THE DOLPHINS by Harry McAvinchey


Did anyone see the recent programme on television”The Girl Who Talked to Dolphins”, concerning Dr John Lilly’s attempts in the early  1960s to communicate with dolphins? The thinking was that because the dolphin had one of the biggest mammalian brains that they could be as intelligent as humans ….just more adapted in evolutionary terms to living in water. They also seemed to be very comfortable in the presence of humans and seemed to possess an acute, if alien intelligence .

Part of the thinking was that if we ever got in touch with aliens outside of our universe , initially learning to talk to some of the other intelligent mammals on earth might be a great place to make a start. It might make us more accepting of a “creature” beyond our current earthly  knowledge and help us learn novel forms of communication in that event.

Bear in mind that SETI{ Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence} was becoming  a popular idea and that man hadn’t quite walked on the moon yet .The thinking was that all bets were on and all things were possible.We were a bit open-minded and naive in the 1960s …remember ? We thought we could solve every problem with technology or LSD .Simply putting it in the water supply would have everyone so in touch with the cosmic consciousness  and loved -up to the universal ether, that silly things like racism, bigotry and other social problems  would be so easily solved or simply fade away in the oneness of  the Gaian biosphere…… {Maaan!} .

The experiments ended in failure unfortunately. There was a lot of dolphinic chirruping, some blasted exercises in phonetics and even a little inter -species masturbation{If you will!} but really the end results were no more enlightening than the sounds made by your frisky pet cat or dog, or at a stretch , a particularly talkative mynah bird. It further resulted in what I would call horrific animal cruelty and in the case of one of the male dolphins ,”Peter” ,committing suicide at being separated from his human “lover”…{yes., I know , you’ll have to watch the whole programme.}Apparently dolphins are not natural air breathers, like us .They have to think about their breathing and when the notion takes them , can literally drop to the bottom and stop breathing forever.

I was reminded of all this  when I saw the film because I had read of these experiments back in the 1960s. It is strange to think that that was the forward thinking mindset back then among a handful of people ,when here in Ireland, just around the same time as the Woodstock festival and the  first moon Landing of 1969 , we were gearing up for a tribal spat that would carry us toward the end of the century and beyond with precious little resolution.In the here and now, some forty or fifty years later  we are still not communicating properly among ourselves,  never  mind  our friends the dolphins .

The dolphins  on the other hand, for the most part, except when they are trapped and enslaved in Water Zoos, mostly stick to their watery world and  seem to be doing perfectly well without any more of our tainted, human  input. We’d probably only try to convert them to Christianity or some such when we struck up that first conversation. There’d be all sorts of arguments about what colour Jesus was and whether or not  Man or Dolphin was in the true image of God. Then there be the rows about whose sea it really was and how that moon influenced the tides……. and so on …..

That would be just before the aliens arrived …….

“This old world may never change

The way it’s been

And all the ways of war

Can’t change it back again

I’ve been searchin’

For the dolphins in the sea

And sometimes I wonder

Do you ever think of me

I’m not the one to tell this world

How to get along

I only know the peace will come

When all hate is gone.”

 Song “The Dolphins” by Fred Neil

3 Responses to THE DOLPHINS by Harry McAvinchey

  1. Randall Stephen Hall June 24, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    Hi Harry. I like your style. Just read this dolphin article today.

    Your sentiment is great. There is a lot I think we have lost from the 60’s that
    was positive and open. What a cynical time we live in. RSH

  2. Randall Stephen Hall June 24, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    PS. I think we need to get Richard Haass (on his way back from Tipperary, to speak to the newly formed Dolphin Assembly at Portaferry.

  3. paddykool June 24, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

    Many thanks for your kind words Randall. Yes…looking back at it all certainly adds a bit of perspective.I read somewhere a long time ago that you should really write about things that you know .The little film just triggered a few memories. I’ve read a few more cynical takes on that film by people who obviously had no idea or memory of that brave new world or those searching times …which is by now unfortunately , mostly lost….Well…I suppose it did produce this very internet, so maybe there is a little more joined up thinking now because of the blasted consciousness of those old hippy explorers..