“If there’s anyplace on Earth more beautiful than Doubtful Sound I have not seen it or heard about it. Easily more beautiful than the fjords of Norway or (the old) Yugoslavia. Majestic, spectacular, immense, deserted, magnificent: Words cannot capture it. Two days and a night here, aboard the Fiordland Navigator. We are blessed with clear skies, sunshine and warmth.” Richard Hess (3-31-03)
So when I learned of the February 2013 trip to New Zealand (led by Dick Griffin of Big Valley Travel Club), I knew that was my opportunity to follow Rich’s advice and visit Doubtful Sound in his honor.
From my journal:
2/27/13 – Wednesday
I must start by admitting that I was a little disappointed. I expected calm waters reflecting majestic mountains.
Instead, the water was a little choppy, the sky was a little hazy and overcast; the mountains were, indeed, majestic.
I was awed by the realization that a glacier pushed its way to the Tasman Sea, creating the deep and narrow arms of this fiord, and then receded, leaving room for the sea to come inland. Having seen a glacier (Franz Josef), I comprehend the magnitude of this body of ice.
So the 3-hour journey through Doubtful Sound was an awesome journey, but not in the way I expected.
I had no other words to adequately express my feelings on this personal pilgrimage. Perhaps my photos will speak for me.
A Few Sound Facts
My day trip to Doubtful Sound was organized by Real Journeys, the same company that operates the Fiordland Navigator. This information is from their website.
What is the difference between a sound and a fiord?
Throughout Fiordland the fiords are officially mapped as sounds. Strictly speaking, they should be called fiords.
A fiord is a glaciated valley – typically narrow and steep-sided – that has been flooded by the sea after the glacier’s retreat. A sound, on the other hand, is a river valley flooded by the sea following a rise in sea levels or depression of the land, or a combination of both.
What is the difference between Milford and Doubtful Sounds?
Milford Sound at the mountainous north end of Fiordland National Park is the classic fiord – a deep water inlet between steep sided high mountains. Milford Sound is a middle-sized fiord at around 13 kms in length and it is famous for its dramatic scenery, especially Mitre Peak. This fiord is the most accessible of Fiordland National Park’s 14 fiords and it can be reached by road (coach or car) or by flight connections from Queenstown.
Doubtful Sound is located in the heart of Fiordland National Park where the mountains are still very impressive but not as high as Milford Sound. Doubtful Sound is three times longer and has a sea surface area roughly ten times larger than Milford Sound. Its three arms are Hall, Crooked and First Arm. It is famous for its wilderness scenery and wildlife sightings. To travel to Doubtful Sound visitors first take a launch trip across Lake Manapouri and coach over Wilmot Pass.
Unfortunately the Doubtful Sound cruise is not wheelchair accessible, due to the nature of the wharf in Deep Cove, high sea sills in the vessels and steps on the coaches.