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Pelorus Jack


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The name given to a Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus) which, between 1888 and 1912, used regularly to accompany every ship which sailed through the French Pass, a narrow strait separating d'Urville Island from the mainland of South Island, New Zealand. The name came from Pelorus Sound, of which French Pass forms the westernmost part. A contemporary description gave Pelorus Jack a length of about 4.6 metres (15 ft) and a mainly white colour with brown stripes. He was so well known and so regular in his habit of accompanying every ship that used French Pass that in 1904 his life was protected by the New Zealand government. It was said that there was one ship which Pelorus Jack ignored whenever it appeared in those waters because, on its first passage through the pass, a member of the crew had fired a shot at him, which is why he was then protected. Risso's dolphins are rarely seen in New Zealand waters.

Another New Zealand dolphin that gained some notoriety was Opo who, in the summer of 1955/6, followed local boats at Hokianga in the North Island and frolicked with those swimming there.

Subjects: Maritime History.


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