A WOMAN who spent 10 weeks living in an underwater house with a dolphin has revealed the one major problem that caused her lots of stress.
Margaret Howe Lovatt had a wild fling with six-year-old bottlenose Peter in the 1960s as part of a bizarre NASA-funded experiment.
The project was designed to teach dolphins to understand and potentially even mimic human speech, with an weird long-term goal to work out how humans could talk to aliens.
And perhaps even odder was the massive undertaking to create “The Dolphin House” – a sprawling complex flooded with water where Margaret and Peter would live together for ten weeks.
The 23-year-old hated leaving in the evenings and still feeling that there was much work left to do.
So she convinced lead project neuroscientist Dr. John Lilly to let her live in the lab, waterproofing the upper rooms and flooding them with a couple feet of water.
That way, human and dolphin could occupy the same space.
Margaret would spend all her time in the 22in deep seawater with Peter – apart from when she could climb onto a dry bed or desk which hung from the ceiling hidden behind shower curtains.
The couple were to live, sleep, wash, eat and play together as they attempted to teach the dolphin – one of the most intelligent animals on the planet – how to speak through his blowhole.
But as the pair spent more time together, Margaret’s dolphin roommate started becoming a major problem as he began to have intense sexual urges towards her.
“When we had nothing to do was when we did the most. He was very, very interested in my anatomy,” she said.
“If I was sitting here and my legs were in the water, he would come up and look at the back of my knee for a long time.
“He wanted to know how that thing worked and I was so charmed by it.”
Peter then became even more excited, as his desires would not be fulfilled by Margaret.
“He would rub himself on my knee, my foot or my hand,” Margaret revealed.
She added that moving Peter back down to the enclosure each time this happened soon became a logistical nightmare.
This resulted in Margaret making the reluctant decision to satisfy Peter’s sexual urges herself, manually.
“It was just easier to incorporate that and let it happen,” she admitted.
“It would just become part of what was going on, like an itch, just get rid of that scratch and we would be done and move on.”
Lovatt insisted “it wasn’t sexual on my part. Sensuous perhaps.”
“It seemed to me that it made the bond closer.
“Not because of the sexual activity, but because of the lack of having to keep breaking.
“And that’s really all it was.
“I was there to get to know Peter. That was part of Peter.”
Peter had fallen in love with the 23-year-old research assistant, but the experiment’s funding ran out and The Dolphin House had to close.
And when the two separated, Peter was so heartbroken he took his own life.
He refused to breathe, sank to the bottom of his tank, and died in a case widely claimed to be an act of “suicide”.
Peter was shipped away from Margaret – being taken 1,000 miles away to Dr Lilly’s other – much smaller – lab in Florida.
Within weeks the seemingly heartbroken dolphin had died in an apparent act of suicide as he was kept in cramped conditions without his “lover”.
“I got that phone call from John Lilly. John called me himself to tell me. He said Peter had committed suicide,” she told The Guardian.
The lab’s vet, Andy Williamson, even attributed his death to a broken heart as he was ripped away from Margaret.
He said: “Margaret could rationalize it, but when she left, could Peter? Here’s the love of his life gone.”
Ric O’Barry, from animal rights organisation The Dolphin Project, also backs the description of Peter’s death as “suicide”.
He said: “Dolphins are not automatic air-breathers like we are. Every breath is a conscious effort.
“If life becomes too unbearable, the dolphins just take a breath and they sink to the bottom.
“They don’t take the next breath.”
Scientists are split over whether dolphins have the mental capacity to participate in “suicide” in the human sense of the word.
However, distressed animals are well known to engage in self destructive behaviour that may prove fatal – such as the case of Hugo the whale, who rammed his head into his tank so often that he suffered a brain aneurysm.