On July 26, 2016, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite flew over New Zealand and acquired a striking true-color image centered on the Cook Strait.
The Cook Strait, measuring only 14 miles wide at its narrowest point, connects the Tasman Sea (west) and the South Pacific Ocean (east) and separates North Island and South Island. It has a historic reputation for difficult navigation, although modern ferries make the 92 km (about 58 mi) between Wellington, located at the tip of North Island and Picton, South Island several times each day. The three-hour trip has been described as one of the “most beautiful ferry rides in the world”.
The waters of the Strait also became famous near the turn of the century when a very light colored dolphin, a Risso’s dolphin, began escorting ships as they navigated Cook Strait between Wellington and the South Island town of Nelson. Between 1888 and 1912 he made regular appearances, swimming beside, under and around ships as they passed through the waters of the Strait. Named Pelorous Jack, the dolphin became so well-loved that he was the first dolphin anywhere in the world to have his own protective legislation. New Zealand passed a law to keep him from harm in 1904, after someone on a steamship shot at him.