Sea History 130 - Spring 2010

Page 38

f yo u were reading The New York Times on rhe 23'd of Augusr, 1896, chis headline mighr have caughr yo ur eye: "Four G irls on a Schooner." The reporter explained char four yo ung women had jusr rernrned from nearly a month's voyage, from New York Ciry co Nova Scoria and back, aboard a merchant schooner named Gypsum Express. They had volunteered so rhey co uld gee rhe chance co rravel on rhe ocean as working sailors. They worked hard, srood rheir warches, rode ch rough a nasry squall, saw a warerspour, and jusr seemed co have had a fabulous rime overall. Ar one point in rhe anicle, rh e reporrer wrore abour an animal char rhe yo ung women saw over rhe ship's rail: "The mosr exasperacing calms and dispiriring fogs marked rhe early part of rhe homeward voyage, bur a grampus, or cowfish, some rwenry feer long, enabled M iss Roach co bring her Kodak into play."





G rampus can be found aro und the wo rld in tropical and remperare oceans as far north as Alaska and rhe Shedand Islands and as far south as Tasmania and Cape Horn , most commonly in offshore waters. In the 1890s, when those yo ung women were; sailing across the Gulf of Maine, one parti cular grampus became something of a celebriry off the coasr of New Zealand because it co ntinually fo llowed ships, leaping in rheir bow wakes. The sailors named this grampus "Pelorus Jack." According co Paul H orsman, it became the first legally protected dolphin because rhe Governor of New Zealand signed an official order in 1904, worded: "co prohibit the raking of rhe fish or mammal known as Risso's dolphin in rhe warers of Cook Srrair or bays, so unds and esrnaries adjacent thereto." Two years after chose four women made the New York Times, Rudyard Kipling wrote his novel Captains Courageous, in

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They rook a phocograph of a grampus?¡A Today, we call this animal a Risso's Dolphin. Ar sea, it can be confused with a borrlenose dolphin, a pilot whale, or a killer whale-in part because it has a tall dorsal fin that curls backwards. In fact, some sailors also used co refer co killer whales as grampus. Marine biologist and author George Fircher wrote char rhe word "grampus" comes from the joining of rwo simple French wo rds: big (grand) and fi sh (poisson). A grampus has a squarish head and a curved mouth char looks co us like it's smiling. Its grey body is often covered with scratches and scars, which might come from squid tentacles, one of its favo rite foods. If the grampus those yo ung wo men saw was indeed rwenry feet long, it wo uld have been an exceptionally large one, as these dolphins are normally less than a ~ dozen feet from nose co rail.



SEA HrSlfORY 130, SPRING 20 I 0