I love hearing stories about animals helping humans and/or finding other ways to connect with us. It’s almost as if they’ve found a way to breach a formidable divide. It’s like aliens from outer space coming down and actually being able to communicate with us despite language and cultural barriers.
So when I recently stumbled upon the story of Pelorus Jack, I was fascinated. This amazing creature was a Risso’s Dolphin that was known to escort ships through a treacherous stretch of water in Cook Strait, New Zealand from 1888 to 1912. He was so reliable that it reached a point where vessels would actually wait for him to show up before transiting those waters.
He became so beloved that when some fool shot at him with a rifle in 1904, the first ever law to protect an individual sea creature was enacted by Order in Council under the Sea Fisheries Act. He continued to escort ships in this protected status until his mysterious disappearance in 1912. It is assumed he died of natural causes, because when Risso’s Dolphins age, they become increasingly white, and extant photographs of Jack show that he was a very white dolphin, indeed.
New Zealanders still remember Pelorus Jack fondly. In fact, he has been used as a symbol for the ferry service that crosses the Cook Straight since 1989. Swim on, Pelorus Jack, if only in our memories!
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