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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 2, Issue 4, May 1970

Another Unsolved Problem Concerning Pelorus Jack

Another Unsolved Problem Concerning Pelorus Jack

George William Wallace Webber, the writer of the letter containing these lines, died in June 1967 after an adventurous life at French Pass, where he was Postmaster for 67 years. In his obituary the "Nelson Evening Mail" (27 June 1967) mentions that "He sometimes had to push Pelorus Jack away with an oar when he met the mail boat as the dinghy was in danger of capsizing."

Some of his reminiscences were published in the "Auckland Weekly News" and are well worth reprinting.

"I was very surprised and pleased to get your letter re French Pass history where my home was for some seventy-five years. During that period I saw a great many changes both at French Pass and in New Zealand, for instance steamships came with the eighties, and we young and old gazed at them in wonder when they passed by: after that electricity and motor cars and finally planes….

"The Historical Society has a copy of my book which has photographs of early folk such as my parents and Arthur C. Elmslie, who came to Queen Charlotte Sounds in a whaler from Hobart Town, arriving in New Zealand on May the first 1831. He came and bought land for his home at French Pass in the summer of 1849 and died there in 1894. My father came there to join him as partner in 1865. I was born in Nelson on fifteenth of August 1875, so you see I am now in my ninety second year….,

"There is one point in my story of Pelorus Jack in which I found a mistake was made in typing the first few books of mine of which I think your copy is one. I first saw Pelorus Jack, a name that was given to him about 1895. Before that he was known as the great white fish on account of his light grey coat fading to white or light yellow underneath. I saw him when I came back from Nelson where I was at school in December 1887. My father in that year had a mail contract to meet the Union steamer "Penguin" every week, so when I came home I went with him to board the "Penguin", and as we came alongside the steamer, father said to me there he is and I saw this wonderful mammal just a few yards away. It was never known whether this mammal was not a Pelorus Jill."

G. W. W. Webber, Late of French Pass.

Stratford Hospital, 27 October 1966.