Summary

Milford Sound is located in the South Island of New Zealand, at the bottom of the west coast near Queenstown. It is one of the most beautiful spots in New Zealand. Rudyard Kipling described Milford as the eighth wonder of the world, and Arthur Michener said it is 'the most stirring sight in the Pacific'.

History

The Maori name for Milford Sound is Piopiotahi, and means Place of the singing thrush (which is a now extinct native bird). In Maori legend, the fjords of Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) weren't created by rivers and ice, but by Tu Te Raki Whanoa, a godly figure who wielded a magical adze and uttered incantations. It is believed early Maori of Southland and Otago traveled the Milford Track route in search of pounamu (Greenstone, a type of Jade).

In 1812, John Grono was the first European settler to land in the sound, and gave it the name Milford Sound after Milford Haven in Wales. When he attempted to land he ended up setting anchor in a small cove because it was the only sheltered part of the sound shallow enough for his anchor to reach.

Donald Sutherland became the first European to live in Milford in 1877. He founded The City of Milford, which at the time consisted of three huts.

The main and most well known access to Milford was the Milford track until 1889 when W.H. Homer discovered the Homer Saddle. The Homer tunnel, which runs through the Homer Saddle was originally budgeted at 2000 pounds. In a classic example of totally underestimating the engineering requirements, the tunnel was finally completed in 1954 taking nearly 20 years to build and costing 1 million pounds. The tunnel runs on a 1:10 gradient and is 1.2km long, it also doesn't have any lighting. If the tunnel were dug level, it would have exited 120 meters above ground in a sheer rockface.

Activities

There are countless activities that can be done in and around Milford sound, ranging from absolutely nothing while you relax at a resort, through to extreme caving, climbing, bungy jumping river rafting, kayaking... you get the picture. The sound is most famous however, for the Milford track.

The Milford track, which runs between Lake Te Anau and Milford Sound, is a 55km hike which takes three to four days and is one of the most beautiful walks in the world. Over 14000 people walk the track each year, and it can only be walked in one direction during the busy season, from Glade Wharf to Milford Sound.

Stats

Milford Sound is named incorrectly, as it is a Fjord, not a Sound. The fjords are as deep as 1000 meters in some places, and the sheer cliffs in the sound reach as high as 1400 meters.

Sutherland Falls which the Milford track runs past, is the fourth largest waterfall in the world.

Milford Sound has the second highest rainfall in the world with 7 meters of rain each year, slightly less than the mountains Tahiti.

Te Ananu is the closet town to the sound. It has a population of around 3000. It is a two hour drive from Te Ananu to the sound through windy roads.

My two cents

If you ever get the chance to go, then definitely go, and if you can, do the Milford track walk. It is physically demanding, so you must be reasonably fit, but it is well worth it. The weather changes frequently, but whether it is raining on sunny, its always amazing. I've also heard there is a submarine in operation that is well worth the trip.


References:

  • http://www.ngaitahu.iwi.nz/pounamu/ngawahi.html
  • http://www.destination-nz.co.nz/destinations/milford-sound.html
  • http://www.itag.co.nz/milford.asp
  • http://www.fiordlandseakayak.co.nz/fiordlandseakayak/about_fiordland.html
  • http://www.doc.govt.nz/Explore/002~Tracks-and-Walks/Great-Walks/Milford-Track/index.asp
  • Thanks to psionicman for helping me polish up this WU.

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