5-Minute Crafts
5-Minute Crafts

Meet Pelorus Jack, the Guardian Dolphin of New Zealand

Dolphins are intelligent and playful marine animals, well-known for their friendliness toward humans. What also makes them special is their unusually long social memory and the fact that they can communicate using sounds.

For this reason, 5-Minute Crafts has decided to share the curious story of Pelorus Jack, New Zealanders’ most beloved dolphin.

Who Pelorus Jack was

We should begin this story by mentioning that the so-called Risso’s dolphins are not common in the region of New Zealand. Pelorus Jack was one of them. He was first noticed in 1888 after joining a steamer heading to Nelson. The name Pelorus Jack has to do with the fact that this dolphin met ships close to the entrance to Pelorus Sound and escorted them while they were navigating in the area between Wellington and Nelson for the next 24 years. He used to accompany them all the way from Pelorus Sound to French Pass, a hazardous stretch of water that he never swam through.

However, Pelorus Jack escorted boats on their way back as well. He met them outside French Pass, swam up against them, and enjoyed riding their bow waves. The one-way journey was about 8 kilometers. The locals claimed he preferred swimming next to faster ships.

Pelorus Jack’s fame

Needless to say, Pelorus Jack became famous for this habit. He actually became an attraction for visitors, to such an extent, that even Mark Twain came to see him.

Nonetheless, there were people who didn’t root for or admire him. It is said that Pelorus Jack was fired at in the very beginning of the 20th century. New Zealanders demanded legal protection for this lovely animal, but the protection orders that were issued in 1904 and 1908 only covered seals, so they were not valid for Pelorus Jack.

The legend of Pelorus Jack

The mysterious death of Pelorus Jack led to the rise of different theories about what might have happened to him.

  • Some claim it was Norwegian whalers who harpooned him near the entrance to Pelorus Sound in April 1912.
  • It is also said that a man, on his deathbed, confessed that his father had killed a sidetracked dolphin after a storm and that he was there to help him. This deed haunted the man his entire life. People figured the murdered dolphin must have been Pelorus Jack.
  • According to a quite likely account by Charlie Moeller who worked at French Pass, Pelorus Jack died of old age and was washed up on a beach.

Pelorus Jack, New Zealand’s beloved dolphin, has already become legendary. Numerous songs were written in his honor, for instance, 1921’s piano parlor song “Pelorus Jack” by Peter Cole and Henry Rivers.

5-Minute Crafts/World/Meet Pelorus Jack, the Guardian Dolphin of New Zealand
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