Fjord Land, South Island, New Zealand

Some say the world will end in fire, 
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire, 
I hold with those who favor fire;
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction, ice 
Is also great 
And would suffice.
  Robert Frost

Through some combination of fire and ice, South Island was created with one of the most dramatic landscapes I have ever seen. New Zealand is volcanic and the Sounds were gouged out by glaciers. Milford, Doubtful, and Dusky Sounds were the ones we visited. There’s not much point in trying to talk about them until I can load pictures.

In lieu of pictures, this what I know. The Sounds were frequently referred to as ‘fjords’ by various narrators, but strictly speaking, fjords are Norwegian, from an Old Norse word meaning a sunken glacier valley, which however is an accurate geological description of the New Zealand sounds. The same Norse word gave us, or rather gave the Scots, the word ‘firth’, as in the Firth of Forth.

A ‘sound’ is a narrow waterway that serves as an outlet to the sea or as a connector between two larger bodies of water. I’m not quite sure how or why but the word ‘sound’ in this sense is an archaic form of ‘to swim’.

For the ones we saw, so much water comes down the cliffs that there is a layer of fresh water on top of the salt water, perhaps as much as 35 feet. The refraction caused by the different densities and the brown tannin from the pine trees block much of the light. This allows some deep-water flora and fauna to thrive much nearer the surface than otherwise. In particular, Doubtful Sound is known for its Black Coral, which is neither black nor coral, and of course we couldn’t see it any better than if it were down 200 feet.

And I bet you were just expecting photos of 2,000 foot waterfalls.


3 thoughts on “Fjord Land, South Island, New Zealand

    1. I’m glad you took that extra step to find others’ photos. My commentaries tend to be rather idiosyncratic and personal with the hope that everyone will do what you did and rely on other resources. Than there is the ongoing frustration with satelite based internet and photos.


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