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Published: April 14th 2017
16th March Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound.
After crossing the Tasman Sea we sail into the beautiful and picturesque area of the Fiordland National Park.
Fiordland is the largest National Park in New Zealand, it stretches from Martins Bay in the North to Te Waewae Bay in the South with the 4 eastern lakes, Te Anau, Manapouri, Monowai, Hauroko bordering the east and 14 Fiords on the West Coast.
The Fiordland Park covers 5% of the area of New Zealand and was declared a World Heritage Area in 1986.
This was just cruising through three of the Fiords today, beginning with Milford Sound, very dramatic entrance which you cannot see at the beginning.
As Victoria gently eased herself around the cliff face you are faced with sheer sided mountains and waterfalls.The early morning mist, clearing as we made our way slowly up to Milford town itself with only a slight breeze made it even more dramatic.
The annual rainfall ranges from some 1200mm on the eastern side to some 8000mm in Milford Sound.
Rain falls in Fiordland on over 200 days each year, luckily this wasn't one of
them and as we turned at Milford the wispy cloud cleared with sun shining on the snow capped peaks.
Much of the indigenous temperate rain forest clings precariously to the steep rock face which has thin covering of peaty humus and moss and beech are the most common trees.
From our vantage point on the ship we saw little of the native fauna in the way of birds, apart from sea birds.
However, the marine environment is unique to Fiordland, the heavy rainfall creates a permanent freshwater layer above the seawater within the Fjords. This layer cuts down the amount of light and restricts marine life to the top 40 metres.
This band is calm and clear and relatively warm, home to sponges, subtropical fish and black coral trees.
Some of these trees are over 300'years old.
Resident marine life include the Bottlenose and Dusky Dolphins, Fur seals and Fiordland penguins.
There were quite a few day boats taking trips through the Sound and these were able to get up close and personal with some of the wildlife, particularly the seals.
Within the Fiord it's amazing how manoeuvreable the ship is, at
one stage we were within feet (it was probably yards) of the largest of the cascades coming off the steep cliffs.
All too soon the commentary from the Park Ranger ended and we were gliding out of Milford Sound into the Tasman Sea for the two hour sail to the next cruise by of Doubtful Sound.
Or so we thought!!!!
Suddenly there is an emergency alarm
Within seconds, we are slowing and coming about (technical nautical term), the Commodore is announcing that an alarm has been triggered that suggests someone has gone over the side.
Queen Victoria is one of only two ships that carry this alarm system and for the next hour or so we are manoeuvring in a search pattern to where the GPS alerted the alarm.
Local fishing boats arrived on the scene and a search and rescue helicopter from Te Anau arrived and began a search pattern.
After an hour or so, all passengers were asked to return to their cabins, so an accurate headcount could be made.
It took at least THREE announcements before everybody went
back, some passengers just sent their other halves, they couldn't be arsed to leave the Trough to be accounted for!!!
We were asked to remain in our cabins but people were still asked to go back.
There are some very selfish people on board this ship.
Thankfully everybody was accounted for, there was some excitement when the helicopter hovered over an area and a fishing boat raced over.
Apparently it was a baseball cap which nobody has owned up losing!!!
It would not have triggered the alarm as it is activated by thermal imaging.
Finally, the all clear was given but the result of the search meant we could not make the call into Doubtful Sound.
Whilst a false alarm, 'Preservation of life is ALL' whilst at sea.
So onto Dusky Sound (Tamatea) which you can enter through Breaksea Sound (Te Puaitaha).
Dusky Sound is not as dramatic as Milford but still has an ethereal quality to it.
The pictures probably don't do the place justice, but with the sun out on the small islands it was still enchanting.
and his crew were the first Europeans to visit Fiordland in 1773, spending five weeks in Dusky Sound.
An exhilarating day, coupled with the fact that in the afternoon we attended 'Cocktails around the Globe'.
Nothing better than five different cocktails to set you up for dinner.
Mines a Manhattan!!!! hic
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