March 6 -- Doubtful Sound to Stewart Island
The next morning we woke to more howling wind, and rain that came down
periodically in great sheets. With the low scudding clouds venting up the
mountainsides, it was an eerie dawn. The rain fall had the effect of magnifying
the waterfalls, and during our trip through some side branches of the fjords the
water was coming down the vertical rock cliffs in unbroken sheets. It was an
impressive display of rain in a region that gets an average of 20 to 21 feet of
precipitation a year. It was a spectacle not to be missed.
The exposed gray rock in the bottom photo on the left is the
Southern Alps fault line, where the Australian (Indian) tectonic plate rubs
noses with the Pacific plate. All through the fjord are slips and
landslides that were generated by a 7.2 earthquake along this fault in 2001.
By the time we reached Deep Cove about 10:30 am, the rain had lessened, and
on Lake Manapouri, the wind and rain was practically nil. At Lake Manapouri, 5
alpine parrots, Keas, waited about the docks, looking for trouble. They are
We reached the landing about noon, and getting back in the car, I headed
down the road for Invercargill, and my flight to Stewart Island that was
scheduled for 5:00 pm. The trip was about 170 km, and retraced some of the trip
from Queenstown, back into the sun (but with a strong tail wind). Then, turning
south toward Invercargill, the weather again turned sour as the coast was
approached. Invercargill was cloudy and spitting rain, while I stopped at the
local museum to send a quick email message home.
At the airport
south of town, I locked up the car for three days, and caught my flight to
Stewart Island, right on time. This was in a little single engine plane, with
five passengers plus a very young pilot, and crammed with luggage. We took off
in a driving rainstorm for the fifteen minute flight across the Foveaux Strait
that separates the South Island from Stewart Island. But, despite my anxiety,
the trip went smoothly, and in fifteen minutes later we landed on the single
runway, and were met by a van to carry the passengers to their hotels.
This is looking down at the last bit of the South Island, before heading
over the Foveaux Strait to Stewart Island.
And here is Stewart Island, most of which is preserved as the Rangiura
National Park. The small inhabited portion includes the little town of
Oban, clustered around Halfmoon Bay (below).
I was picked up by my hosts and brought to the Stewart Island
Lodge, and found it to be very comfortable, with large rooms, gourmet family
style meals, and beautiful gardens. The other guests were from England, The
Netherlands, and New Zealand. After a great meal, I hit the sack to get plenty
of sleep for a guided tour of Ulva Island—a predator free sanctuary—in the