by Milo Sumner in New Film on Wednesday 11 June 2014

The Sixties: a time of anything-goes experimentation, hedonism, musical revolution and dolphin-sex. That was no typing error. When a young Margaret Lovatt stumbled across a NASA-funded lab on her home island of St Thomas in the Caribbean, she immediately volunteered to help work with the dolphins that were the subject of the research going on there.

Although utterly unqualified, Margaret quickly proved to have an amazing knack and intuition for observing and caring for the three animals, Peter, Pamela and Sissy.

Among others, one of the ongoing experiments was an attempt to establish inter-species communication. In other words: teach dolphins to speak English. Lovatt was selected to conduct an intense three month project, living round the clock six days a week in a specially-built house/dolphinarium. She and Peter, the adolescent male dolphin, were paired together and they quickly established a strong bond.

Although dolphins are very intelligent, and indeed it seemed their level of understanding of English was startling, they are also subject to potent sexual urges just like any other creature under the sun. The maturing Peter began to show a more-than-proper interest in Margaret, occasionally causing her mild injuries through his affectionate nuzzling. He was having to be transported to the female enclosure in order to satisfy his desires so frequently, that eventually the bold Ms Lovatt took it upon herself to ‘fulfill his needs’ manually.

Unfortunately, when this came to light a decade later, it eclipsed all the progress made at the lab and Margaret received a storm of media attention, much of it negative. In the recent BBC documentary she had this to say:

“I wasn’t uncomfortable with it, as long as it wasn’t rough. It would just become part of what was going on, like an itch – just get rid of it, scratch it and move on. And that’s how it seemed to work out. It wasn’t private. People could observe it…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.”

Via Daily Mail