New Zealand is well known for a lot of things – most notably the Lord of the Rings franchise. One part of New Zealand’s history that is not as well known is Pelorus Jack.
Pelorus Jack was a Risso’s dolphin who is estimated to have lived from 1888 to April 1912. He lived in the area of Cook Strait, New Zealand. Some facts about his appearance are speculation and he is commonly referred to as male even though his gender was never confirmed.
It is believed that Pelorus Jack was around 13 feet long. He was white with grey lines and had a round, white head. The color may have been an indication that Jack was older when he began helping sailors.
Beyond the fact that Risso’s dolphins are rare in New Zealand, Pelorus Jack is most well known for the help that he provided to ships.
Pelorus Jack was well known for helping to lead ships through the dangerous French Pass. During the time that Jack was present to help, there were no shipwrecks.
In 1904, a passenger on the SS Penguin attempted to shoot Jack. Although it is believed that he may have been hit, Jack continued to help ships. There is some speculation that Jack refused to help the SS Penguin after this incident and it shipwrecked in the Cook Strait in 1909.
After the attempted shooting, New Zealand passed a law to protect Jack. He became protected by Order in Council under the Sea Fisheries Act on September 26, 1904. It is commonly believed that he was the first individual sea creature protected by such a law.
Even though Jack has been gone for over one hundred years, he still plays an important role in New Zealand and in some popular culture.
There is a Scottish dance called the “Pelorus Jack.” Jack was also a character in a book called “Peter Duck” which was written in 1932 by Arthur Ransome.
Pelorus Jack was an amazing animal who will always be remembered for the help that he gave to ships in New Zealand.