Feb 19, 2008
In 1904, with the simple stroke of a pen, New Zealand set aside 5% of their country as a National Park and called if Fiordland. That puts the area at about 3.1 million acres of vast wilderness and protected wildlife habitats, marked by fourteen deep glacial fiords discovered by our favorite cartographer and navigator, good old Captain Cook.
The formation of the fiords took place at literally a glacial pace over several million years; volcanoes erupted, rocky plates smacked into one another and the area was formed with different kinds of rock with a sprinkling of topsoil.
This set up cycles that have repeated themselves continually even to this day. First rock, then lichens. Moss adheres to the lichens, and then little shrubs get started on the heavy mosses. Trees emerge with surface roots that cling to the shrubs, they get larger, then condos are built, multi-family homes, castles, oppressive taxes, revolutions, wars… ah, but I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
Actually, Fiordland is all but untouched to this day, thanks to smart and early New Zealand leadership. Their efforts have protected wildlife, marine life, and vegetation in the area, but as environmentalists often do, even these people of vision found it difficult not to meddle.
It seems that every so often, an animal or plant is introduced to the area to solve some perceived imbalance identified by an also imbalanced academic in the name of protecting the environment. The fact that government grants often are provided to fund the theoretical problems they wish to solve is a factor not to be underestimated.
This amounts to the equivalent of sawing a little of one table leg and screwing up the wobble even more. Thanks to these environmental meddlers, the dishonor-roll of “introduced animals” that have resulted in detrimental effects on Fiordland include mice, rabbits, rats, stoats, deer, possums and an occasional well-meaning environmentalist.
Kathy and I were out on deck as the ship nosed its way into Milford Sound, a fiord that Captain Cook actually missed because of its concealed and narrow entrance. Let me set the scene! Here are cascading waterfalls, mountain peaks that rise 7000 feet, seals sunning, dolphins frittering, and mist-created rainbows against walls of Silver Beech trees clinging to their granite backgrounds.
This natural beauty stood in stark contrast to the ship I now am on. The ship has been on this planet for about 52 months. It is now cruising over seven million colonies of black coral trees, home to brachiopods that have remained unchanged for 300 million years. The fiords are home to mountain parrots, bellbirds, brown creepers, and at least 185 species of birds “re-discovered” here that were thought to be extinct!
The ship is home to 185 types of deserts, an internet system so old it should be extinct, and 31 varieties of rude tourists from the United States that we have dubbed Ambassadors of Ill Will. Oh yeah, and some twerp from Malibu named Sid.
The Fiordland National Park provided an exclamation point to the claim that New Zealand is a naturally gorgeous spot to see and visit. Although we could only skim the surface in the time allotted, it served as a powerful introduction to a country that deserves far more time to see more of these natural treasures.
Good night for the final time from New Zealand. Our ship is now heading west across the Tasman Sea towards Australia.
p.s. Many thanks for all your terrific comments, everyone! We look forward to reading your thoughts each evening and love hearing your reaction to our little adventures out here!
p & k