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Dolphin -- Watercolor by Grandson Chris Bayhi [at 8 yrs old]


An Adventure in Inter-Species Communication


Bobby Matherne


Chapter 5: The Discovery [Copyright 1997 by Bobby Matherne]

As ICN broadcast another taped interview with him, Dr. Mornay remembered a plane ride to Miami.

As the plane leveled out at 36,000 feet, he relaxed in his seat. He opened his eyes and looked out the windows at the Florida Everglades passing below the wing. "Ingrid," he thought, "in a few short hours we will be together again." He felt a muted shiver as he thought of that warm sweetness.

"A lot has happened since her visit to California in April," he thought. "Edith has finally moved out with the girls and has herself a boy friend. Ingrid and Paul have split up and she's heading with me and the kids to Las Vegas for a quick divorce. Ten whole days together while we drive from Miami to Las Vegas, imagine that." And imagine he did. The past two months he had spent imagining, both at work and in writing letters and poems to Ingrid.

His work at the Graphics Research Laboratory in Irvine had changed. The head of the Lab had asked him to take over the Ray Tracing Project. His goal was to produce realistic 3-D images of computer generated objects by tracing the light reflected from all light sources and creating the reflections on the object. Without ray tracing, an image of a Christmas tree ornament would be a dull colored ball with no reflections on its surface. Since his family had moved out he worked late nights on the image research project, stopping only to write a letter or poem to Ingrid, or to telephone her. The letter, poems, phone calls were his only refreshment, the only break he got from the intense effort of the research project.

On a typical day he'd break for lunch by driving alone to a nearby restaurant. He'd order his meal then pull out his latest letter from Ingrid. Oblivious to the food he was eating he'd devour the contents of the letter, savoring every nuance of phrase that Ingrid had penned. Her letters were never mundane, but always fresh and interesting, whatever the subject. They inspired him to write equally fresh and interesting letters, not by imitating her letters but by writing his very best. He always strove to write interesting letters, but when he had written letters almost daily to Edith in college, her return letters had been silly, perfunctory efforts that had tended to crush his enthusiasm. But with Ingrid, it was like a tennis match against an expert player: the very skill of the other opponent became an added inspiration to perform better.

"Welcome to Miami, my love," Ingrid said as she threw her arms around him and kissed him. One long kiss, a kiss that proclaimed they were no longer secret lovers, stealing kisses in dark cocktail lounges and bars, but public lovers, out-in-the-open lovers. Robert drove to her home where Paul had recently moved out and that night they slept together in that same bed where they had first made love back in February. It had become their bed and it would soon follow them to their new home in California.

The next morning they loaded up the car and the two kids and set out on a cross-country trek. Each night they stopped at a motel along the interstate, taking a double room for themselves and a double for Denny and Wendy.

In Dallas they stopped to visit Ingrid's stepmother Jean. She'd moved back to Dallas after Dennis had died in the hospital in Baltimore. Jean had been Dennis's secretary for many years and when his first wife died, he married Jean a few weeks later. Within a year of their marriage Dennis developed intestinal cancer and died six months later. Ingrid and Jean became good friends through the many visits to the hospital during the last months of Dennis's life. Now Jean was her only relative, her only connection with family.

It was also a break in the long cross-country drive. They stayed two days with Jean and her nieces and nephews. Denny had a ball driving a small pink trail bike up and down the driveway. It wasn't much more than a lawn-mower engine with two wheels and handlebars but he loved it, in spite of the bright pink paint all over the frame. Denny wanted it and quickly found out it was for sale. Ingrid was against it, "We're going to Las Vegas for six weeks and don't even know where we'll be living. Besides, our car is already stuffed with luggage."

Robert decided to intervene on Denny's behalf, "Look, Ingie, it's going to be boring as hell in Vegas for Denny. With this mini-bike we can take him trail riding in the desert. He'll love it. As for the car, I think I can make room in the trunk for it by rearranging everything. Let's do it." Ingrid saw at once that the two men in her world had her outnumbered on this point and quickly gave in. Secretly she was pleased that Robert had taken Denny's side and that they were doing something together.

When Robert went to the garage to get the mini-bike, he noticed a large antique automobile in the garage. "What's that?" he asked Ingrid.

"Oh, that's one of Dad's cars, a 1927 Railton, British-made, only six of them exported to the US. Dennis loved it almost as much as his old Pierce Arrow.

"Does it still run?"

"I think so. Would you like to drive it?"

"You bet."

Ingrid got the keys from Jean and came back with Claude, Jean's nephew. Claude climbed in, started the engine and let Robert drive it out of the driveway.

"Wow! This thing's big as a tank!" He was impressed by the physical size of the automobile from the driver's seat. He'd seen cars this big but always from the ground level before. In the driver's seat the car seemed huge. The Railton had an in line twelve cylinder engine, a shape like a Model A, and a light blue paint job. Sitting in the open cab he felt on top of the world as he drove the car around the neighborhood.


The other place they planned to spend a couple days was in the Grand Canyon. Ingrid and the kids had never been there and he promised them they'd stop for a visit. They drove along the South Rim of the canyon and spent the night at the El Tovar Lodge. That night Robert and Ingrid walked along the path on the edge of the canyon leading away from the lodge. Ingrid brought her guitar and played and sang songs as they sat looking out into the darkness of the canyon. In the night sky the star field blazed with twinkling points, and he imagined the stars to be tiny faces smiling at them. The canyon was a huge empty blackness that reached out in front of them as with open arms, welcoming the rain of light from the stars overhead.

Dr. Mornay remembered every word of the conversation from that night. Ingrid had stopped after a song and looked at Mornay's pensive face, "Is something wrong?"

"No, but something I read in the car today is puzzling me. It involves whales and harpoon ships."

"Tell me about it." She put the guitar down and looked at his face, lit only by the dim light that filtered through the trees from the lodge.

"There were two groups of fishing ships separated by some miles; each group had one ship that was outfitted with a harpoon gun, but other than that, the ships were all identical. Whales were swimming freely around both groups of ships, coming up close to the ships without fear. Suddenly one of the ships fired its harpoon gun and killed a whale. At that moment the whales moved away from only the ship with the harpoon gun in both groups of ships, even though the other group of ships was miles away. Now, how did the second group of whales know to move away from the harpoon ship, alike in all respect except for the deadly harpoon gun? Or, for that matter, how did they know that anything had happened to the other group of whales?"

"I read that whales can communicate over long distances through the water. I suppose the first group signaled the second group."

"OK, let's suppose they did signal the other group. What form did the signal take?"

"I guess they said, 'Hey! Watch out for the ship with the harpoon gun!'"

"Yes, that would work if whales spoke English or some other human language. Even if the phrase 'harpoon gun' didn't exist in their language they could describe the large cylindrical object mounted on a pedestal with a pointed rod sticking out the front."

"Are you saying whales don't speak a language like we do?"

"That's the sticking point - all attempts to communicate with cetaceans have failed using human languages. We don't really know how they communicate with each other"


"Sorry. Cetacean is the species that includes all species of whales and dolphins. Most of the communication attempts have been made with one species of dolphin, Tursiops truncatus, the bottlenose dolphin. This dolphin is about human-size and has a large brain weight to body weight ratio. Since large animals need large brains to control their bodily functions, absolute brain size is not a measure of intelligence, only brain size relative to body size is a true measure of intelligence."

"Didn't you tell me about John Lilly teaching a dolphin to say 'hello'?"

"Yes, but he was not able to repeat it, so it may have been a coincidence or simply an extraordinary effort on the part of the dolphin to please its trainer. Besides, dolphins speak at ten times the frequency that humans do. They emit sounds that bounce off their surroundings and use these reflected sounds to locate themselves in space, a process call echo-location. I prefer to think of dolphins 'seeing' with their ears. In fact, studies have shown that the portion of the dolphin brain devoted to hearing is about the same as the portion of the human brain devoted to seeing."

"If dolphins can 'see' with their ears, do you suppose they could repeat what they heard? If so that could explain how the whales told the other group about the harpoon gun."

Mornay remembered how dumbfounded he was when Ingrid said that. There was the answer he'd been searching for. Ingrid's suggestion fit all the data without requiring a human-type language. The sounds dolphins hear reflected from their environment are sounds in the vocal range of the dolphins and the dolphins can imitate them! Therefore dolphins can speak pictures!

"Ingrid! That's it! Dolphins can speak pictures! That fits all the data from my graduate work with dolphins. It's the missing link, the key idea of how to proceed with dolphin-human communication!" He was too excited to sit still. He got up and paced back and forth along the rim path as he talked, half to himself, half to Ingrid, oblivious to the huge gaping maw of the Grand Canyon and the blazing Milky Way overhead. He stopped and sat down on the rocky ledge next to Ingrid and looked into her eyes. "What we have just discovered tonight may well lead to the first case of inter-species communication in the history of the human race. In your usual direct way you cut through all the foolishness right to the essence of the problem and came up with the key suggestion. Thank you. I love you. Thank you." He put his arms around her and kissed her, a kiss that engulfed him in warm sweetness. When they separated they both turned their eyes upward to see the stars smiling down on them.

"We are not alone, Ingrid. Humankind is not alone on this planet. We will learn to talk to another species soon."


The next two days were hectic as he sketched out how to proceed with the inter-species communication project. Ingrid and the kids wanted to take a mule ride down the canyon's walls and he wanted to do some research. He took them to the stable for their mule ride and then drove to Phoenix to locate a copy of some of Lilly's research works. In a suburban bookstore he turned up a copy of "Man and Dolphins" which contained a complete compilation of Lilly's books and research papers. This was enough for him to get started on, so he turned around and headed back to the Grand Canyon with the book propped up on his steering wheel. Reading while driving was something he had learned to do safely on long interstate trips and the wide two lane highway to the canyon had little traffic to distract him. He finished the book by that afternoon and began writing a paper about his plan for inter-species communication based on Ingrid's inspiration.

He needed to coin a word for speaking pictures because it was a new capability, one unknown to humans and therefore not yet part of any language. Because echo-location was misleading, he also wanted a word for hearing pictures. What made echo-location a bad word was it lacked any sense of creating a visual picture from the reflected sounds. Thus the two new words for input and output of pictures needed a visual component. He finally settled on the word phizualize (fizz-u-a-lies) for the input process and spizualize (spizz-u-a-lies) for the output process. Phizualize he derived from phonate-visualize and spizualize from speak-visualize. Creating the verb from an English word with already existing parts of speech made it easy to create verb tenses and noun forms of the new words, e.g., phizualized, spizualization. Using the new words he was able to say clearly and precisely that a dolphin creates a phizualization of its environment and then uses its phonation apparatus to create a spizualization to tell other dolphins what it saw. He tried all sorts of sentences with his new words. "The whales phizualized the harpoon gun killing a fellow whale and immediately spizualized a report of the incident to nearby whales. The other group of whales phizualized the report, recognized the harpoon gun from their earlier phizualizations of the nearby ships and began to move away from only the ship with the harpoon gun."

By the time Ingrid and the kids had returned from the bottom of the canyon he had most of the paper written. He suggested they stay one more day for him to finish the paper.

The next day he finished writing the paper during the early morning hours and took the four of them on a plane ride through the Grand Canyon. As the plane dipped lower and lower into the canyon, his mind drifted back in time in step with the geological formations he was passing. "What were the dolphins doing during the Cretaceous Period? The Jurassic period? The Triassic? Would they have stories passed down from generation to generation like human stories and legends? If so these stories would be in the form of newsreel footage of history if we could build a device to translate their sounds into pictures like dolphins do. Of course, we'd need a device to speak to the dolphins to ask them for these stories. Without two-way communication we'd not get very far with them. How would I design a complete set of phizualization and spizualization devices for dolphin communication?"

"Look, Robert," Ingrid brought him abruptly out of his reverie, "there's the Canyon Ranch we visited yesterday."

"Yeah, Mom, look back there, the mule train's just arriving at the river." Before she could turn her head in the direction Wendy was pointing, the plane made a steep turn and all she saw was sky and Robert's face.

"It's a shame you've got the window - you've hardly looked out the past few minutes."

"I know, but my mind is full of possibilities about the dolphin discovery. Imagine newsreels of history, thousands of years ago, as told by dolphin story tellers!"

"Cleopatra riding her barge down the Nile?"

"Yes, the explosion of Krakatoa, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius when it destroyed Pompeii, the burning of Rome in Nero's time. Anywhere a dolphin could have been to record an event large enough to be memorable."

"Wow! That would deserve a global broadcast on ICN," Ingrid said, picturing the possibilities. "Can you make that happen?"

"Well, first thing is to publish the paper I just finished writing this morning. Then we'll have to get some funding for an extensive research project to develop the hardware and software to make phizualization and spizualization possible. Phizualization will be the easier job because we only have to produce pictures of the dolphin's environment from the reflected acoustical waves. This is very similar to sonograms that are being developed to produce moving pictures of babies in their mothers' wombs. I expect that it will be common in coming years for mothers to know their baby's sex several months before they are born. They will know it because the doctor will be able to see the sexual organs on a monitor. Imagine waiting for a Katie to be born months before you ever see her. I expect we will get an expert from this field to work on the phizualization project."

"You seem to be saying spizualization would be much harder. Why is that?"

"The primary reason is because you will have to create mini-movies to communicate with dolphins because that's how they communicate with each other. They store memories of the component parts of their environment and experience and then parse them into a coherent story that they spizz to one another. That's why dolphins are thought to be so polite -- it's not politeness that prompts only one dolphin to speak at a time, so much as the nature of dolphin communication that requires one dolphin to finish showing his mini-movie before the next dolphin begins his. In fact, dolphins see underwater only when they're phonating. If they stop phonating, it will be as though they're in a dark movie theater where all they can see is the movie screen on which other dolphins are spizualizing."

"You would have to be a movie producer and director just to speak to dolphins? That sounds awfully difficult."

"Yep. It is. But with 3-D graphics of the type I've been working on at Graphics Research Laboratory, it becomes a possibility. It will take years of work to develop the software and to train the neural nets to create images that dolphins can see. It's a bit pre-mature to speculate on how the spizualization apparatus would work because we don't know yet exactly how dolphins spizualize. But as soon as the phizualization device is working we will learn how they spizz to one another and we can then start the next phase of the project."

Ingrid soon forgot about the canyon walls that flowed past the windows of the small plane. They were both caught up in the possibilities of dolphin communication. They remained quiet for the rest of the sightseeing tour -- he planning where to send his paper and she planning to get hold of some dolphin books so she could follow and assist her husband-to-be in his new career.


Later that night Ingrid awoke with a start and Robert turned to see her gasping for breath, her eyes wide open in terror. "What's wrong?" he asked.

"Denny!" she cried between gasps, "a dream," took a quick breath, and continued, "I just had a nightmare. We were hiking down the Grand Canyon when a rattlesnake struck Denny's leg. I ran to Denny and he fell into the canyon just out of my grasp. Whew, that was scary. I keep seeing that snake strike and I can feel the fangs going into my leg."

He went to the kitchenette and poured her a large glass of burgundy from the half empty wine bottle they had shared the night before at the canyon's rim. After taking several large swallows of wine, she had calmed down a bit, although she was still shaking slightly.

"Did I ever tell you about my dog, Alfie?" he asked.

"No, I don't think so. I didn't know you ever had a dog."

"I did once, when I was nine years old. Alfie was a beautiful white Lhasa Apso. We were constant companions for the two summers we had together before he died."

"How did he die?"

"We were walking in the woods one day and I had stopped to inspect a large garden spider's web stretched across the path. Alfie had gone off as he usually did, and I had forgotten him until I heard him barking frantically. I ran over to where he was and saw a large diamondback rattler ready to strike. I froze and as I watched in horror the snake lunged forward, striking Alfie on the front leg. I ran over to Alfie and picked him up. As I carried him home, his gentle yelping stopped, and I felt his body go limp in my arms. He was dead by the time I reached home.

"After that day I was scared to go into the woods again, afraid I would get bitten by a snake. I would imagine a snake coming out of a bush, lunging at me, and biting me on the leg. My appetite disappeared completely, and I mostly stayed in my room thinking about Alfie. I felt lonely all the time and wished Alfie were back with me. Every time I thought of him I felt bad. Every memory of the two of us together had become a trigger for bad feelings. My dad came in my room to tuck me in one night, and I asked him if I would ever get over feeling bad about losing Alfie. He told me that 'sometimes answers to serious problems come to you in dreams.'

"That night Alfie appeared in a dream and talked to me. He showed me that I was doing things backwards, using these two experiences to make myself feel bad."

"How's that?" Ingrid was intrigued by the story and very curious. He took a sip from her nearly empty glass of wine and continued.

"Alfie showed me how to create good feelings when I thought of him and good feelings when I thought of the snake. He told me, 'Robbie, when you think of me, you've been seeing yourself playing with me and feeling bad because you can't have that again. If you would do that same thing with the snake, you would feel good. I'll show you. Watch!' As I watched in my dream, I saw a movie of me walking along a path. A snake came out of the bushes and passed in front of me. 'Watch your face as the snake disappears into the bushes. What did you see?'

"'Wow!' I said, 'I was scared at first, my face showed a look of surprise, then relief as the snake slithered away from me. I took a deep breath and felt good as I watched the movie you showed me.'

"'Great,' Alfie said, 'you see, before when you've thought of the snake, you've always imagined it coming up to you and biting you, isn't that so?'

"'Right,' I answered, 'that's exactly what I used to do, up until now, but from now on I will see it happening this new way.'

"'Good, and, since you could do it the other way for the snake, I want you to do it with me.'

"'Huh?,' I said, I was really puzzled by this suggestion. 'What do you mean by that?,' I asked Alfie.

"'When you think of me from now on,' Alfie said, 'imagine you're seeing me barking, seeing my tail wagging, and feeling my soft fur. Sit here.' I followed Alfie's instruction and he jumped into my lap. I began running my hands through his soft fur and could feel him panting as he did after running a bit.

"'This feels wonderful,' I told him.

"'Yes, you feel wonderful because you are imagining me here with you right now and you are feeling exactly as you do when I'm with you.'

"I suddenly realized that I had been seeing the snake that way and frightening myself by doing so. From now on I could see Alfie that way -- every memory of Alfie could become a good feeling memory. What better way to respect the memory of a deceased loved one than by creating good feelings in the present when you bring up their memory?

"When I awoke the next morning I felt great! My appetite had returned and I ate heartily at breakfast. Afterwards I went for a long walk in the woods, no longer afraid of snakes and full of good memories of Alfie."

He looked over at Ingrid and noticed she had shut her eyes and dozed off. He gave her a soft kiss over each eyelid and turned off the light to go back to sleep himself. Did she hear all of the story? he wondered to himself. Remembering that her unconscious mind received whatever part of the story her conscious mind may have missed, he soon drifted off to sleep.


Dr. Mornay was brought out of his reverie as his attention was caught as he heard the dolphins speaking again.

For three thousand years we Dolphin People attempted to communicate with the Human People. Our attempts had been frustrated by the system of grunts by which they communicated. By orchestration of these grunts into long series of very low frequency noises, they had evolved a sophisticated language. Since we could speak entire scenes in the time-space of one of their grunts, their language was very slow compared to ours, and we had not deciphered it all. Some of our field researchers mimicked their vocalizations, but had no idea what it meant.

Our best approach was through their dreams, where we could speak our images directly to the visualization centers of the human brain. Their brain could create the grunt sounds that they heard as a dolphin's voice in their dream speaking in their own language. This conversion of the visual content into a sequential language introduced a random element in our communication, and required that we carefully select candidates for dreams -- we required someone that believed inter-species communication was possible. We selected Robert Mornay because of his early childhood interest in talking to animals. We found this out during a swim with him at a local oceanarium when he was seven-years-old. We followed him closely in his dreams thereafter. That was how we were able to help him through several difficult problems in his early life.

We have mentioned before that when Mornay was about nine years old, his dog died from a snake's bite. He was terrified and distraught for several nights until we chose an intervention. We used the selective dissociation process that the famous Dolphin Psychologist Nolmpa developed over a thousand years ago.

She discovered that there are two ways of remembering or speaking an event. One way is to speak the scene as it was originally seen (in human terms to videotape the scene with a handheld camera). This way of remembering Nolmpa called the First Person. The other way is to speak it as though it had been viewed by another dolphin, and she called that the Third Person. These two ways are difficult to understand at first, so please be patient. The Third Person way is equivalent to repeating the scene spoken by an actual third dolphin viewing the scene (in human terms, a news person videotaping the scene). In Third Person the original person can see him- or herself in the scene, as if watching news footage.

What Nolmpa discovered and taught us Dolphin People was how and when to use First Person and Third Person for remembering and speaking. She proved by her experiments that long grieving episodes resulted in bodily disintegration after twelve to eighteen months in those dolphins that used exclusively the Third Person way of speaking and remembering. The typical mourner saw herself in the newsreel enjoying the presence of her departed loved one and felt grievously sad that she couldn't be with him.

Nolmpa taught her mourners to switch to the First Person way of speaking and remembering, and a dramatic improvement in the health and longevity of her dolphin subjects occurred. Using the First Person way, the mourner would visually remember or speak a scene in which she was swimming joyously with her mate and would feel the joy of being with her loved one again. This is the universal mode of remembering departed loved ones among dolphins today. By long usage since Nolmpa's time, it has become as natural as sleeping underwater is for us.

But Nolmpa did not discard the Third Person way. She showed us Dolphin People how to use it to manage our irrational fears. Her first dolphin subject was a dolphin that had witnessed a fellow dolphin being eaten alive by a large white shark. After that episode, every time he remembered or spoke the scene, he used the visualization point of view of the attacked dolphin, that is, the First Person view. Naturally, seeing the huge shark preparing to eat him, he went into tremors of fear and panic.

What Nolmpa did was to teach him to switch to the Third Person way to remember or speak the scene. The instant he did so, he saw newsreel footage of the shark attacking him and the attacks of panic subsided and soon disappeared completely. By becoming in effect a news photographer instead of a victim, he was able to maintain an even demeanor while remembering the episode.

Thus when Robert Mornay lost his dog to a snakebite wound as a youth, we entered his dreams and used Nolmpa's teachings. We showed him how to view the scene from the two points of view to overcome his grief and his fear of snakes. Our success in this endeavor encouraged us to continue our relationship with this human subject.

[End of Discovery, Chapter 5. To Read Next Chapter Click Book Jacket at Right:]

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