Peter the Dolphin


Trigger warnings: animal abuse, sexual abuse, drug use, suicide

It's the 1950s, enter: John Lilly - neuroscientist, inventor, psychonaut (refers both to a methodology for describing and explaining the subjective effects of altered states of consciousness, including those induced by meditation or mind-altering substances, and to a research cabal in which the researcher voluntarily immerses themselves into an altered mental state in order to explore the accompanying experiences) very interested in extending human consciousness

Lilly encounters a stranded pilot whale and realizes they're actually kind of intelligent? In his words "whoa big brain" so he started observing dolphins. He established a lab in St. Thomas where the bottom floor was open to the sea so that fresh water could come in and out - no need for a fancy aquarium set up that way. They had 3 captive dolphins, 2 females and a young male. Lilly had done work with brain mapping with Rhesus monkeys where he would sedate the animals and then probe their brains to see what happened. But dolphins don't breath under sedation so he couldn't really do that and was left with observation as a means of study

(Dolphins have to consciously breath - unlike humans whose breathing is on the autonomic (automatic) nervous system so we don't to think about it.)

Episode: File 0075: Rabid Pirate Dolphins of Tuared Pt. 1

Release Date: July 8 2022

Researched and presented by Courtney

Lilly observed that the dolphins could mimic him when he was talking and came up with a theory that dolphins could be taught language and published his theory Man and Dolphin in 1961. This was really interesting for a group of scientists that gathered together (including Lilly) to talk about using radio astronomy to find intelligent life. They called themselves "The Order of the Dolphin" after Lilly's research (why? Dunno).

This Order of the Dolphin gave Lilly some contacts - including a young Carl Sagan, who would later visit his labs. One of these contacts, Gregory Bateson (an anthropologist and linguist) helped him run his lab in St. Thomas.

It wouldn't be long after this that he would meet Margaret Lovatt. Margaret was passionate about animals and offered to observe the dolphins and take notes on his behalf. She would end up living this house with the three dolphins and she would end up developing a very special relationship with one in particular, named Peter

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