The morning started a half hour earlier for us. We didn’t want to miss out on the first two sounds that the Serenity would be sailing through this day. Milford Sound was familiar to us as we’d visited that as recently as 2013 but we’d not seen Doubtful and Dusky since our first cruise to New Zealand years ago.
Skies were cloudy and dark enough to threaten rain. I was a bit disappointed since without sunshine, I didn’t figure on getting any good pictures. When I downloaded what I took that early morning, I was amazed at the quality. Sure, there wasn’t any greenery but the grays and blacks and silvers were dramatic as was our cruise through the first several sounds.
There are actually fourteen fjords in the southwestern tip of New Zealand. They were formed over millions of years through volcanic action, erosion, and of course glaciers which carved deep gouges in the earth. There is some indication that historically the Maori used the area for seasonal food gathering but not as a permanent residence. It is said that Captain James Cook was the first European to visit the area. The Department of Conservation administers what they call Fiordland National Park working to preserve its natural and historic resources and provide recreation.
As we moved through Dusky Sound, our narrator brought on board for the day from the park system spotted some dolphins but we weren’t quick enough to get to the port side of the ship in time to see them. We rounded an island and proceeded through what is called Breaksea Sound and back out into the Tasman Sea which was being unusually calmer than its reputation.
About an hour or so later, we entered Doubtful Sound. Again the sky was overcast but there were patches of blue here and there promising that perhaps the sun would burn off some of the clouds and mist. Seeing the clouds hang onto the cliffs and mountainsides reminded me of the Smoky Mountains in the States.
Once we were to the tip of the triangular island called Secretary, we rounded it and went out through Thompson Sound. While these first sounds were amazing, we knew that awaiting us in Milford Sound in the late afternoon would be a spectacular display of waterfalls since it had rained the night before.
At four we entered Milford Sound and the sun began to break through more of the clouds giving us glimpses of green cliff tops and orange to sandy brown features in the rock faces of the cliffs. Milford’s cliff walls are much higher than the others and made it seem even more dramatic.
Sure enough there were a lot of waterfalls and of course the most spectacular, Stirling and Bowen.
Our ship slowed almost to a stop as we inched our way to the mouth of the sound where the tour boats are moored by the information center. We needed to stop and pick up passengers who had been on an overland tour and pose for pictures taken from a helicopter. I’m guessing it was promotional video for the cruise line.
As we waited for our passengers, the captain turned the ship for its trip back out of the sound. Then as we came to Stirling falls, he slowed to almost a stop and very slowly we inched our way toward the flow of water. Crew members were gathered in the crew area in front of the ship tingling with anticipation, I’m sure. Will he put the nose into the water as he’d threatened? While he came very close, the people on the front deck only got damp from the spray in the air.
The sun shone brightly for a while as we finished our journey through the sound and back out to the Tasman Sea. On everyone’s mind who had traveled the Tasman before was the question of whether it would be kind to us or bounce us up and down and side to side. Soon we’d know.