Fierce Creatures: Exploring the Myth of Dolphin Sex on the Hawaiian Islands — PART 3

Many worlds collide on the tiny islands that make up greater Hawaii: natives and haoles (non-natives), residents and tourists, the off-beat and the way-off-beat. Is anything possible in the “Land of Light” or are some things just too weird to be true?

Part 3 — The Sirius Institute

It was at John Lilly’s 75th birthday party in 1990 that Paradise (Star) Newland first met Michael Hyson. Star was a close friend and colleague of Lilly’s, her focus being dolphin-assisted live births for expectant mothers. Dr. Michael T. Hyson, a neurobiologist, had previously worked with Lilly for 17 years on various projects, most notably in attempting to teach a pair of dolphins, Elvar and Tolva, to speak English. Together, Star and Hyson started the Sirius Institute to continue Lilly’s legacy.

I had originally contacted Star, the representative voice of the Sirius Institute, to see about taking a tour of their facilities. She got back to tell me that the Sirius Institute, while over 26 years old, is a virtual institute.

“There is zero facility where people can come look as the dolphins and scientists conduct their research.

Early on it became clear that we would conduct our research with free dolphins and to help translate the dolphin way of being.”

Further communication with the Sirius Institute would contain a lot of this vocabulary — “the dolphin way of being,” “human pod community” — with allusions to some grand, vague scheme. Even in the literature Sirius distributes there is an admission that, as in the description of their pod-modeled living communities, “the Sirius model may seem a little vague.” It is expected that most readers, even after digesting the unending informational pamphlets, might still not understand what Sirius is up to.

Here’s a brief summary of the literature. See if you can add it up on your own:

1) The way we sculpt and choose our words changes our physiology,

2) Dolphins, with their clicking and popping combinations, can make upwards of millions of communicatory sounds or “words,”

3) Dolphins live in pod communities where they care for and protect each other,

4) Humans live in a world of war and disorder.

Aside from all of the “human pod” and “dolphinizing the planet” talk, the Sirius Institute has used its influence to jump some serious legal hurdles to protect cetaceans, even going so far as to create protected habitats where humans and dolphins could interact [footnote 1] and preparing a case for the United Nations to consider whales and dolphins as having the same natural rights as humans.

One Saturday afternoon, I arranged a meeting with Star at a media conference hosted by UH-Hilo to ask her about the live dolphin birth cohort project she was working on. Rolling on three hours of sleep and hungover, I drank nine cups of coffee [fn. 2], started feeling sick and was about ready to skip the meeting and stumble out early when I bumped into her at the refreshments table. Over the polite disagreements of a print media Vs blogosphere debate panel in the background she explained to me the details of Sirius’s 30-year plan, that her loose usage of the term “inter-special communication” was very literal in the sense that she was actively promoting for pregnant mothers to spend time in the ocean with wild dolphins. Based on research showing that unborn babies begin learning language (presumably their native tongue) during the last ten weeks of pregnancy, the Sirius Institute’s hypothesis is that by early exposure the fetus and the wild dolphins would form an innate, lingual bond with each other. Although no live births had been performed in this environment yet, Star was hopeful about two couples on the way. Their children, she said, “will grow up to become the interpreters between dolphins and humans,” thus opening the door to the dolphin way of life for us heathens.

While this may have sounded scienc-ey enough to score loads of funding of private donors, I was struck by the thought of what wild dolphins might do when excited by all of the gooey blood and afterbirth that goes along with delivering a baby; a frenzy and/or the aforementioned (in PART 2) porpicide. Reading my reaction, Star said, “Of course, there are precautions.” I have a Turrets-like syndrome when it comes to inappropriate laughter and was surprised at how well I contained myself in a crowded room. Feeling the coffee now twisting my belly now more than ever, I walked back to my room and writhed around on the floor in a coffee-tormented half-sleep. I later sent Star an e-mail with a link to and asked what she knew about men sneaking down to the beach to lay with female dolphins. Her reply: “This is weird stuff and beyond my ken.”

Male dolphins have a prehensile penis that averages 5 ft. in length. Their money-shot comes off with the force of a shotgun blast. Delphinic guidebooks tell you the best move if a male dolphin presents himself to you underwater is to jerk him off as fast as you can and swim for shore, lest he become agitated. Female dolphins, on the other hand, have a vaginal interior equivalent to an undulating funhouse barrel and will massage a human male to the point of orgasm in just a few minutes. The trouble is, as lamented in the zoophile forums, her allowing you to get that close. Aside from the legality/morality of the issue, dolphins are also about six times stronger than even the strongest human so forcing yourself on one isn’t really an option.

While human + dolphin sex isn’t entirely impossible, I’m going to veer towards the conclusion that what is much more likely is that some people just get off on publishing dolphin-oriented erotica on the internet. The threat of litigation and social consequences caused the authors of this erotica to be as elusive as the dolphins themselves. The weather outside was perfect. My flight back east grew ever closer. I found myself spending less time online and more time snorkeling and riding around on my borrowed bicycle. With this new attitude on life, coupled with the lingering fear that I had offended Star with the dolphin sex question, I dropped the search and actively took up chasing human tail again.

As oddball as Star and the Sirius Institute’s plans may seem, I understand. It’s easy to fall in love with dolphins. It’s easy to fall in love with Hawaii. The black rock beaches are endearing. The little geckos. The night sky is one of the darkest I’ve seen in the Northern hemisphere and a reminder of why people once worshiped the stars. If only the bars stayed open a little bit later and if the job market wasn’t so bad. If beer wasn’t so expensive, if I could shake that island fever, that small town feel, I could make a home here. Many have. At least the oddballs are doing something they believe in. At least they’re doing something.


  1. The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972 for the conservation and management of all cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) and most pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) manages the regions where humans can swim with dolphins in the USA petty strictly. To date, these areas are only a few spots in Hawaii and Florida. Delphinophiles looking for a roll with a young dolphette (sp?) can get slapped with fines of up to $10,000 and a year in prison if they’re caught.
  2. Pretty much every cup of locally grown coffee you get in Hawaii is the type that — even for connoisseurs — will make you pause and say to yourself, “Damn, that’s good.”

Life enthusiast.