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April 3, 2014

C is for Cook Strait

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things About Cook Strait

1. Cook Strait is the body of water separating the North and South Islands of New Zealand.

2. The strait is named after Captain James Cook who sailed through it in 1770.

3. Maori legends says Kupe (an explorer) discovered Cook Strait when he followed an enormous octopus across the strait.

4. Between 1888 and 1912 a dolphin christened Pelorus Jack used to meet and escort ships across the strait. Someone attempted to kill Pelorus Jack and a law was established to protect him.

5. The lighthouse at Pencarrow Head was the first permanent lighthouse in New Zealand.

6. It can be a very rough stretch of water. Several ships have wrecked in this region, the most famous being the Wahine disaster in 1968. The strait is part of the westerly wind belt known as the Roaring Forties, and it acts like a huge wind funnel.

7. The strait is 22 kilometers or 14 miles across at the narrowest point.

Cook Strait

8. The Narrows Basin is the deepest part of the channel with depths up to 350 meters.

9. There is a regular ferry service between Wellington in the North Island and Picton in the South Island. When it’s a nice day,the trip is fun, but when it gets rough – not so nice. I’m a good sailor but the scent of vomit isn’t pleasant!


10. Barry Devonport was the first man to swim across the strait in 1962. It took him 11 hours and twenty minutes.

11. The first woman swam the strait in 1975. She was from the US and took twelve hours and seven minutes.

12. Abel Tasman, the Dutch Explorer thought the strait was a bay when he entered the strait in 1642.

13. The passenger ferries started back in 1875.

Sources: Wikipedia, New Zealand in History


  1. Maria Zannini

    All of these facts were fascinating. I love that they passed a law to protect Pelorus Jack. Why in the world would anyone try to kill him anyway?

    • Shelley Munro

      I don’t know, Maria. There are some sick people in this world!!

    • Shelley Munro

      LOL – Me too, Anna. When I looked at the records I saw that some people have swum in both directions. Amazing!

  2. Abby

    Hi Shelley! Great ‘C’ post. I love the idea of Pelorus Jack escorting all the ships across. So cool.

    • Shelley Munro

      Hi Abby,

      It is cool, isn’t it? There are lots of dolphin species that hang out in the strait, some of which are very rare.

  3. Vicki

    Love all the facts about the area
    I’ve never been on a ferry but have always wanted to go on one. I love anything to do with lighthouses and water, so Cook Strait sounds like a place I’d love to visit.

    • Shelley Munro

      LOL – My advice – go on a nice day. During one trip, the waves were smashing over the bow of the boat and there were times when you could see nothing but waves. I was glad to get to solid ground!

  4. Mary Kirkland

    That looks like an interesting ferry trip. Beautiful scenery though.

    • Shelley Munro

      The scenery is gorgeous.

    • Shelley Munro

      Some of it, I knew, since I live here :)

  5. Alice Audrey

    How do you follow an octopus? I wish I’d been there.

    • Shelley Munro

      LOL – oral tales don’t always ring true.

  6. Allison

    Love the tidbit about Pelorus Jack. ;) Maybe his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grand-dolphin will escort me when I finally get to travel to New Zealand!

  7. Jennifer Leeland

    I love this! So awesome. We have a tough entrance to Humboldt Bay but it doesn’t have a cool name like the “Roaring Forties”.

  8. Kimberly Menozzi

    Very interesting stuff – and it makes me want to see New Zealand even more. What a beautiful place!