Definitely Doubtful Sound
Doubtful Sound is so named because James Cook, when he first encountered it, doubted he could navigate his ship both in and out safely, past the swells and rocks at the ocean entrance to this very long and stunning fiord. (Our guide said that technically a sound is one thing, but this is a fiord, which is another thing, only when they named it the English language hadn’t yet adopted the term fiord.) Above, you see the inland-most end of the Sound, called Deep Cove, from Wilmot Pass; and you see Wilmot Pass from the Sound. East of Wimot pass is the west arm of Lake Manapouri, which you’ve already seen in my shots taken on the easternmost bay of Lake Manapouri, where the last night’s hut of the Kepler Track was located. I thought that was remote — and it was. But Doubtful Sound is across that lake, up and over a 4WD-0nly, unsealed (that means dirt, to Americans) road and back down to this awfully beatiful and very remote corner of the world. There is so much rain in this area (the figures boggled my mind: Te Anau sees something like 2, 3 or 4 meters a year [yes, they measure in meters! not centimeters], while this west side of the mountains can easily see NINE meters in a year!), running off all these incredibly steep mountains and down to the sound; and the sound, though definitely tidal and connected to the Tasman Sea, is protected enough by its narrow entrance from the churning tides of the open ocean, that the entire sound is covered, full time, by a deep layer of actually FRESH water — a meter or more, which – being lighter than salt water – floats above the surface of the sea water below it. The Sound is very deep so there’s tons of salt water there, but the surface is all fresh, it seems, and ocean animals often come in here to clean off since apparently fresh water is cleaner than saltwater, and helps kill things like barnacles. But I’m no marine biologist, I’m just reporting what I heard, and it all stuck me as new and fascinating.
In the fiordland area, with all that rain, one has occasional tree-slides: when the thin ground cover gets so wet it just all slides down those steep slopes, leaving the solid rock face exposed, as above.
For many kilometers our cruise was very calm – until we got very close to the sea opening from the sound. There, the waves were pretty dramatic and reminded us how protected most of the fiord is.