This jig, devised by Barry Skelton, is in honor of Pelorus Jack, a Risso’s dolphin that was famous for meeting and escorting ships through a stretch of water in the Marlborough Sounds, nearby Pelorus Sound, New Zealand, between 1888 and 1912.
He was usually spotted in a channel used by ships traveling between Wellington and Nelson.
This jig features a set of alternating tandem half-reels where two people act as one but swap who leads at the reel ends. This has now become known as a Dolphin Reel.
Pelorus Jack was first seen around 1888 when it appeared in front of the schooner Brindle when the ship approached French Pass, a channel located between D’Urville Island and the South Island. When the members of the crew saw the dolphin bobbing up and down in front of the ship, they wanted to kill him, but the captain’s wife talked them out of it. To their amazement, the dolphin then proceeded to guide the ship through the narrow channel. And for years thereafter, he safely guided almost every ship that came by. With rocks and strong currents, the area is dangerous to ships, but no shipwrecks occurred when Jack was present.
In 1904, someone aboard the SS Penguin tried to shoot Pelorus Jack. Despite the attempt on his life, Pelorus Jack continued to help ships. According to folklore, however, he no longer helped the Penguin, which shipwrecked in Cook Strait in 1909.
Following the shooting incident, he became protected by Order In Council under the Sea Fisheries Act on 26 September 1904. It is believed that Pelorus Jack was the first individual sea creature protected by law in any country.
Information sourced from: Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary