National Geographic : 1939 Jul
AT HOME ON THE OCEANS The weather was still thick when we made a landfall on Cape Brett, but soon, between the rain squalls, we could make out sheep farms which, from a distance at sea, looked like well-kept lawns of coun try estates. We were now within seven hundred miles, air line, of the objective of our whole cruise, the west coast Sounds, which we had sailed more than a third of the way around the world to see. Located on the southwest coast of the South Island of New Zealand, the Sounds, or fiords, were carved out of the Southern Alps partly by previous glaciers. Narrow, winding ribbons of water between very steep and high mountains, they vary from a half to two miles wide and sometimes extend inland for twenty miles. A hundred and sixty-odd years ago Cap tain Cook, finding in Dusky Sound what he considered good harbors and a thick stand of trees "suitable for masts," prophesied that it would become the site of a large and thriving city. But the boisterous weather and exceedingly rocky and mountainous country all around have defied attempts at settlement, and one finds the Sounds today almost as peaceful and uninhabited as when first discovered. As the excursion steamers stop only for a few hours at Milford Sound, it is necessary to go in your own vessel if you wish to see the other twelve Sounds thoroughly. IN THE "ROARING FORTIES" Being so near our goal, we begrudged the time necessarily spent in Auckland making a new suit of sails and changing the rig of the boat from sloop to ketch. The ketch rig, however, made the boat easier to handle in the more boisterous weather of the "roaring forties" (page 60). As the season advanced and our impa tience increased, we decided to go the shortest but roughest route and headed north out of Auckland to round North Cape and sail directly down the Tasman Sea to the Sounds (map, pages 38-39). We stopped at the Bay of Islands, for this bay of smooth waterways is too tempt ing for any yachtsman to pass. We left it by moonlight which silvered the scene as we glided silently along this bold coast. After a short stop at Whangaroa, with its fantastic rock formations, we had a look into the arm where, 130 years ago, the British ship Boyd was burned. Sailing on toward North Cape, we won dered whether we should meet with the same bad luck that befell Captain Cook when he was rounding this rocky point. Head winds, calms, and currents delayed him for ten days. A FULL-RIGGED GHOST OF THE PAST As we neared North Cape, our attention was attracted to what I at first thought was a large off-lying rock. Actually we soon made it out as a ship under full sail (page 62). We passed her off Parengarenga Har bour at sunset and she proved to be the ship Joseph Conrad.* All of her crew were lined up on the fore castle to look us over. Apparently a small vessel flying the American flag was as strange to them off these sand dunes as they were to us. My dream of passing a full-rigged ship at sea was at last realized. Cape Maria Van Diemen, the northwest ern point of New Zealand, had the appear ance of having been just newly finished by the Creator, and though some might call it barren, to us it was beautiful. Here, how ever, we felt the full surge of the long south west swell of the Tasman, as we were out of the lee of New Zealand. We shaped our course for Milford Sound, running the length of the Tasman with the usual summer weather while the barometer fluctuated from high to low in quick suc cession. After a hard southeast gale, which, being an offshore wind, blows the clouds to sea, we got our first glimpse of the Southern Alps, sighting Mount Aspiring and Pem broke Peak, the landfall for Milford Sound. WATERFALLS THAT BLOW AWAY It was night when we finally made the entrance to Milford Sound, and cautiously felt our way into Anita Bay. As in most of the anchorages in the Sounds, the bottom slopes so steeply that an anchor will not hold with offshore winds. Since any pos sible anchorage depth is very near the shore, a hook is dropped, then a line from the stern is made fast to a rock or large tree (page 64). By the time our anchor touched bot tom we seemed directly under the trees and within jumping distance of the rocks. In the morning fog came rolling rapidly in from the sea and soon a nasty squall shut off everything from view. Naturally * See "North About," by Alan J. Villiers, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, February, 1937.