Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Cruise on Milford Sound
It was in deep winter that all 4 of us D2, D4, DT and I arrived at the wharf at Milford Sound after one of the Best Coach journeys we've experienced. The stretch from Te Anau to the Homer Tunnel to our final destination is truly breathtaking for its views. The drive up the mountain passes with high walls on one side and sheer drops on the other requires much experience especially in deep winter. Our coach had to wait for certain sections of the mountain road to be cleared of rocks and snow due to a minor avalanche and heavy snowfall. On our return journey, we had a half hour delay at the Te Anau stretch when our Coach driver had to fix chains to the wheels on the advice of the police monitoring the traffic there.
Milford Sound was carved out during successive ice ages over millions of years and at its deepest point off Mitre Peak ,plunges to a depth of 265 metres. This long, deep valley, now filled by the sea, has walls that rise vertically some 290 metres from the sea floor to the surface and then continue more than 1500 metres above the Sound. The scenery is spectacular with sheer walled mountains, hanging valleys, remnants of ice age glaciers, cascading waterfalls and the deep brooding waters of the Sound. The 16 km long fiord was named prior to 1823 by a sealer, John Grono, after his birthplace, Milford Haven in Wales. The grandeur of this fiord can best be appreciated from the water. Bowen Falls, hurtling 165 m into the sea, and Stirling Falls down the sound are truly spectacular after rain, set amidst the towering cliffs and dwarfed by Mitre Peak. So it is no wonder that Rudyard Kipling described Milford Sound as " the eighth Wonder of the World". The wildlife here is unique. We saw Dolphins behind our launch. We saw seals on the rocky ledges. Exotic birds were flying around. Because of the high mountains all around there was little or no wind turbulence and this create a powerful atmosphere of solitude and serenity, peace and tranquility. It is a truly magical place...Milford Sound of Fiordland.
Legends of Fiordland
This place was well known to the Maori and many legends pertain to its formation and naming.
Demi-god Tuterakiwhanoa is said to have carved the rugged landscape from formless rock. Few Maori were permanent residents of the region but seasonal food-gathering camps were linked by well worn trails. Takiwai, a translucent greenstone, was sought from Anita Bay and elsewhere near the mouth of Milford Sound.
Captain Cook and his crew were the first Europeans to visit Fiordland and in 1773 spent 5 weeks at Dusky Sound. Cook's maps and descriptions soon attracted sealers, and whalers who formed the first European settlements of NZ. From the middle of the 19th Century surveyors, explorers and prospectors began to penetrate the unexplored interior of Fiordland.
I do not have a single photo of this trip as my camera had malfunctioned probably due to the very cold temperature that day. I had to bring my camera to a shop back in Queenstown for them to give it "CPR"! My camera did recover from its heart attack and served me well again.