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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 2 (May 1, 1939)


We had been ploughing our way steadily across the Tasman for nearly five days, when out of a clear blue sky came a wild cry. “Land, there's land over there!” “There's New Zealand!”

“Where”? We all rushed to the ship's side, eager, expectant. “Over there, see, ahead of us.” And there, sure enough, there in the distance lay a long line of dark purple clouds—our first glimpse of New Zealand. “The hills of Home!” said someone, and what a thrilling sight it was for the exile! Even as we watched, the clouds seemed to take shape, peaks stood out, mistily at first, then becoming more clearly defined as we steamed closer, until suddenly the dense bush shone green in the late afternoon sunshine.

At last, about 4.30 p.m., we came to the entrance to the Sound, and skirting round the point on which the little white lighthouse stands, we entered the calm deep waters of Milford. What words can describe the towering rugged grandeur of Milford Sound—the world-famous, awe-inspiring fiord in the south-west coast of the South Island of New Zealand?

The captain on the bridge rings down to the engine room and the ship slackens speed. We sail slowly, slowly up the Sound between great towering granite walls lost in the mists which shroud the
(Rly. Publicity photo.) The world-famed Milford Sound showing Bowen Falls (right), Mitre Peak and Lion Rock.

(Rly. Publicity photo.) The world-famed Milford Sound showing Bowen Falls (right), Mitre Peak and Lion Rock.

peaks. Every here and there on the sheer rock face there are white marks which look like scratches in the rock; but these, you see as the ship steams nearer, are dozens of fairy waterfalls falling from springs high up on the mountain side.

We are rather anxious about the mist, and hoping it will lift a little so that we can see Mitre Peak, and we long to see the glacier too. “Oh, oh, look!” cries someone ecstatically. We look up, and the mist has lifted. There stands Mitre Peak, proud, majestic, and crowned with the mist floating above its very peak like a bride's veil, tinted gold and amethyst and rose by the sun.

We feel so small standing there looking up, up, to where snow-capped peaks merge mystically with the mists. I say we feel small and insignificant and very subdued, awed by the still majesty of dark waters, sheer granite walls, snow-peaks shining in the sun, waterfalls weaving misty patterns over the cliff's face, and crowning all, there, high up in the mountain side a whole glacier lies gleaming, dazzling white where the sun catches it.

At last we reach the head of the Sound, and here the little white Government launch comes out to meet the ship, which drops anchor and lets down a gangway to the deck of the launch. Here some lucky folk alight to tramp over the Milford Track. We are a little sad because we cannot do it too, and envy the fortunate ones. Here is an elderly spinster, dressed in short, thick skirt, heavy boots, woollen sweater, and with the light of battle in her eye. There is a young man, well-equipped for the walk, his eager eyes looking forward. One has done the walk before and thrills the newcomers with accounts of her experiences. All are buoyed up with an intoxicating sort of expectancy. We envy these lucky ones.

When all is ready the little white launch pulls away from the ship, amidst cries of “goodbye, goodbye,” cheers and the waving of handkerchiefs; the gangway is taken up and slowly we start to turn. The gulls wheel, crying round us.

As we turn we get the full view of the beautiful Bowen Falls, which fall some hundreds of feet, then the waters strike a ledge of rock and spray out, falling in one great spray of foamy mist to the still waters below. The Lion stands guard as of old. We wave to him, but he gives us back a calm and serene, though stony stare.

Now we steam slowly back through the quiet sunset, and at last reach the entrance again. How we long to stay and just gaze and gaze till our weary eyes cannot bear any more beauty, but here we must say a sad, regretful “farewell” to “The World's Wonder Fiord.” And as we sail away we look back. We see the last rays of the setting sun, shining on the snow-peaks and touching them with gold and amethyst and rose …

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