The mysterious grave of an unknown porpoise

States archaeologist Dr Phil De Jersey, right, and Mike Deane alongside the trench where the skeleton of a medieval porpoise was found, a complete mystery to the archaeologists. ( Peter Frankland )

For Phil de Jersey, it was “one of the strangest and most bizarre things” he had seen in thirty-five years of archaeological work.

     If you look at the British Isles on a map, and if you squint your eyes, you can see a group of islands near Cherbourg, off the coast of France.  The two larger islands are Jersey and Guernsey.  The mileage indicator line hints that they are about 35-40 miles apart and are part of the Channel Islands.  Maybe they got their name because they are located in that quaint and historical thoroughfare known as The English Channel.

Jersey is known for, among other things, being the childhood home of The Jersey Lily, Lillie Langtry, famous actress of bygone days.  In a book about Lillie, Jersey is described as having beaches of yellow sand, cliffs covered with green lichens—cliffs that are pounded loudly by waves.  There is always the tang of salt-air bombarding your senses.

Could Guernsey be much different?  It is probably much the same.  It consists of 25 square miles that are mostly devoted to farming.  Some of today’s farming there is done under the glass of greenhouses.  The eastern coast is bordered with hills, and you used to be able to find many of the tan and white Guernsey cattle grazing all about the island.  In years gone by, people have discovered flint and pottery there, from medieval times.

Recently something else was found on a tiny island off Guernsey’s west coast.  What was found on Chapelle Dom Hue would set the tongues of archaeologists wagging.

The history or the little island is sketchy.  Yes, excavations did yield more of the medieval flint and pottery.  It is believed that ancient monks used this island as their own retreat.  Archaeologists became very excited when they found a well-constructed grave.  What important human being would they find buried here?  Would there be a clue?

What they found instead was the carefully laid out final resting place of a porpoise.  Why the great care in making this fourteenth-century grave?  The remains were laid out precisely, east to west, as one would do with a human.  Why bury a porpoise when the dead creature could just be thrown back for the surrounding seas to claim?

Phil de Jersey started his archaeological excavation of the grave in August.  According to The Guernsey Press it was “one of the strangest and most bizarre things” he had seen in thirty-five years of archaeological work.  It was, “a slightly wacky thing, a wonderful surprise.”

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     Myself, I cannot help but recall the true story of Pelorus Jack that I featured in a story earlier.  You may recall that the beloved and revered Pelorus Jack was a Risso’s dolphin that guided ships safely through the treacherous waters of Cook Straight near New Zealand from 1888-1912—the area between Pelorus Sound and French Pass.  Pelorus Jack saved the lives of many a sailor.

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of the award-winning Quite Curious on Amazon. Please click HERE to find her collection of true but mysterious stories on Amazon.

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