucking it in less than a week.