After a brief inspection by the dolphin the two were lying almost motionless on the surface face to face. Those of us on the boat watched, mesmerised with fascination. A bond was forming between the man and the dolphin, the like of which I had never witnessed before.
When we eventually hauled Bill back into the inflatable he smiled for the first time in twelve years. With tears in her eyes, his wife remarked ‘I have just seen a trace of the Bill I lost 12 years ago’. The seed for ‘Operation Sunflower’ was sown. I decided to set up a research project to investigate the healing power of dolphins
Ever since I had made the TV film Ride a Wild Dolphin* about Donald off the coast of Cornwall in 1976, I was aware that dolphins could bring joy into human lives. But could their effect on the human psyche really be strong enough to help clinical depressives? There was one way to find out: to organise a trial.
I decided to conduct the first study in Ireland where another solitary, friendly dolphin called Dorad, or Funghie, was frolicking with those who cared to join him in the sea off the fishing port of Dinglc in County Kerry. Bill Bowell was one of my subjects. The others I chose were Jemima Biggs, whose depression presented as anorexia nervosa, and Neal Jackson who suffered from paranoia.
The film I made about Operation Sunflower was called The Dolphin’s Touch*. It showed how the dolphin responded to the three depressives when they swam with him. More importantly, it showed how they responded to their encounters with the dolphin. Bill, Jemima and Neil were not magically cured, but they all felt that they were well on the road to recovery.