Sea Stories

A Heroic Dolphin that saved the lives of ships Crews and passengers

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Since childhood, we know that dolphins are among the smartest creatures on the planet. There are many examples of dolphins saving the lives of distressed humans floundering in the seas and near beaches.

Even so, there is one dolphin who has probably become a personality and indeed even his memory is a tourist attraction. How many humans, even clever ones can match the positive reputation of a dolphin?

Thanks to the dolphin saint, people reviewed their attitude towards all cetaceans. Have you ever heard of a famous dolphin named Pelorus Jack? This story is not just worthy of attention and admiration. It turned out to be very significant for science. It was Pelorus Jack who made distrustful people look at dolphins with other eyes, proving by his example that dolphins are exceptionally clever, can work things out, are curious and friendly to humans. In fact, it is fair to say that here we have a species that in terms of humanity is far smarter than most humans.

This story began in 1888 In Cook Strait, situated between Durville Island and the South Island of New Zealand. Here there is a narrow sea strait with many treacherous reefs known as the French Pass. Ships were often wrecked as they tried to make their way through this treacherous port passage and many seamen and passengers died.

But once a grey dolphin of the genus Risso appeared in the straits. The sea creature began to meet and greet approaching ships at the entrance to the Strait near Wellington. The dolphin ‘pilot’ then accompanied visiting vessels to the far safer passage between the islands, pointing out as it did so a safe approach.

On each occasion, after the ship docked safely, the dolphin returned to Wellington and escorted the next visiting ship. As a consequence, the number of shipwrecks reduced sharply. The sailors nicknamed the dolphin Jack the Navigator, his appearance was waiting for and without him, they no longer thought of passing through the Cook Strait.

The unusual events occurred from 1888 to 1912. The dolphin helped crews whatever the weather both day and night. Word spread around the world. Tourists started coming to see this miracle. In the wider world, the dolphin became known under the name Pelorus Jack. Some tourists took pictures of the legendary dolphin that are still on file. Postcards with a photograph of a dolphin appeared and the dolphin was frequently a news story.

But there was a single case when the dolphin refused to accompany a ship. In 1904, a steamer named Penguin approached the strait. The pilot dolphin swam ahead of the ship as always.

Suddenly one of the vessel’s passengers started shooting the pilot dolphin. The dolphin left the scene and did not appear in the straits for two weeks. His wounds may have healed that fortunately turned out to be not lethal. Or, maybe he was offended. But after a couple of weeks, Jack the dolphin swam to people again and continued his work. But whenever the Penguin arrived the vessel was ignored.

After this sad event case, the residents of the colony demanded to protect the life of the dolphin from violations. In 1904, a law was adopted that Pelorus Jack was adopted. After that, publications about the famous dolphin appeared in popular magazines. Postcards with Jack’s image and the inscription ‘The only fish in the world protected by the law of Parliament’ were released.

Meanwhile, the steamer from which the dolphin was shot, the dolphin continued to disdain. As soon as the Penguin appeared in the strait, the dolphin left. After the ship sailed, the dolphin returned to its service. On February 12, 1909, the Penguin steamer crashed into a reef. It was the largest disaster of the century that occurred in New Zealand. Then 75 people died.

The dolphin voluntarily served people for almost a quarter of a century and became a landmark of New Zealand. In addition, this was the first sea animal that the government took under its protection.

Pelorus Jack stopped appearing in Cook Strait around 1912 The history of the famous dolphin, his behaviour became the basis for many scientific works. The British Linnea Society studied Jack’s life and in 1929 the president of society made a report stating that cetaceans should be reviewed, they deserve respect and friendship. ~ Valery Ganiev. (Natalia Logvinenko – Facebook)

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