The Story of Pelorus Jack

Pelorus Jack is a dolphin that accompanied ships traveling between Wellington and Nelson in New Zealand in the late 1800s. He was named for Pelorus Sound, where he would meet boats bound for Nelson and escort them through the narrow stretch of water to the mainland, where the water surges through at up to 8 knots. The dolphin remained within a well-defined area, meeting ships as they came out of the French Pass and staying with them for about 5 miles to Pelorus Sound before going on his way. He enjoyed swimming up against the boats and riding their waves. Over the years his fame grew and he became a tourist attraction. Because his celebrity also attracted people who would fire at him, boat captains began demanding that Pelorus Jack be protected by law. In 1904, an order was placed under the Sea-fisheries Act of 1894 to include all marine mammals and not just seals. Mystery surrounds Pelorus Jack’s death, with many believing he was harpooned by Norwegian whalers in late April 1912. Others, however, claim that Pelorus Jack washed up on a beach where his carcass rotted. The latter account is likely, since he was at least 24 years old. The legend of Pelorus Jack lived on after his death. A chocolate bar was named after him and he’s also the subject of a number of songs. There’s even a statue of Pelorus Jack near French Pass.