Pelorus Jack

Submitted by Michael Frankfort @mfrank_76

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – Click HERE for link to full article.

Pelorus Jack (fl. 1888 – April 1912) was a Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus) that was famous for meeting and escorting ships through a stretch of water in Cook StraitNew Zealand. The animal was reported over a 24 year period, from 1888 until his disappearance after 1912. Pelorus Jack was usually spotted in Admiralty Bay between Cape Francis and Collinet Point, near French Pass, a notoriously dangerous channel used by ships travelling between Wellington and Nelson.[1][2]

How he got his name is uncertain. It is recorded in the book Breverton’s nautical curiosities : a book of the sea that he was named after the pelorus, a marine navigational instrument.[3] However, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, says the name came from Pelorus Sound because it was at the entrance to that stretch of water where he would regularly meet ships to accompany them.[4]

Pelorus Jack was shot at from a passing ship, and was later protected by a 1904 New Zealand law.[5]

Pelorus Jack guided the ships by swimming alongside a water craft for 20 minutes at a time. If the crew could not see Jack at first, they often waited for him to appear.

Despite his name, he did not live in nearby Pelorus Sound; instead, he would often guide ships through dangerous passages of French Pass. However, some local residents familiar with his habits claim that he never went through French Pass itself but stayed near the Chetwode Islands.[9][10]

Pelorus Jack was first seen around 1888 when he appeared in front of the schooner Brindle when the ship approached French Pass, a channel located between D’Urville Island and the South Island. When the members of the crew saw the dolphin bobbing up and down in front of the ship, they wanted to kill him, but the captain’s wife talked them out of it. To their amazement, the dolphin then proceeded to guide the ship through the narrow channel. And for years thereafter, he safely guided almost every ship that came by. With rocks and strong currents, the area is dangerous to ships, but no shipwrecks occurred when Jack was present.[11]

Many sailors and travellers saw Pelorus Jack, and he was mentioned in local newspapers and depicted in postcards.

Jack was last seen in April 1912. There were various rumours connected to his disappearance, including fears that foreign whalers might have harpooned him. However, research suggests that Pelorus Jack was an old animal; his head was white and his body pale, both indications of age, so it is likely that he died of natural causes.[7]

Since 1989, Pelorus Jack has been used as a symbol for the Interislander, a ferry service across the Cook Strait, and is incorporated into the livery of the ships in the fleet.[12]