Tag Archives: reflection

doubtful sound

It was one of those late summer days in early 1950 when Mr. and Mrs. Hutchins went out for a weekend hike into Doubtful Sound, it was a 4 day hike return and full of challenges; a boat from Te Anau must be organized to get to the West Arm; from there was a track going beside the river and through thick bush-land over the Wilmot Pass which is 980m above sea level.  From there it took one more day of hiking until Deep Cove where there was a single hut to stay overnight with no comfort. But Mr. and Mrs. were so overwhelmed with the area and the beauty of the location that they bought a boat to show tourists around the area.   It took 4 days to get the first visitors from Te Anau into Doubtful Sound and that was the start of Fiordland Travel which got re branded to Real Journeys as we know today. It was tough making a living at this time with not many customers and tourists around. Still the founder believed in his dream to show foreigners the most beautiful parts of Fiordland. After a few years running the new business a second boat was bought, which was not very reliable and broke down many times. It was sold off after a short time, and a more modern boat was bought in Te Anau, business was going up and down. It was early 1970and the couple were involved in the Save Manapouri campaign to stop the government from raising the lake levels to help generate cheap electricity. More than 260 000 signatures were collected. No dam was built, but the power station still went ahead, which brought workers to Te Anau and they needed to get transport over the lake. That was the first big change in the company’s history.

Nowadays Real Journeys organizes daily cruises into Doubtful Sound. The Patea is the boat which runs day cruises, and Navigator runs overnight cruises. Both are modern standard with all facilities.


The overnight cruise is different to the overnight cruise in Milford Sound on the Mariner but both cruises are special in their own right. Doubtful Sound is ten times larger than Milford Sound; the mountains are not as steep and greener. Usually after boarding all customers get a fresh baked muffin and hot drinks which are complementary for the whole cruise. A short time after the boat leaves Deep Cove you can experience a silence and peaceful atmosphere under which all stress seems to be forgotten and left behind. Very soon the excitement gets bigger about daily water activity, there are 2 options to choose from; one of them is to jump on a tender craft to explore the fiord along the remote shore line; the second option is a kayak paddle on the fiord. Both options leave memories behind which won’t be forgotten for many years after the trip. I forgot the 3rd option – sorry about that – it is jumping from the boat into the Fiord and doing a good healthy swim in the clearest and pristine waters.   Yes we do that activity in late summer and autumn too the only difference would be the water temperature in summer is around 16C and in Winter around 12C – all the time refreshing. Shortly after the last activity of the day the soup service starts, from then on you travel to a seal colony, which is located just before the Tasman Sea. Sometimes you can see whales hanging around that area, but that is a very rare occasion.

The boat stays around this location for a while to see the awesome view back into the fiord.  As soon the boat is back to the fiord the dinner service starts. Everyone is looked after with all food requirements, Vegan, gluten free, lactose or Jain are only a few to mention.

As soon dinner is served, there’s a presentation about the history of the area in the saloon, with is very informative to listen and look at.

Next morning a cooked breakfast served. On the way into the fiord is for many customers a once in a life time experience: we call it the bay of silence, the boat shut down everything, fans, engine, radio’s. Everyone can experience how quiet and how the isolation sounds like without any pollution of noise, surprisingly a camera can ruin the whole experience with its peep- it is that quiet.

Soon after that experience we are back to Deep Cove, the harbour we left the day before.


The buses are waiting already for all passengers to drive them back to the wharf at West Arm in a comfortable air-conditioned coach. From there it is a 45 to 50 minutes boat ride back to Manapouri.


It has changed a lot since the first visitors started travelling to Doubtful Sound and it took them more than 4 days hiking with little comfort in the early days.





It was just one more normal day as I boarded the Ship Spirit of Enderby in Bluff, with a different destination I travel to; this time I t will take me more than 30 days for the round trip to Antarctica, with stops at the Snares Island, Macquarie Island and on the way back at Champbell Island.

The ocean lower a 45 Lat until 60 Lat, is usually very unpredictable it belong to the roughest sea on earth. I did experience the motion of the ship every early not far away from Stewart Island the wind was around 40 knots and the swell was moderate 7 meters, but the small ship started rolling constantly from port to starboard side un aware what will come later that trip. The ship traveled to the rough sea very slow through the rough sea, the sell was as high as 18 meters chilly cold gale-force wind hit the small boat from all directions on the incredible trip, at the end it take us around 9 days on sea harsh sea to reach Ross Sea, every stops on the way, was very welcoming, to get a few hours sleep in a harbour the ships was anchoring. Some days it was impossible to find a good sleep at night time due the rolling ship, I laid on my bed and moved constantly from top to bottom of the bead in the same movement and ankle the ship was rolling, there was no mercy to stay in bead in the morning I had to get up around 6.30 am to prepare breakfast for 58 passengers which experienced the same on this trip, the menu changed daily everything what was cooked took longer than normal on land, what is absolute normal, due the rough sea and rolling ship. After the breakfast was finished I need to start to prepare lunch, and dinner. I found out that the work on a small ship is more to be very good organized and use every spare minute to do enough preparation, you simply just don’t know how rough the sea will be few hours down to Antarctica. There where days I had only 3 hours sleep following with a very busy day of cooking and do all the expeditions as well.

As soon we passed 60th Lat we have had 24 h daylight, our goal was to leave the ship at any time and as fast as possible, as soon the weather and sea allowed to go on land; it could be at 2.00 am or 5.00am it doesn’t matter. We did a lot of multi hour hikes; one of my favorites one was; to visit Scott Hut and Shackelton Hut. Both Huts are perfectly conserved by Heritage Trust everything is set up, as it was the time the most sophisticated explorer used to live. It has been looked at all little details from the past. In Shackelton Hut is the original newspaper for display, which dated back to 1909. Shack Elton’s hand written signature is still visible on the head of the bed.

We did few more landings one of them was Franklin Island which is famous for the Adeline Penguin, as we arrived the sun was just on the right spot to lighten up the whole place it was at 2.30 this time the temperature was 6C and no wind, great to sit beside the penguin colony to take many pictures photographers are waiting for, I need just sitting beside the shore and need to wait that the penguins passing by. It was a incredible experience despite we walking around and keeping the respected distance to the wild life, the penguins didn’t bother we where around, as soon I sat still at one spot the penguins got nosy and came closer to investigate what happen around them, one of them was that cheeky and investigated my camera bag which was just sitting beside me.

We even so visited the first build hut, which dated back to 1899. At Cape Adore to my surprise the hut was build without any window, may there must be a good reason to keep as much warmth as possible in the hut. Today the whole place where former the explorer used to live are taken over by penguins.

Sadly we couldn’t visit Mc Murdow Station and Scott Base, the ross see was completely frozen, instate we cruised around the open sea and looked at Ross Sea Orca, Mink Whale and more Penguin’s. This day we have had an unexpected highlight for every one, we anchored or ship at the ice, transferred tables and hot chocolate to the ice and served our dessert open air, what a great experience that was I cant explain or describe, blue sky mild breeze from the water, and out of no where few fin’s from hunting orcas, penguins jumped out of the water on save ice one after another that was an lucky escape for all penguins, all Orcas dissapierd as fast the show up.

It was already time to move more north on the way we planed a stop at Champbell Island it took us 5 days at sea non stop sea was not to rough to say a swell of around 14m, the ship was rolling from side to side again but not to serious, live in the galley was good and the moral in good form, despite we traveled already more than 20 days with many challenges and many days and nights with only few hours of sleep. As Spirit of Enderby arrived at Champbell Island every one was relived to have solid ground underneath the feet, this was my only time I didn’t went on land. I decided to bake some more fresh bread as long we where on anchor. The next day looked very rough and the sea rougher than every condition we have experienced before, northerly 60 to 70knt!!!! Live in galley will be challenging once more and all of us will need all our experience to do a good work to satisfy our customer. The sea was already rough in the harbour at Champbell Island as soon we hit the sea holly cow, ship was dancing and rolling on the swell from side to sides, one crew member showed up in the galley and said that we reached an ankle of 52 degree port side, every thing, pots, trays, boxes moved from one side of the galley to the other side even I slide into the oven, my arm was bruised and showed two days later a blue mark. It was a rough day.

The last two days where the most challenging days on the whole trip; full of challenges in the galley, still today I don’t find an answer how we managed to cook in those rough condition and more to my surprise how we served the food, starter, main course and dessert without broken china and plates. The only conclusion I have we had a very good team spirit on the ship, every one helped the time the help was needed, operation manager, team leader, hotel manager to keep the service moving, it was a great experience for me to work for Heritage Expedition for those trip. The time I write this blog I’m back for 5 weeks and I miss the everyday challenge already. I am not surprised that the sea to Antarctica is called the roughest sea on earth. I loved to be there every day.

If some one juice to go to Antarctica on the first cruise, every other cruise will be plain sailing, may a bit disappointing too.

At the end I have to say a big thank you to every one, Nathan to give me the change to prove my self in the galley, Joss to encouraged me to take the job, and Don McTyre our very experienced Expedition leader, and all the team who support me all the time.