That sounds doubtful!

How did Doubtful Sound get its name? One Capt James Cook (from my home area in NE England) arrived at the west coast of S Island in 1773, studied the entrance of a fjord, wondered whether to enter, hesitated, and decided against. The dominant westerlies could keep him locked in for up to a month. His hesitation made him ‘doubtful’….hence it’s name.


20 years later, along came the Spaniard Malaespinas, and they made the first entry in rowing boats, and began mapping the hydrography and the coastline.


But first we had to pay a visit to the largest hydroelectric power station in all of NZ


that can produce more than 800 megawatts of power. The story of its construction and the lives lost in the process was very moving.


Although called a Sound, it is actually a fjord, measuring 40km in length. Our launch took us the full length and out into the Tasman Sea


discovering the legacy of recent major earthquakes and tree avalanches


and the appalling statistics of rainfall: 8 metres in an average year, but in 2009 a massive (and hugely destructive) 16 metres of rain fell. To stir your visualisation of what this means: imagine the UK rainfall of 2012 x 12……..and you have some idea.


And to think we had another dry, sunny day for our trip today! It would seem I landed on my feet twice……which means for the rest of you, the odds are massively stacked against you. Sorry about that!


But if you help the Children in Syria, your chances of a fine day in the Sounds is vastly improved…… believe me!


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on February 19, 2013, in New Zealand End-to-End 3000kms and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hi Frank, it’s as fascinating and as enjoyable as ever reading your blog. Stunning scenery too! ‘Doubtful’ that you won’t have heard other examples of Captain Cook’s naming of places but just in case, here’s another one. As he was sailing up the east coast of Australia in 1770 he believed that one of the nearby islands possessed a magnetic force which interfered with his ship’s compass and so he named it Magnetic Island. No such magnetic attraction has since been found to exist but the name prevailed. Hasta la próxima. Denise

  2. Sheila Cakebread

    Hi Frank, pleased that you had good weather for both Milford & Doubtful Sounds, you deserve it after all your efforts. We were there in 2011, so I have been following your travels with interest. We had all your rain in Milford Sound, but a good day for Doubtful. We shared our boat with a group of people who had obviously made an early start from Queenstown. They rushed onto the boat, comandeered the best seats near the windows, then promptly went to sleep! I was so impressed with the remoteness of Doubtful Sound & wished we had booked the overnight stay on a boat on the sound.

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